Syracuse brings experienced group into title game
Syracuse has eight players who have appeared in at least 100 games with the Orange led by Brianna Butler, Brittney Sykes and Isabella Slim, who have made 134, 103 and 102 starts respectively.
"It really helps us because we really know each other, we trust each other and have a lot of experience," said junior guard Alexis Peterson, who has played in 100 games with 69 starts. "We went to three NCAA tournaments together, we have done everything and it is just a level of understanding between our seniors and juniors that I think helps us."
Some other numbers to ponder:
Syracuse has attempted 143 3-pointers in the first five tournament games breaking the mark of 133 set by last year's UConn team.
The 48 made 3-pointers are the second most in tournament history behind the 2014-15 Huskies
Brianna Butler's 57 attempted 3-pointers are 10 more than the previous tournament record set by Old Dominion's Audrey Ebin in 1997 and her 17 3-pointers are three shy of the tourney record shared by UConn greats Diana Taurasi (2003), Maya Moore (2010) and Betsy Harris of Alabama (1994).
"We really shoot the 3 ball and he really encourages us to shoot it as well as offensive rebound," Butler said. "That is something we have been doing all season and we thrive off of that."
UConn had some issues defending the 3-pointer especially early in the season when six of the Huskies' first 14 opponents made at least 10 3-pointers. However, that hasn't taken place since. With Gabby Williams expected to replace the injured Katie Lou Samuelson in the starting lineup, the Huskies could be better suited to defend on the perimeter.
"I think they averaged 30 a game (28.6 in the NCAA tournament)," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "So the 3-point shot is one of the best weapons and maybe the greatest weapon in all of basketball. It can make you win a national championship and it can make you lose a national championship. I think defensively guarding the 3 becomes the most important thing you have to do and the hardest thing you have to do. Right now those guys are on roll and they're shooting it with a lot of confidence. We'll have to figure out a way to minimize that. I don't know that you can completely eliminate it, but I think we're going to have to figure out a way to minimize it."
It seems to be a safe assumption that contesting the 3-point in addition to working against a zone defense which the Orange love to utilize have been major points of emphasis in practice so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.