Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Contrast in styles adds intrigue to UConn/South Carolina showdown

In recent years Notre Dame has stepped up to be the No. 1 rival to UConn and before the season is over, the paths of the Huskies and Fighting Irish could cross again.

Whenever I watch Notre Dame play, it is hard to ignore the similar style of play used by the Fighting Irish and UConn. Whether it is the ability to consistently knock down shots from the perimeter or desire to get out in transition, it is pretty evident that UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame come from the same coaching tree.

However, I see a much different style of play when I look at South Carolina. While Tiffany Mitchell is an outstanding player, so much of what the Gamecocks try to get done is focused on the post tandem of A'ja Wilson and Alaina Coates. I am absolutely convinced that South Carolina would have advanced to the national championship game had Coates and Wilson started against Notre Dame in the national semifinal. Notre Dame was leading 15-3 when Coates and Wilson got on the floor together for the first time. While Coates started the second half, Wilson did not come back into the game until Notre Dame had outscored South Carolina 11-8 in the second half. So Notre Dame had a 15-point advantage before Wilson made her appearance in the first and second half and the game was decided by one point.

That is no longer an issue as Wilson is second on the team with an average of 26.8 minutes per game and Coates is tied for third at 26.3.

There are so many things I am anxious to see.

When UConn played Maryland, probably the team closest to South Carolina in terms of the size and physicality of its post players, the Huskies were not able to get the high-low offense working and Breanna Stewart needed to move away from the basket to make an offensive impact. This will be a test to see how much the Huskies have learned from that game. Obviously Coates and Wilson combine for more than 29 points per game so seeing how the Huskies handle them will be interesting.

Coates and Wilson have attempted 201 free throws between them with Mitchell adding 97 as South Carolina leads the nation in attempting 24.1 foul shots per game. Obviously if either Breanna Stewart or Morgan Tuck were to get into early foul trouble, that would change so much of what UConn wants to get done. I am also curious to see how undersized forwards Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams get involved offensively against a much taller South Carolina front line.

The other side of things, UConn will be looking to push the pace. The Huskies have been tinkering with full-court pressure in the last few weeks with rather impressive results. UConn has scored at least 30 points off turnovers in each of the last eight games. As a point of reference, since the 2005-06 season the only campaigns when the Huskies had more than eight games with 30 points off turnovers came in the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons. When Notre Dame has been able to knock off UConn in recent years, the Fighting Irish have been able to limit the number of time the Huskies were able to score in transition and forced UConn to have to execute its half-court offense. South Carolina will need to do the same thing. If this becomes and up and down affair, I don't think the Gamecocks can win.

It should be fun. I'm really looking forward to tonight's game.


Anonymous Joe said...

It will be interesting to see what kind of impact (if any) Natalie Butler will have in this game. While she hasn't yet put in too many minutes with the starters, I expect that to change in this game.

1:29 PM 

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