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Breaking down the UConn women’s basketball team’s 2018-19 schedule

September 20, 2018

On paper, the UConn women’s basketball team’s 2018-19 non-conference schedule is challenging. The Huskies will play seven teams that were ranked in the Final USA Today Coaches’ poll, three of whom reached the Elite Eight.

And Geno Auriemma knows it’ll be a haul.

“This year the schedule is harder and the team isn’t as experienced. And the road schedule is brutal,” the Huskies head coach said in June. “I’m not jumping up and down about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we have it. But it’s not like, ‘Yeah, man, I can’t wait.’ This is going to be tough.”

UConn will play six road games outside the American Athletic Conference, including trips to defending national champion Notre Dame on Dec. 2, Baylor on Jan. 3 and Louisville on Jan. 31.

The rest of the Huskies’ schedule was revealed Thursday afternoon when the AAC released its slate of games for the upcoming season. The Huskies will open league play at Houston on Jan. 6, before returning home to host Cincinnati on Jan. 6 at Gampel Pavilion.

Auriemma and Co. will also compete in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands against Ole Miss, St. John’s and Purdue from Nov. 22-24. They previously competed in the tournament in 2017 and 2012.

The Huskies open their season against Ohio State on Nov. 11 in Storrs.

Breaking down the schedule

Nov. 4 vs. Vanguard, 1 p.m. (Gampel Pavilion) (exhibition): Katie Lou Samuelson’s older sister, Karlie, is an assistant coach for the NAIA powerhouse.

Nov. 11 vs. Ohio State, noon (GP): The Buckeyes face the tall order of replacing Kelsey Mitchell, the NCAA’s second all-time leading scorer (3,402). Mitchell, the No. 2 pick in last April’s WNBA Draft, also broke Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ record for career 3-pointers (497).

Nov. 15 vs. Southern Connecticut State, 7 p.m. (XL Center) (exhibition): UConn concludes its exhibition schedule against the Division-II Owls.

Nov. 17 vs. Vanderbilt, 6 p.m. (Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville): The Commodores are adding Boston College transfer Mariella Fasoula and two five-star recruits — Jordyn Cambridge and Brinae Alexander — in hopes they can rebound from their worst finish in program history (7-24, 3-13).

Nov. 22 vs. Ole Miss, 7:30 p.m. (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands): The Huskies tip off the Paradise Jam on Thanksgiving with their first-ever meeting against Ole Miss. The Rebels are coming off a last-place finish (12-19, 1-15) in the Southeast Conference.

Nov. 23 vs. St. John’s, 7:30 p.m. (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands): A pair of Connecticut products, Tiana England (Stamford) and Alissa Alston (Career Magnet-New Haven), get to take on their state school.

Nov. 24 vs. Purdue, 7:30 p.m. (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands): The trip to paradise concludes against Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Ae’Rianna Harris and the Boilermakers.

Nov. 28 vs. DePaul, 7 p.m. (XL): Jasmine Lister is back on Auriemma’s staff after spending a year alongside Doug Bruno. DePaul returns its top two scorers — Mart’e Grays and Ashton Millender — from its Big East championship team.

Dec. 2 at Notre Dame, 4 p.m. (Purcell Pavilion): Here’s some advice for UConn: Don’t let Arike Ogunbowale take the final shot. The Fighting Irish return Ogunbowale, the hero of last year’s Final Four win over the Huskies, and get All-American center Brianna Turner back from a knee injury.

Dec. 4 at St. Louis, 7 p.m. (Chaifetz Arena): It’s a homecoming game for senior Napheesa Collier, who played her high school ball just 15 miles from the Billikens’ campus at Incarnate Word Academy.

Dec. 8 vs. Seton Hall, 1 p.m. (XL): These two have not played since 2012-13, UConn’s final season in the Big East. The Huskies have won 29 straight and 44 of their last 45 meetings with the Pirates.

Dec. 19 at Oklahoma, TBD (Lloyd Noble Center): The Huskies must contest with 5-foot-7 guard Shaina Pellington, the reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year. The Ontario native averaged 13.1 points per game last season.

