How to watch
When: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: UConn Sports Network (97.9 ESPN and affiliates)
Record: 7-0 (2-0 Big East)
Preseason poll: 7th
Location: Villanova, Pennsylvania
Head coach: Denise Dillon (1st season)
UConn’s defense will get its best test of the season to this point when the Huskies travel to Finneran Pavilion to face Maddy Siegrist and the Villanova Wildcats.
The redshirt sophomore forward is scoring 24.4 points per game to go with 12.6 rebounds per game — 13th-most and sixth-most in the country, respectively. Siegrist does most of her damage from inside the arc with 84.2 percent of her points coming from two-point range or the foul line.
Alongside Siegrist, seniors Brianna Herlihy (15.7 points per game) and Sarah Mortensen (11.2) help power Villanova’s offense while Raven Jones (2.9 assists per game) does most of the distributing. She also hits 3-pointers at a 37.5 percent clip — best on the team.
Overall, the Wildcats are a good team, but shouldn’t give the Huskies much trouble. They sit in the top 100 for most offensive and defensive statistics but aren’t elite in many categories. Villanova’s best attribute is its passing with assists on 71.6 percent of its baskets — ninth-best nationally. But on the other end of the spectrum, the Wildcats struggle from three, hitting a measly 14.2 percent from beyond the arc.
UConn and Villanova have met 53 times with the Huskies holding a 36-17 advantage. The Wildcats won the first 15 meetings in the series but the script flipped in 1989 and it’s been almost all UConn since. Villanova’s last two victories over the Huskies both came against Diana Taurasi teams that were ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time. The Wildcats knocked off UConn 52-48 in the 2003 Big East Tournament and then followed it up with a 59-56 win in 2004.
Their last meeting came in January of 2013, a 76-43 UConn victory.
Villanova sophomore Kenzie Gardler is the niece of former UConn forward Meghan Gardler, who played for the Huskies from 2006-2010. The younger Gardler has played in six games for the Wildcats this season — including a start in their last matchup against Creighton — and contributes 3.2 points and 1.3 assists per game.
By the numbers
3 — UConn has only played three schools in its history more than Villanova — Seton Hall (62 times), Providence (61) and St. John’s (58).
5 — The Huskies will head into the Christmas break with five games under their belt. Last year, UConn played its fifth game on Nov. 24 — a 73-62 win at Ohio State.
10.0 — Aaliyah Edwards is UConn’s fourth-highest scorer at 10.0 points per game — more than both Anna Makurat and Evina Westbrook in far fewer minutes. She’s been a force for the Huskies off the lane and in the bench and should only get better as the season progresses.
What to watch for
Who guards Siegrist? — Geno Auriemma isn’t convinced he has a great defensive team or a defensive stopper. But someone will have an opportunity to prove themselves against Siegrist. Westbrook will likely be tasked with guarding her at first, though Aubrey Griffin and Mir McLean could get a shot as well.
Do UConn’s shots keep falling? — Up until last game, UConn had been abysmal at shooting threes. Entering the day against Xavier, the Huskies made just 28.6 of their shots from beyond the arc. But UConn found its stroke against the Musketeers, draining 10-18 (55.6 percent) from deep with Christyn Williams hitting 4-5 (after starting the year 3-15) while Westbrook went 3-5. But is that performance the start of a turnaround for the Huskies’ shooting fortunes or just an aberration?
Can Bueckers cut down on turnovers? — For as impressive as Paige Bueckers has been through the first four games of her career, turnovers have been an issue for the freshman. She’s coughed the ball up 17 times, six more than the next closest UConn player and good for 4.25 per game. Though it may be the season of giving, Bueckers needs to take care of the ball better as UConn’s point guard and go-to player on offense.