Sixteen games in and just over the half-way point of the season Geno Auriemma’s Huskies sit at 15-1 overall and 3-1 in conference play. Coming off a lackluster 14 point victory over 15th ranked (AP) Louisville Tuesday the Huskies host the Syracuse Orange this afternoon at the XL Center in Hartford.
The Orange come in at 15-1, 3-0 in the BIG EAST, riding an eight game winning streak, with their last three victories coming over conference opponents. Syracuse edged DePaul 84-80 on Tuesday and blew out the Georgetown Hoyas by 30 last Saturday.
Syracuse is a veteran guard oriented team that goes six deep, led by senior guards Carmen Tyson-Thomas (10.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Elashier Hall (10.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Junior guard Rachel Coffey is the main distributor averaging 6.3 ppg and dishing out five assists per game. Senior center, 6’4” Kayla Alexander, anchors the post averaging a stout 19.8 ppg and hauling in almost nine boards per game.
Battle of the bigs
The post match-up between Alexander and UConn junior center, 6’5” Stephanie Dolson, bears watching as Auriemma made the move dropping Dolson into more of a traditional low post position on offense following the loss to Notre Dame four games ago. Over the last three games, all victories over conference opponents, Dolson has averaged 16.3 ppg, three points per game over her season average, pulling down 6.3 rpg and shooting an eye-popping 79% from the floor. UConn is +10.1 in rebounding margin, good for second in the BIG EAST and Syracuse is third at +9.8.
Today’s matchup features the conferences two best perimeter defensive teams with the Huskies limiting conference opponents to 30% from beyond the arc and the Orange holding BIG EAST foes to 34% from downtown. UConn is first in three-point field goal percentage at 37% and three’s made at nine per game against BIG EAST teams, while the Orange knock down almost seven threes per game, good for fourth in the conference to the tune of 30%, eighth overall in conference play.
The X-factor may prove to be Breanna Stewart. The 6’4” freshman sensation from the Syracuse area returns from an ankle injury, that forced her to miss UConn’s last two games. Stewart is second on the team in scoring at 14.6 per game and leads the team in rebounding at just over seven boards per game. In her two conference games, the loss to Notre Dame and the win over Georgetown, Stewart is averaging a double-double notching an even eleven points and eleven rebounds per game.
Today’s matchup should be a good tune-up for the Monday night showdown at Gampel Pavilion against the fourth ranked (AP) and undefeated Duke Blue Devils. Duke should come in well prepared having last played on Wednesday, crushing Virginia Tech 58-26 in Durham, NC. UConn cruised to victory over Duke last season, winning on the road 61-45.
UConn rolled over the Orange last January at Syracuse 95-54…The Huskies have won 21 straight versus Syracuse and 28 of the last 29…Syracuse last defeated the Huskies 62-59 on January 2, 1996…UConn is 35-12 all-time versus Syracuse…Stewart has scored 20 points or more five times this season…Kelly Faris leads the nation in assist to turnover ratio at 3.04...Dolson is fourth nationally in field goal percentage at 60.8%