How to watch
When: Saturday, Jan. 9, 1 p.m.
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
Radio: UConn Sports Network (97.9 ESPN and affiliates)
Record: 5-6 (3-3 Big East)
Preseason poll: 10th
Location: Providence, RI
Head coach: Jim Crowley (fifth season)
After its Thursday night matchup with Baylor was canceled, UConn women’s basketball returns to the court for the first time in 10 days against the Providence Friars.
The Friars come to Gampel Pavilion having outperformed their preseason expectations to this point. At 3-3, they sit fifth in the Big East after being picked second to last in the preseason poll.
Providence plays at an extremely slow pace, averaging just 68.5 possessions per game which is 295th out of 340 Division I teams. Because of that, the offense only scores 61.3 points per game but runs at an efficient rate, ranking in the top quartile in both total field goal and three point percentage. Defensively, the Friars are solid, allowing just 60.5 points per game while holding opponents under 40 percent shooting.
However, UConn should dominate the glass on both ends of the floor. Providence only grabs 47.9 percent of rebounding opportunities — which ranks in the bottom third of the nation. Contrast that with the Huskies, who get 58.8 percent of rebounding opportunities, 11th-best in the country. Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards should have a field day on the boards.
Four Providence players average double-figures in scoring, paced by Enfield, Connecticut native Mary Baskerville. The 2019 Big East Freshman of the Year leads the Friars with 14.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game while making 56.6 percent of her shots from the field.
On the perimeter, Kyra Spiwak is a volume shooter and accounts for 44 percent of Providence’s makes from 3-point range. However, 5-foot-4 Chanell Williams is the squad’s most efficient shooter, hitting 56 percent from beyond the arc on 26 attempts.
Olivia Orlando and Alyssa Geary round out the starting lineup while Andrea Cooper and Grace Efosa-Aguebor should see plenty of minutes as well.
UConn and Providence haven’t met since the old Big East broke apart — and that’s been a good thing for PC. The Huskies lead the overall series 40-21 (39-10 under Geno Auriemma) and haven’t lost to the Friars since March 7, 1993. The 28 games since haven’t even been particularly close, either. UConn has won every game by double-digits and most have ended in blowout fashion.
By the numbers
1,098 — With a victory against Providence, Auriemma will tie Pat Summitt for the second-most wins in Division I women’s basketball history with 1,098. Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer recently surpassed Summit for the lead and now stands alone with 1,103 wins.
8 — Auriemma has utilized a deep bench this season with eight different players playing at least 10.0 minutes per game. UConn’s five starters along with Aaliyah Edwards, Aubrey Griffin, and Nika Muhl have all reached that mark.
67.7 — Nelson-Ododa’s field goal percentage, good for 17th in the country.
67.6 — UConn has struggled with free throws this season, hitting just 67.6 percent from the charity stripe. That puts the Huskies in the bottom 40 percent nationally. Aubrey Griffin is the team’s best free-throw shooter and even she’s only making 75 percent.
What to watch for
How does time off affect UConn? — It’s been a long time since the Huskies’ last game against DePaul on Dec. 28, especially considering the Friars have played three games in that span. It’ll be interesting to see if UConn will be rusty after all that time off or if the extended stretch of practice after a frenetic start to the season will prove to be beneficial.
Controlling the pace — Though Providence likes to play slow, UConn’s offense is at its best in transition. Look for the Huskies to push the pace off rebounds and employ the half-court trap they’ve used at various times this season to force turnovers.
Nelson-Ododa vs. Providence’s size — With Baskerville (6-foot-3) and Geary (6-foot-4), Providence is UConn’s first opponent to have size in its frontcourt. While nobody is mistaking the Friars for Baylor, they should still give Nelson-Ododa more of a challenge than anyone else the Huskies have faced.