Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Looking ahead to tonight's showdown

Recent games against Duke haven't exactly been thrilling theater as UConn has simply dominated the Blue Devils.

Maybe I'll be proved wrong but I have a hunch tonight will be a different story. I went to see Duke play on Jan. 6 when they won at Boston College. While the Eagles were simply overmatched physically by Duke, I was able to get a sense of how this year's Duke plays and I came away impressed.

The first thing I was struck by was the difference freshman Alexis Jones has made for the Blue Devils. Defensively, she is used to harass the opposing point guard and also gives her team a secondary ball handler. Something tells me UConn's Bria Hartley will see plenty of her tonight.

I was also impressed with the way Chelsea Gray rebounds the ball as well as the improvement of juniors Tricia Liston and Haley Peters. I would say that Duke's starting five is the best the Huskies have faced so far this season.

It will be interesting to see how the teams approach things tonight. The first thing I will be looking for is whether the Huskies will attempt to press Duke. UConn's press had very little impact against Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins and didn't even make much of a dent against Syracuse. If UConn is too aggressive pressing and trapping, there is a risk of Elizabeth Williams, Peters, and Liston getting uncontested layups in transition.

I am also curious how the Huskies handle the ball. UConn has turned the ball over 18 times in each of the last two games. Many of these miscues were of the unforced variety and even more shockingly, have been committed by UConn's most experienced players. Kelly Faris, Caroline Doty and Hartley need to value ball security more than they have been in recent games.

There is always the wait and see approach to see how freshmen react on a big stage. UConn's Breanna Stewart finished Saturday's game against Syracuse in impressive fashion but her classmates Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson looked out of sorts in the game. The aforementioned Jones has quickly emerged as a key player for Duke so it bears watching how she handles playing a challenging road game.

Both teams have the makings of strong bench play - if their coaches let them play. Tuck, Jefferson and Brianna Banks combined to play 24 minutes against Syracuse. Hopefully they will get more of a chance to show what they can do tonight. For Duke, Richa Jackson, Allison Vernerey and Chloe Wells came into the season with 52 career starts between them so I wonder what impact they can have coming off the bench.

Finally, I can only hope that I don't find myself writing, blogging or tweeting about the officiating. This game should be a physical affair but the last thing anybody wants is for the game to be decided by which team's stars are relegated to sitting the bench due to foul issues.

This should be a fun one.

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