Auriemma will learn a lot about his team in tonight's game

If the unending parade of lopsided outcomes is used as evidence, the terms "must watch" and "UConn women's basketball" are often mutually exclusive.

Then there's tonight.

This is a must watch, especially for anyone curious to see how the fourth-ranked Huskies play one of the game's cornerstones without Maya Moore.

UConn, which has already inhaled overmatched Holy Cross and Pacific, plays No. 5 Stanford tonight at the XL Center (7:30 p.m., ESPNU).

Nothing else UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in preparation for tonight's game was as relevant as what he said about it after the Pacific game last week:

"I think we'll have a little more idea what we can do against a really, really good team," he said. "If we can do (certain) things, I'll have a really good idea what we can do going forward."

Moore, the net under the other Wallendas for four years, is gone. This is the first time in four years UConn hasn't had the best player on the floor in a game. Such a distinction belongs to Stanford forward Nneka Ogwumike, likely the No. 1 pick in April's WNBA draft.

Ogwumike, who missed the season opener at Texas, responded with 33 points versus Gonzaga last week. The Huskies also have to deal with Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka's sister, who is averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per game thus far.

"Nneka and Chiney play really well together. They seem to have a sixth sense because they've played with each other for so long," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said last week during a media teleconference. "They bring great athleticism, excellent skill set. If there's one thing that's really special, they bring a sisterhood. The two of them together, what I saw last year, was they are really unselfish, they really help players understand team basketball and there's this great sisterhood that they have and they bring it to our team. They're great leaders and competitors."

They'll be a handful for Stefanie Dolson and the other members of Connecticut's frontcourt. The Huskies, though, have a quality set of guards, led by Tiffany Hayes, Bria Hartley and Caroline Doty. Freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who has shown an ability to score, also has VanDerveer's attention.

"This is a very different team for us. I think that for the most part, when you think of a Stanford team, it's a big team, it's not kind of water-bug quick," she said. "We have some very athletic, quick guards that allow us to do some different things and we're excited about that. I think we're not radically changed, but we could pick up defensively full court whereas last year that was not an option for us."

Stanford is one of several high-level opponents on UConn's schedule this season, joining Baylor, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina and Oklahoma.

"It just feels like an early round of a fight," VanDerveer said. "It does not have the same feel but it's a very big game for us and it will just help us know where we're at, what we need to be doing better. And it'll be a very exciting game, I think we're developing a great rivalry."

The Huskies play three game in three days beginning Friday, hosting the World Vision Classic at Gampel Pavilion. They plays Fairleigh Dickinson Friday (7:30), Buffalo Saturday (7:30) and Dayton Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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