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UConn-ECU at 2 p.m.

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East Carolina head coach Heather Macy directs from the sideline during Saturday's game against Cincinnati in Minges Coliseum.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The daunting task that so many American Athletic Conference women’s basketball teams are familiar with now is awaiting East Carolina.

The Pirates play host to No. 1 Connecticut on Wednesday at 2 p.m. The game was originally slated for a 7 o’clock tip-off, but the threat of inclement weather for Wednesday night led to the time change being announced Tuesday afternoon.

UConn brings its 83-game win streak in the league into the matchup.

The Huskies are 11-0 this season and averaging 90.1 points per game. Their lone AAC game was a 97-49 win against Memphis on Sunday, which came one day after the Pirates (8-6 overall) opened their American slate with a 66-54 defeat to Cincinnati in Greenville in which ECU produced its second-lowest scoring output of the season.

“We have to be tougher,” Pirate coach Heather Macy said. “Our basketball team has to have a much higher level of toughness and resilience in this league.”

Playing the Huskies also marks the end to a four-game homestand for the Pirates. In all, they are 6-3 in Minges this year.

But UConn’s last visit to Greenville resulted in a 91-44 victory by the Huskies on Jan. 24, 2017. UConn has played in Minges three times, winning by an average margin of 34.25 points.

This UConn squad features multiple All-America candidates, led by 6-foot-3 junior Katie Lou Samuelson and her 19.3 points per game average. Five of her teammates also average in double figures, including senior guard Kia Nurse at 16.4 ppg thanks to her 31-of-59 mark from 3-point range.

Senior Azura Stevens, who is the Huskies’ tallest player at 6-6 and a Raleigh native, is averaging 14.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per outing.

It will once again be a difficult assignment for ECU in the post, where 6-2 senior Thais Oliveira has been a standout all season and is tied for first in the AAC with 24 blocked shots. She is East Carolina’s leading rebounder and is second in scoring behind freshman guard Ariyana Williams, who scored 34 points against Savannah State on Dec. 20 but since then was held to 13 against Maryland-Eastern Shore and six against Cincinnati on 3-of-8 shooting.

“Offensively, we must shoot it better and we rely on a freshman to do that in Ariyana,” Macy said of Williams, who is at 11.6 ppg while Oliveira averages 10.6. “She didn’t shoot it particularly well (against the Bearcats) but they needed this experience and she is gaining incredible experience.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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