Published March 02. 2013 4:00AM
Tampa, Fla. - It was moments after the No. 3 UConn women dusted Seton Hall last week when Geno Auriemma, in a lighter moment, learned South Florida had just beaten its second ranked opponent in a week.
Perhaps he was only half kidding when he said, "that might be the toughest game of the road trip."
He was alluding to today's game at South Florida (noon, SNY), a prelude to what could be the Big East regular-season championship game Monday night at second-ranked Notre Dame.
But for the game in South Bend to mean something, the Huskies must beat the Bulls (19-8, 8-6) who have already beaten No. 22 Syracuse, No. 16 Louisville, lost to Notre Dame in overtime and are likely headed to the NCAA tournament.
"The challenge going there (to USF) is the fact that they have a really, really good team. They're just playing really well and are getting contributions from more than one person," Auriemma said. "Last year, they were difficult to play against here.
"Jose (USF coach Fernandez) has done a fabulous job with that team. The one positive is that we're not going to be down there long enough to get sidetracked with being in Tampa. We're getting there Friday night and leaving right after the game so we won't even be there 24 hours. We want to hurry up and get out of Tampa so we can get to South Bend as quickly as possible."
Andrea Smith (16.8 points per game) leads South Florida in scoring.
"We've done pretty much all the things we'd set out to do as far as the Big East championship is concerned except win the Notre Dame game at home," Auriemma said. "The conference has been so difficult to win the last three or four years that you almost can't afford to lose any games it seems like.
"This is certainly not the easiest way to finish the schedule at South Florida and at Notre Dame, two of the better teams in the league. But maybe that's good, maybe that's exactly what we need heading into the Big East tournament is two difficult road games. Certainly our younger guys are going to have to grow up quickly between now and Monday."