Dec. 22 at California, TBD (Haas Pavilion): UConn visits a possible Top-25 team for its first and only trip of the regular season to the West Coast. Senior forward Kristine Anigwe came close to averaging a double-double last season for the Golden Bears.

Jan. 3 at Baylor, 9 p.m. (Ferell Center): On top of bringing back All-American center Kalani Brown, the Bears come off a 33-2 season having landed the top recruiting class in the espnW HoopGurlz rankings. That should help make up for losing point guard Alexis Morris, who was dismissed earlier this month for a violation of team rules.

Jan. 6 at Houston, noon (Fertitta Center): Playmaking guards Angela and Jasmyne Harris both return, making the Cougars a team worth watching.

Jan. 9 vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m. (GP): Jamelle Elliott is back at UConn in an administrative role after spending the last nine seasons as the Bearcats’ head coach.

Jan. 13 vs. South Florida, 1 p.m. (GP): The Bulls (26-8, 13-3 in 2017-18) seem to have solved everyone in the AAC — except UConn, of course. The Huskies beat them three times last season, including 70-54 in the conference championship game.

Jan. 16 at Tulane, 8 p.m. (Devlin Fieldhouse): The Green Wave graduated second-team All-AAC guard Kolby Morgan after losing to the Huskies three times last season, including 82-56 in the conference quarterfinals.

Jan. 20 at Temple, 1 p.m. (Liacouras Center): The 230-mile drive to the City of Brotherly Love is UConn’s shortest road trip of the season.

Jan. 23 vs. SMU, 7 p.m. (GP): Buoyed by a ridiculous 43-0 run, the Huskies crushed SMU 80-36 to clinch the AAC regular-season title last year.

Jan. 27 vs. Central Florida, 4 p.m. (XL): The UConn faithful gets to catch up with a familiar face, Knights assistant coach Nykesha Sales.

Jan. 31 at Louisville, 7 p.m. (KFC Yum! Center): The Cardinals return a bulk of talent from last year’s Final Four team, including All-American guard Asia Durr.

Feb. 2 at Cincinnati, noon (Fifth Third Arena): The Huskies improved to 100-0 in AAC play with a 75-21 victory over Cincinnati in last year’s conference semifinals.

Feb. 6 vs. East Carolina, 7 p.m. (XL): The Huskies thumped the Pirates 96-35 in their lone meeting in Greenville last season.

Feb. 9 vs. Temple, 1 p.m. (GP): Here’s a dose of good news for the Owls: They return a pair of players — guard Emani Mayo and forward Mia Davis — who landed on the AAC All-Freshman Team. And here’s some bad news: They graduated New Haven product Tanaya Atkinson, the conference’s co-leading scorer.

Feb. 11 vs. South Carolina, 7 p.m (XL): Collier played for Dawn Staley this summer with the U.S. National Team. Here is Collier’s chance to play against her and the Gamecocks, who must replace National Player of the Year A’ja Wilson.

Feb. 17 at Central Florida, 2 p.m. (CFE Arena): Coming off a 22-win campaign, UCF returns forward Masseny Kaba (8.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game) and brings in guard Diamond Battles, a four-star recruit.

Feb. 20 vs. Memphis, 7 p.m. (XL): The Huskies swept the season-series last year, outscoring the Tigers by an average of 52.5 points.

Feb. 24 at Tulsa, 3 p.m. (Reynolds Center): There’s only one way to go for the Golden Hurricane following a last-place finish (10-21, 3-13) in the AAC.

Feb. 26 at Wichita State, 7:30 p.m. (Charles Koch Arena): The Huskies make their first trip to Wichita State.

March 2 vs. Houston, 1 p.m. (GP): The Huskies play the Cougars twice in the same season for the first time since 2013-14.

March 4 at South Florida, 7 p.m. (Yuengling Center): Senior forward Kitija Laska is the AAC’s leading returning scorer (21.1 points per game). She will compete for Latvia at the upcoming FIBA World Cup.

March 8-11 at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville: AAC Tournament

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour

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