UConn women play Michigan State in PK80-Phil Knight Invitational
Eugene, Ore. — When the invitations are signed, sealed and delivered for must-see women's basketball events, typically the first to arrive land in Storrs.
The 11-time national championship UConn women will play in the Jimmy V Classic for the seventh year in a row when rival Notre Dame comes to the XL Center on Dec. 3. Five times UConn took part in the Maggie Dixon Classic and the five victories in the event held in the honor of the former Army head coach are more than any other program.
It was only natural that when organizers of the basketball event held to celebrate Nike's co-founder Phil Knight's 80th birthday decided to schedule a women's basketball doubleheader that the Huskies were invited to the party.
Top-ranked UConn will play Michigan State on Saturday (3 p.m., SNY) at the University of Oregon followed by host Oregon playing Oklahoma in the PK80-Phil Knight Invitational.
"To be able to celebrate women's basketball, the tournament is going to be among the best in the country so it is going to be really neat," Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. "UConn is such an iconic program. We obviously want everybody to come and watch us but it is the opportunity to see Coach (Geno) Auriemma and that team, I think it is going to be real special."
Auriemma led UConn to not only a 4-0 start but for the first time in program history, the Huskies opened the season with four straight victories over teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Michigan State narrowly missed making it five ranks foes in five games.
UConn is coming off an impressive victory on the road against No. 5 UCLA on Tuesday, leading by as many as 29 points despite playing without injured All-American Katie Lou Samuelson. After taking part in events promoting the 20-team tournament and bouncing around between Portland and Eugene, the team will head to Reno, Nevada for Tuesday's game at the University of Nevada so senior All-American forward Gabby Williams can play in front of family and friends.
It will be an entertaining, emotional yet draining week and a half on the road for the Huskies.
"This isn't normal, this isn't something I would do on a regular basis but it kind of evolved and we had to scramble around to fill some things and here we are," Auriemma said.
Dealing with a marathon road trip isn't the only challenge facing the Huskies. Samuelson sprained her left foot in a win over California on Nov. 17 forcing her to miss games against Maryland and UCLA. She is not expected to play against either Michigan State or Nevada leaving the Huskies without arguably the best 3-point shooter in the country.
Crystal Dangerfield, who made just 32 percent of her 3-pointers as a freshman, made three 3-pointers as did freshman Megan Walker, who was 0 for 6 from 3-point range in her first three collegiate games. Napheesa Collier also drained a 3-pointers in the 78-60 victory.
"The 3s are going to be down, how many other things that Lou does so we aren't going to get that until she comes back so we have to figure out a different way to do it," Auriemma said. "We also know that defense is going to be a little different without Lou in the game but if you play on a team, you need people to step up."
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