STORRS, Conn. -- Courtney Ekmark says one of the toughest parts of being sidelined with a stress reaction in her right foot is sitting out at practice.
The University of Connecticut women's basketball team's freshman guard is a coach's daughter, for sure.
"I hate missing practice, it's like my biggest thing," Ekmark said Wednesday. ""I hate being out so badly. I wish I could practice so badly. I wish I could play in the games so badly.
"The worst thing? It's probably not being able to help my team win. But everything happens for a reason and you try to make the best of it. Hopefully it heals fast and I'll be back soon."
Ekmark will be in her walking boot for the fifth straight game Saturday when the third-ranked Huskies take on No. 2 Notre Dame in the Jimmy V Classic at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.
UConn announced prior to its Nov. 23 game with Creighton that Ekmark would miss 4-6 weeks after an MRI showed the stress reaction. The Phoenix, Arizona native saw 19 minutes of action in the opener against UC Davis (three rebounds, two assists, three steals) but did not play against Stanford.
"It's like a really random spot in my foot," Ekmark said. "I think the doctors were kind of shocked, too."
She said her rehabilitation program is going well.
"Right now, I'm doing strengthening exercises to keep my leg strong and I'm doing swim workouts in the pool, bike workouts, and upper body workouts," Ekmark said. "Hopefully next week I can do the elliptical and then after that start putting more pressure on it and getting back."
After the Notre Dame game, UConn is off for fall semester final exams until it takes on DePaul at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on Dec. 19, which would mark the four-week point. The Huskies then face UCLA at Mohegan Sun Arena Dec. 21. After a short break for Christmas, UConn begins a stretch of three games in five days with its American Athletic Conference opener against SMU on Dec. 27 at the XL Center in Hartford.
UConn won't let Ekmark rush back too soon, but she thinks her return will be sooner than later.
"The doctor said it depends on how it feels," Ekmark said. "I'm hoping it's four weeks."
Rematch timeUConn is 9-4 when faced with a national championship game rematch the following season, including 3-0 against Louisville a year ago.
The Huskies won their unprecedented ninth NCAA title last April by routing Notre Dame 79-58 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
"There is a big difference between playing in the Final Four and playing a regular season game in December," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I have always treated them completely different. I have always said that a game in December doesn't decide where you are going to have a chance to win a national championship. For us, we have beaten them the last two times in the Final Four. I don't know that I had to say anything or come up with anything to motivate our guys based on what had happened in the past. I don't think you want to harp on that. Players aren't stupid. They know what happened.
"Plus, teams change every year. A couple of the guys we played in the Final Four two years ago aren't there. A couple of guys who were on last year's team are not there. So it is not necessarily the same team.
"And I don't think the Notre Dame kids need any extra motivation or any special motivation just like we wouldn't either if they were coming to play this game at our place. If they were coming to play this game at Gampel on Saturday, I don't think I would have to work really hard to get my guys fired up. I don't think Muffet (Notre Dame coach McGraw) has to say one word to those guys. I don't think she has to say, 'You guys need to get fired up for Connecticut.' I don't think that is necessary."
The Huskies lead the series with the Irish 31-11. UConn has won the last two -- in Nashville and at the 2013 Final Four semifinals in New Orleans -- but dropped seven of the previous eight.
Streak busterUConn's streak of 778 games without back-to-back losses is the longest in the nation by far. The second-longest streak, however, came to an end Wednesday night when Duke lost at Nebraska 60-54.
The Blue Devils (5-2) were coming off a loss last Sunday at Texas A&M.
Duke had gone 242 games without consecutive losses since dropping three straight against UConn, Vanderbilt, and Penn State Nov. 25-Dec. 2, 2007. It doesn't get any easier for the Blue Devils as they host No. 1 South Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium this Sunday.
Notre Dame has gone 157 games without back-to-back losses since it fell to UCLA and Kentucky Nov. 18 and 21, 2010. Stanford has gone 145 games without back-to-back losses since it fell to DePaul and Tennessee Dec. 17 and 19, 2010. Tennessee lost its previous two games to Chattanooga and Texas before beating St. Francis of Pennsylvania Wednesday night.