Two-time defending champ UConn women to play at Charleston next season

Connecticut players carry coach Geno Auriemma off the floor following the Huskies’ second straight women’s NCAA championship last season. Connecticut, now gunning for a third straight title, will play at College of Charleston next season in a home-and-home series.

The University of Connecticut, one of the most storied programs in women's college basketball, will be coming to Carolina First Arena next season to play the College of Charleston.

College of Charleston director of athletics Joe Hull confirmed that the Huskies, winners of seven national championships, will take on the College of Charleston on Dec. 21. Game time and ticket prices have not been set.

Connecticut had a 90-game winning streak, longest in men's or women's college basketball, end on Dec. 30 at Stanford but has regained the No. 1 ranking and has a 27-1 record this season. Coach Geno Auriemma's team will be playing for its third straight national championship next month. The Huskies went undefeated in 2009 and 2010.

Hull and UConn executive associate director of athletics Neal Eskin became friends when they worked together at Maryland.

"Neal called and asked if we would be interested. I said 'yes' and then visited with (women's coach Nancy Wilson) and she agreed to it and we exchanged paperwork," Hull said.

"What we're hoping to do is pack out this arena," Wilson said of 5,100-seat Carolina First Arena. "If there's one team that can do that, they are the one. If we pack out the arena, they might be coming to see Connecticut up close and personal. But they will also get to know our players and come back. "This is a program that's set itself apart at this stage. It's a privilege for us to take the court with them."

Wilson said the deal, which includes a return game at Connecticut for the 2012-13 season, should

be great for recruiting. Charleston also will play games at Georgia and South Carolina next season.

"It's exciting. It's not something you want to fill your schedule with," said Wilson, whose team has also played at North Carolina and N.C. State and played host to Kansas State this year.

"We play these teams we aren't necessarily expected to beat, but we go in there and it's an opportunity for us to play against the very best, to knock bodies around with them and see exactly where you are and play against those type players. There aren't any negatives to it because it's a win-win situation for us."

Hull said the game fit in with an initiative at the school to improve the strength of schedule in all sports.

"We've been playing some pretty tough teams in a lot of sports," Hull said. "Coach Auriemma has built a program that is obviously one of the best in history in that sport. To me, this is a big deal to have the UConn women come to Charleston.

"It's a privilege to play a program that has achieved what they have achieved. I think within their sport, within women's college basketball, this is very similar to North Carolina coming here for men's basketball."