UConn Goes On the Road to face Villanova

The Huskies go on the road to open their Big East season against rival Villanova. How will they respond after their early season loss to North Carolina?

No. 8/9 UConn Huskies (6-1, 0-0) vs. Villanova Wildcats (5-1, 0-0)
Thursday, December 8, 2005 8:00 (CPTV)
The Pavillion, Villanova PA

Probable starting line-ups

UConn Huskies
Player #NamePos.Hgt.Yr.ppgrpgapg
Renee MontgomeryG5-7Fr5.01.63.4
Mel ThomasG5-9So14.02.63.0
Ann StrotherG/F6-3Sr14.45.72.6
Barbara TurnerF6-0Sr7.96.32.3
Willnett CrockettF/C6-2Sr2.95.9.7

Villanova Wildcats
Player #NamePos.Hgt.Yr.ppgrpgapg
Betsy McManusG5-6Sr5.73.03.3
Jenna VianniaG5-11Sr6.83.83.2
Liad Suez-VarniF6-2Sr16.74.53.8
Jackie AdamshickF6-0Jr12.27.33.0
Kate Desart MagerC6-0Sr9.74.01.3

The Wildcat backcourt is an interesting mix of experience and youth. Of the nine guards, five are seniors and four are freshmen. However, the freshmen don't see a lot of time on the floor as only four guards see significant playing time. Jenna Viani, is back from the knee injury suffered during last season and is currently the fourth leading scorer. Betsy McManus is capably taking care of the ball and has 10 steals to her credit on the year. Yet, this is an unusual Villanova team

While the guards are still controlling the tempo and shooting an occasional three, this Wildcat squad is a frontcourt-oriented team. In fact, the total number of points by all four guards who've scored this year totals 98, and two of the guards have 23 points between them. In the frontcourt, it's Viani and McManus who are the scoring threats. Neither, however, are particularly scary from behind the arc. Viana has shot 4-19 (21%) and McManus is 7-26 (27%) from three point land. They don't score many two pointers, either. McManus has taken 34 shots in six game; 26 of those have been threes. Viana is a bit better. Of her 37 shots, only 19 have been threes. Be forewarned, though, that most of Viani's scoring has come in the last three games after going 2-13 in her first three.

While they may not dominate the scoreboard, the guards are very good at taking care of the ball and controlling the tempo. As seniors, Viani and McManus know very well what it takes to slow an opponent down and force it into turnovers and impatient shots. The UConn guards will need to turn the tables on the ‘Nova guards, harassing them into hurrying and stealing the ball when possible. It will be a tough task as these experienced guards already have two wins over the Huskies in recent years. They won't be intimidated.

Meanwhile, the UConn guards have something to prove. They are much better than they appeared on national TV on Monday's loss to North Carolina. Renee Montgomery and Ketia Swanier have to know that ‘Nova will want to control the tempo; will the UConn guards permit that to happen? They're young but they've been battle tested in their short careers. It's important for them to bounce back and prove that their loss of composure against UNC was an anomaly.

Just because the guards aren't making threes doesn't mean that Villanova has been going without. Remember, all of the Villanova players are perfectly capable of shooting from the perimeter; this is their system and has been, oh, forever.

The leading three point shooter, scorer, shot blocker and maker of assists is Liad Suez-hypen-Karni (a belated congrats on the nuptials to Liad). Thank goodness that Suez-Karni is finally a senior an occasion that's come none too soon from this Husky fan's perspective. She's the major threat from beyond the arc, making 47% of her threes on 18-38 shooting. You can't foul her, either, as she shoots 91% from the charity stripe.

Suez-Karni is joined in the frontcourt by junior Jacki Adamshick. She's the second leading scorer and bears the most of the rebounding burden. Yes! Villanova rebounds this year, somewhat. The days of giving up the rebound to play defense have disappeared and Adamshick has picked up the slack. Still, the Wildcats are outrebounded most games, so that may be an exploitable weakness for the Huskies.

Yet another senior plays in the paint, Kate Dessart Mager, the third leading scorer. She will also be given a hearty farewell by opposing Big East teams. The three posts account for 58% of ‘Nova's scoring. Add in the points from 6-0 sophomore forward Stacie Witman and 6-0 redshirt freshman Lisa Karcis and it's quickly apparent that 75% of Villanova's scoring comes from the frontcourt.

What to make of the UConn frontcourt? Ann Strother and Barbara Turner will most likely rotate on Suez-Karni, leaving Willnett Crockett, Brittany Hunter and a sore Charde Houston to handle the others. UConn has a height advantage but the Wildcats are smart and they're experienced. This is a really good test and a win on the road against a seasoned crew of this quality would go a long way to restoring some lost confidence.

Some key statistics -
Villanova Wildcats
Asst/shots made117/195 (60%)106/143 (74%)
Reb margin+7.9-0.7
3 pt made/att38/94 (40%)53/134 (40%)
Scoring avg.72.966.0
Scoring margin+19.9+10.8
Field goal %47.7%44.5%
Opponents' FG% 34.1%38.2%
Steals/gm 11.05.7

Next on the UConn schedule is yet another opponent who won't be afraid to face the Huskies, even after a loss. Villanova has already faced Mississippi and lulled them into a 60-49 loss. Other Villanova victims include Marist, a common opponent of UConn's, who lost 64-60, Penn State (62-59), Rhode Island (65-44) and Penn (85-51). The one loss was to George Washington, 68-60.

Most of the season's highs in scoring, etc. came against Penn, allowing the Wildcats to pad the stats a bit against an inferior Ivy League opponent. Most of the season's lows came against GW, although a scrappy, guard oriented Marist team held ‘Nova to a season's low 20 points in the first half.

Villanova is a disciplined, well-coached team that will attempt to control the Huskies by forcing them into a half-court game and s-l-o-w-i-n-g down the tempo to a crawl. An impatient, young team could fall victim to the Wildcats but if the UConn guards keep their cool and don't fall into the trap, they can force ‘Nova into a quicker tempo than they'd like.

Villanova isn't particularly deep. Coach Harry Perretta goes only six or perhaps seven deep into his roster. A press could be very effective against the Wildcats and keeping the forcing the tempo is definitely to UConn's advantage.

While it would be great to play tough defense on the ‘Nova posts it would be even better if the UConn guards could deny them the ball and force the Wildcat guards to win the game with jump shots inside the three point line. Suez-Karni must be contained and one or both of Adamshick and Dessart Magar need to be slowed down. Force McManus to shoot and deny the ball into the post.

On UConn's side of the ball, the three point shot might be available as Villanova has allowed opponents to make 37% of their threes. The posts will need to be active to give the outside shooters enough room to get off the shot. Barbara Turner could have a big game. She's been playing well and there is no one on the Villanova roster who can keep up with her. If Charde Houston is able, she could be a one woman wrecking crew in this game.

Everyone on the UConn team will need to play well for this one. It will be a great gut check and a win would be huge for the team's confidence.

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