Tough task for MU women

The Golden Eagles take on No. 1/1 UConn at the Al McGuire Center on Saturday

The Marquette women will face their toughest task of the season Saturday night as they play host the top-ranked team in the country – the Connecticut Huskies (22-0, 11-0).

The Huskies reached the Final Four last season, but are easily odds on favorites to win the National Title this year. UConn is completely dominating opponents this season – outscoring teams by a staggering 32 points per game – and has had no contests within eleven points this season.

The Golden Eagles (13-9, 4-4) are coming off of a 71-56 victory over the University of South Florida, but have lost three of the past five games. In the game at Tampa, senior guard Krystal Ellis broke Abbie Willenborg's nine-year-old school record for points scored in a career. With her eight points in that game, Ellis now stands as the all-time leading scorer in MU history, male or female.

It will be back to reality in an abrupt way on Saturday, however, as Coach Geno Auriemma has the Huskies firing on all cylinders. Connecticut features three players averaging at least 16 points per game and are lead by versatile sophomore phenom Maya Moore. Moore, Big East Player of the Year in 2008, is averaging close to 20 points and 9 boards per game and her six-foot frame will present terrible match-up problems for Coach Terri Mitchell's squad.

While trying to find someone to stick on Moore, Mitchell will also have to consider what to do with the Huskies' other big name player, Tina Charles. Charles, a 6'4" Junior from Jamaica, N.Y., will be a nightmare for Jessica Pachko, Georgie Jones, or whomever else draws the unenviable match-up. On top of her obvious size advantage, the All-Big East First Teamer also shoots an impressive 62 percent from the floor.

Sophomore guard Angel Robinson has been filling Marquette's offensive needs and then some in many games this season, and even though she is coming off a 30-point performance against USF, she will need to provide lockdown defense on her counterpart Renee Montgomery if MU is to slow down UConn's offensive attack at all. Montgomery, a 5'7" senior and Third-Team All-American last year, averages over 16 points per game but more importantly distributes over 5.5 assists as well. Montgomery is the spark that starts the Huskies' offense, so slowing her down must be considered essential to MU's defensive strategy.

If there is any semblance of a deficiency in the Huskies' arsenal, it is three-point shooting. The Huskies have shot under 30 percent from beyond the arc seven times this season while attempting a total of 450 attempts on the year. If the Golden Eagles can pack in post defense on Charles and limit the drives of Moore thus forcing UConn to shoot from the outside, there is a possibility the Huskies could have a cold night.

The Huskies are also without freshman guard Caroline Doty, who tore her ACL five games ago and was shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc in 17 starts.

Five-ten junior guard Kalana Green, (8.4 ppg) and either 5' 10" freshman Tiffany Hayes (11 ppg in BE play) or 5' 4" junior Lorin Dixon (2.5 ppg) will round out the starting line-up for the Huskies. Hayes started her first game of the season and poured in thirteen points in UConn's last game, a 75-56 victory over Rutgers.

All stats aside, this will be a true test for Marquette. If the Golden Eagles could somehow come away with a win here, it could be a season-changing victory. Marquette is in desperate need of a trademark win, and there is no better opportunity for one on the schedule than against UConn. The last time the Huskies visited the Al McGuire Center in 2007, they barely escaped with a four-point victory. The Golden Eagles will need a big game from several different players to make this one close.

Playing the top ranked team in the nation is usually an insurmountable challenge, but a perfect game from MU and a subpar one from the Huskies could at least make things interesting.


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