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Tale of the Tape: Connecticut

With the first round of the NCAA Tournament completed, the No. 2-seeded Indiana Hoosiers are now set to host a familiar opponent Sunday afternoon. The Connecticut Huskies defeated Rhode Island, 4-3, in overtime to advance to the Round of 32 and will travel to Bloomington for the second time this season.

UConn reached the tournament as an at-large team after falling to No. 14 UCF in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Huskies finished fourth in the conference at the end of the regular season with an overall record of 12-5-2 and a conference record of 3-2-2.

IU and UConn met earlier this season in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic, and the Hoosiers came away with a 1-0 victory. UConn was No. 18 in the nation at the time and was coming off a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame.

Without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s edition of Tale of the Tape.

Let’s rewind to September

Like I said before, IU and UConn met back in September during the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic. Despite scoring eight goals in five games prior to September 2, the Huskies struggled to create any sort of significant chances against IU’s back line.

The Hoosiers had majority of possession in the first half of the match, and senior Andrew Gutman scored the lone goal of the match to propel IU to victory. The goal came off a Trevor Swartz corner kick, which was headed in near-post by Gutman in the 41st minute. Despite a solid second half performance, UConn couldn’t find the equalizer and was forced to leave Bloomington with a loss. 

Rhode Island blew a 3-1 lead

It seemed like Rhode Island had the game in the bag against the Huskies. The Rams led 3-1 after scoring its third goal of the game in the 53rd minute, and UConn didn’t respond until the 76th. UConn freshman forward Ibrahima Diop scored both of the Huskies’ second half goals to take the game into the golden-goal overtime period.

Diop completed his hat trick in the 99th minute of overtime, sending the Huskies into the Round of 32. Overall, it was a pretty evenly-played match between the two sides, but Diop’s heroics were the difference in the end.

Key Matchup

Jack Maher/Timmy Mehl vs. Ibrahima Diop — Diop is coming off his first-career hat trick and will be closely watched Sunday afternoon. Not only is this my key matchup, but Diop is also my One to Watch, so I’ll just combine the two. Despite his brilliant performance Thursday afternoon, the freshman had only scored once in 2018 prior to the Rhode Island match. Indiana is a team that played solidly on the defensive end throughout the Big Ten Tournament — only giving up two goals in three games, including a shutout against Michigan in the championship match.

Maher and Mehl will be marking Diop throughout Sunday’s match, and it could be the deciding factor of who wins. Indiana’s center back duo played a sound match the last time these two teams met and will be familiar with UConn’s play style.

Overall Assessment

It’s never good when a team has to play in an overtime period with another match coming up soon. The Huskies will not be as rested as they usually are for a normal week, and Indiana will look to take advantage. UConn’s furious comeback against Rhode Island was very impressive, and it’s tough to come back from two goals down and win a match.

UConn will be riding that momentum into this weekend, but the Hoosiers will be as well. In Indiana’s last match, it dismantled one of the best teams in the Big Ten and college soccer with a 3-0 score line. The IU defense suffocated the Wolverine attack, and Michigan wasn’t able to muster up any significant chances throughout the match. This weekend is going to be a battle between two teams that are coming off of impressive wins and should make an exciting Round of 32 matchup.

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