COLUMBIA — No. 1 South Carolina women's basketball is on a nation-leading 28-game winning streak, but that streak faces a huge test against No. 5 UConn in the Gamecocks' first ranked matchup since No. 14 UCLA in December.
The Gamecocks (22-0) travel to Hartford, Connecticut, to face the Huskies on Sunday (noon, FOX). UConn has historically dominated the series and holds a 9-3 lead after winning the first eight meetings in a row, but South Carolina has won three of the last four since 2020.
The most recent meeting between the two teams was the 2022 NCAA Tournament championship game, and the Gamecocks routed UConn 64-49 to win their second national title. They also beat the Huskies 73-57 in November of the 2021-22 regular season. UConn's last victory in the series was a 63-59 overtime win on Feb. 10, 2021.
Here's everything you need about the rivalry showdown:
Limiting UConn's sharpshooters
The Huskies are a challenging matchup for South Carolina because the two teams have opposite strength. While the Gamecocks lean heavily on second-chance points and rebounding, UConn is one of the most accurate shooting teams in the country, especially on 3-pointers.
Five UConn players are averaging at least 50% from the field, led by forward Aaliyah Edwards at 61%. The team is second in the nation in 3-point shooting, and senior Lou Lopez-Senechal ranks third at 48.6%. Despite their accuracy, the Huskies and Gamecocks are nearly identical in scoring: South Carolina averages 82 points per game, UConn averages 80.2.
Elite shooters have created problems for South Carolina this season, but the Gamecocks have improved in recent weeks. Kentucky's Madder Scherr scored a career-high 25 points shooting 5-of-7 from three in her first game against South Carolina, but she scored just one field goal in Thursday's rematch with the Gamecocks. Opponents average 29% on field goals and 23% on 3-pointers against South Carolina.
Injury issues and depth imbalance
UConn has been decimated by injuries, starting with the season-ending ACL tear of star Paige Bueckers in August. The Huskies are also likely without their second-best player Azzi Fudd, who missed several games with a knee injury and reaggravated it on Jan. 15. She is unable to bear weight until two days before the South Carolina game.
On top of the superstars, the Huskies have lost depth. Sophomore Caroline Ducharme has been out with a concussion since Dec. 21 and is unlikely to return against South Carolina. Freshman Ice Brady was ruled out for the season with a dislocated patella in October. UConn has not had all 10 active players available since Nov. 14.
On the other side, South Carolina is one of the deepest teams in the country and regularly rotates 11-plus players. The Gamecocks bench averages 47 points per game compared to 42 by the starters.
Gamecocks on the road again
South Carolina has won 38 consecutive games at Colonial Life Arena, but the Gamecocks have faced their biggest struggles on the road: They trailed at Stanford by double-digit points at halftime and had to force overtime for the win. They had their lowest-scoring performance of the season at Mississippi State. They were challenged at Georgia and at Kentucky until their opponents ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.
UConn is one of the most challenging places to play in women's college basketball, and the Gamecocks have never beaten the Huskies in their home arena. Sunday's sold-out matchup at the XL Center will be in front of a hostile crowd of 16,000, and UConn has not lost at home since Feb. 9, 2022. The program holds the NCAA record for longest home winning streak with 111 from 2014-17.
South Carolina 73, UConn 69: South Carolina gets deja vu from Stanford and falls behind early, but the Gamecocks make the necessary adjustments at halftime and the bench leads a second-half comeback as the Huskies fatigue.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: South Carolina women's basketball vs UConn scouting report, prediction