Game preview: Seton Hall hosts No. 4 UConn in a Walsh Gymnasium selloutDate: December 5, 2019
By: Mat Mlodzinski
The Seton Hall Pirates (5-3) host the UConn Huskies (6-0) on Thursday, Dec. 5, at Walsh Gymnasium.
This is by far the biggest test for a Pirates team picked to finish third in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll. The Huskies are currently ranked No. 4 in the latest women’s basketball AP Poll, and have already taken down a slew of impressive opponents, including a win at Dayton on Sunday.
After rattling off four straight wins to start the season, Seton Hall has hit a bit of a skid, losing three of their last four games. Most of that is due to the injury bug, as star forward Shadeen Samuels has been sidelined for the past four games, after she sustained a first quarter injury against Princeton. Samuels will be a game-time decision for Thursday, according to Assistant Athletics Director of Communications at Seton Hall, Matt Sweeney.
The Pirates have received a burst in scoring from transfer Alexis Lewis, whose 15.9 points per game ranks second on the team. Lewis could be key in Thursday’s game, as UConn has allowed their opponents to hit from downtown at 37.4%. The sharpshooter has already connected on 21 of her three-point attempts, which ranks in the top-50 in the NCAA, and more than any opposing player the Huskies have squared off against thus far this season.
Another transfer, and former five-star recruit, Desiree Elmore, leads the Pirates in scoring at 16.4 points per game, while also grabbing rebounds at a rate of just over eight per contest. Elmore’s growth has been huge, as last season, she was primarily trying to come back from a season long injury in 2017-18.
Head coach Tony Bozzella has also received an improvement in play from Barbara Johnson and Mya Jackson, as well as freshman Lauren Park-Lane - three guards who will have to control the ball against a stingy UConn defense. The injury bug has also hit the Huskies recently, who could be without preseason American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Crystal Dangerfield, for the second consecutive game. Dangerfield did not practice on Tuesday, leaving the Huskies with the possibility of Megan Walker to lead the offense.
Walker has done a tremendous job with that all season. As a preseason AAC First Team selection, Walker has averaged 20.3 points per game on 47.4% shooting, including 46.7% from downtown. That’s up 15 points for the junior, who went on a diet and worked hard in the weight room during the offseason, according to Assistant Director of Athletic Communications at UConn, Anna LaBonte. The Huskies have also received strong play from sophomore, Christyn Williams (17.8 ppg) and sophomore, Olivia Nelson-Ododa (11.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg).
For Seton Hall, it will be about making shots and finding a way to the line. This is a younger UConn team compared to most seasons, but is still extremely well coached by Geno Auriemma, now in his 35th season in Storrs, Conn. Without Dangerfield, the Huskies would obviously be limited.
However, they still rank first in the country in terms of fouls per game, as well as 11th in field goal percentage defense. If the Pirates want to come away with a win, they are going to have to get to the rim to create chances from the free throw line, and make the most of open jumpers.
The Pirates are only shooting 40.2% from the field this season, and will need to stay at or raise that number to be competitive with Connecticut. However, if Lewis and Jackson can get hot from three, it could open up the whole game for a Pirates offense based on spreading the floor and utilizing transition points.
Tip-off for the game is set at 6:30 p.m., with pregame coverage on WSOU 89.5 FM beginning at 6:15 p.m. The broadcast crew for the game will be Dalton Allison and Chris Russo. In-studio coverage will be hosted by Michael Daly and Ronny Castaneda.
Mat Mlodzinski is an Assistant Sports Director at WSOU Sports, and can be reached at email@example.com.