No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Connecticut Battle in Storrs

STORRS, Conn. — Coach Dawn Staley has her Gamecocks in the driver’s seat, but that can change February 9th.

The matchup between undefeated South Carolina and No. 2 Connecticut has been circled on everyone’s calendar since November. If neither team loses before then, the question of who is really the best in women’s college basketball will be answered Monday night.

Tiffany Mitchell goes to the basket in game against Kentucky

Guard Tiffany Mitchell (25) drives to hoop on two Kentucky defenders

After stumbling early to Stanford in overtime, the Huskies are ready to reclaim their preseason ranking. Since that loss, UConn’s defensive intensity has greatly increased. They have not allowed more than 64 points while running through the American Athletic Conference (AAC).

Connecticut averages better than 90 points per game, making a little over 53 percent of their baskets. Easily defeating Cincinnati for their 17th-straight win, offense is not a problem for the Huskies. With seven 30-plus point wins in January, the Huskies continue to destroy their competition.

John R. Wooden Award candidates Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis lead the team in scoring average at 16.9 and 14.7 points per game. Senior Kiah Stokes is a force defensively, and clears the boards on both ends of the floor.

But the Gamecocks are confident. They have two Wooden Award candidates of their own in Tiffany Mitchell and freshman A’ja Wilson. These two offensive threats lead South Carolina in scoring, with sophomore Alaina Coates not far behind.

South Carolina’s defense is stifling, using size and strength to wear down opponents. The Gamecock’s aggressive defense inside led them to a double-digit victory against No. 12 Texas A&M, their 27th-straight at home. The two rim protectors, Wilson and Coates, come off the bench to lead the team in blocks. This depth has allowed Staley to rest her starters, who average less than 28 minutes per game.

They will need every last player, as the UConn starters’ average close to the same amount of minutes per game.

A key to victory for both teams is transition defense. Both teams can move up and down the floor quickly and will take advantage of a sleeping defense. But for South Carolina, focusing on each possession takes precedent, as the noise in a packed Gampel Pavilion will be close to palpable all night.

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