Holy Cross Women Take on UConn

The Holy Cross Crusaders travel down Interstate 84 to take on the UConn Huskies. With the graduation of two key players from the Crusaders, how will the game play out?

No. 9/9 UConn Huskies (7-1, 1-0) vs. Holy Cross Crusaders (3-5, 0-0)
Monday, December 19, 2005 7:00 (CPTV)
Hartford Civic Center

Probable starting line-ups

UConn Huskies
Player #NamePos.Hgt.Yr.ppgrpgapg
Renee MontgomeryG5-7Fr6.11.83.3
Mel ThomasG5-9So13.32.83.1
Kalana GreeneG5-10Fr7.43.8.8
Ann StrotherG/F6-3Sr15.66.32.9
Barbara TurnerF6-0Sr8.05.92.1

Holy Cross Crusaders
Player #NamePos.Hgt.Yr.ppgrpgapg
Laura AloisiG5-9So5.63.44.3
Sarah PlacekG5-3Sr7.52.32.4
Brittany KeilG6-2Jr9.07.02.6
Ashley McLaughlinF6-2So4.53.8.9
Kaitlin FoleyC6-4Jr16.46.9.8

Of the seven players who average more than 7.5 minutes a game for Holy Cross, five of them are guards. Leading the way as second high scorer is 5-11 senior Shannon Bush. Bush has started six of the Crusaders' eight games but is now coming off the bench. She averages 11.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 26.9 minutes a game. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth leading scorers are also guards. They are Brittany Keil, 5-8 senior Jessica Conte, Sarah Placek and Laura Aloisi. Those five guards account for 65% of Holy Cross' scoring.

Just about everyone on the Holy Cross roster has attempted a three pointer, with moderate success. The Crusaders have made only 29% of their shots from beyond the arc. However, their opponents haven't done too well, either, making only 27% of their three point attempts. Oddly enough, the Holy Cross opponents have attempted only 95 threes in eight games With a guard-oriented team like the Crusaders, it's possible that competitors have decided to go inside the arc, where Holy Cross allows 43% of shots made.

Even though she doesn't start, Shannon Bush appears to be the go-to person on the perimeter. Of all the Holy Cross players, she has the most shots attempted. Fouling her is a bad idea; Bush has made over 86% of her free throws.

Unfortunately for the Crusaders, their strength plays into the Huskies' strength. Hoping to have their guards outrun or outgun the UConn guards doesn't seem like a plausible plan. The Crusaders have an unusually high number of turnovers this year. This could be deadly against the opportunistic Huskies who've feasted off of tentative play from opposing guards. The pressing, uptempo strategy that UConn employed so successfully against Villanova would be a good idea here, too, where Holy Cross has no hope of matching UConn's quickness or athleticism.

Holy Cross' leading scorer is 6-4 junior Jessica Foley whose scoring accounts for 26% of the Crusaders' average scoring. She's led her team in points in six of its eight games. (Shannon Bush led scoring in the other two.) Foley was also top rebounder in four games; guard Brittany Keil led in the other four. If fouled, Foley will make opponents pay as she makes 82% of her attempts from the charity stripe.

The only other Holy Cross post with significant playing time is sophomore Ashley McLaughlin. She missed the first three games of the season (don't know why) but has been steady since returning. Unlike Foley, McLaughlin will take a shot from beyond the arc but not with great success. She's 1-6 from the three point line but her attempts will stretch the defense.

A 6-2 freshman, Kathy Gruzynsky, may make an appearance. She averages 7.5 minutes a game but has attempted only 12 shots in the eight games she's played. She's considered a potential star of the future for the Crusaders.

Foley is a big girl at 6-4. The Huskies are going to have to have help defense in the paint to keep her from having her way. Post play has been a concern for UConn. It would be a tremendous boost for the Huskies if Willnett Crockett could play up to her potential because there's no one on the Holy Cross roster that could stop her if she chose to dominate.

Some key statistics -
Holy Cross
Asst/shots made134/224 (60%)124/179 (69%)
Reb margin+8.0-8.4
3 pt made/att41/105 (39%)42/144 (29%)
Scoring avg.72.864.0
Scoring margin+19.4-2.4
Field goal %48.3%38.8%
Opponents' FG% 34.6%40.0%
Steals/gm 10.310.1

Holy Cross has had a tough year so far. They've lost five games - to UMass (64-55), Dartmouth (74-63), BC (67-53), Western Kentucky (72-41) and Rhode Island (72-68). In the Rhode Island game, Holy Cross coughed up a 14 point lead to let the Rams steal the game. Perhaps they're still trying to recover from the graduation of center Lisa Andrews and guard Maggie Fontana, two players who made a huge impact for the Crusaders last year. After averaging only 3.1 ppg last season, Foley has really stepped up her game but can she do it all for the Crusaders?

Following the excruciating water torture-like game against Villanova comes another type of test for the Huskies. Holy Cross has no hope of out-talenting the Huskies so they will attempt to out-hustle and out-play them with aggressiveness and tenacity. Although they may be down by double digits with one minute to play, Holy Cross will NOT give up or slack off. However, as tenacious as the Crusaders are, UConn owns the series against them. UConn and Holy Cross have played 15 games and UConn has won the last 12.

The Huskies are still searching for a reliable presence in the post. Barbara Turner has been steady but she plays more like a guard these days. With Charde Houston sitting out with a sore foot, UConn is looking to Crockett and Brittany Hunter to provide some authority in the paint. The Crusaders aren't a good rebounding team. Crockett and Hunter could help break the game open by dominating the boards and getting the ball to the guards for a fast break.

After taking an 11 day layoff for exams, the Huskies are likely to be rusty. Playing an in-your-face team like Holy Cross could mean an ugly game for a while in the first half. Once again, it will be up to the guards to put pressure on the ball and keep their opponent off balance. The Crusaders won't mind an uptempo game although they won't have the quickness to keep up with the Huskies. It would be good to keep changing things up on them, to keep them out of a groove offensively or defensively.

The game is a homecoming of sorts for former Husky Morgan Valley, now an assistant for Holy Cross. She will no doubt enjoy a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the UConn fans.

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