Women’s Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Connecticut

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The 7th-seeded Virginia Tech women’s basketball team will take on #2 seed
UConn in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship on
Tuesday night. The game will be held at the Bryce Jordan Center in University
Park, PA on the campus of Penn State. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30pm and the
game will be televised by ESPN2.

The Hokies and Huskies are familiar with each other from their days in the
Big East. Tech never managed to knock UConn off their perch during their time in
the Big East, though they did give them a few scares. In 2002, the Hokies
dropped a 59-50 decision in Blacksburg. VT kept the game very close and trailed
by just three in the closing minutes, but UConn held on. In 2003, Tech lost
71-54 in the Big East Tournament, but the game was closer than the final score
indicated, with the game tied at 35 early in the second half.

In
the last meeting between the two schools, UConn beat Tech 48-34 in the 2004 Big
East tournament. There are still some familiar faces from that UConn team. Ann
Strother and Barbara Turner are the leaders for the Huskies. They are both
senior starters at forward, with Strother playing small forward and Turner
playing on the inside.

Strother is UConn’s leading scorer, averaging 13.7 points per game. She is
a capable outside shooter, hitting 36% of her shots from three-point range.
Turner averages 11.6 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds on the inside. Along
with starting center Willnett Crockett, UConn starts three seniors in their
frontcourt.

The backcourt is much younger and less experienced. Freshman Renee Montgomery
starts at point guard, while sophomore Mel Thomas starts at shooting guard.
Thomas is a very good three-point shooter. She hit 43.7% of her three-point
shots this season. Montgomery had a good season for a freshman point guard in a
touch conference, dishing out 116 assists against just 77 turnovers. She also
led the team with 60 steals.

The thing that stands out the most about UConn is their defense. Opponents
are shooting just 34.8% against the Huskies this season, an amazing statistic.
Virginia Tech is shooting 44.3% on the year. Tech’s offense is very dependant on
getting the ball inside to Kerri Gardin, as well as setting screens and getting
Dawn Chriss free near the basket. The Hokies are a physically tough team, and
they will have to be tougher than the Huskies on the inside if they hope to win
the game.

Only two Hokies are allowed to regularly shoot three-pointers. Carrie Mason
is an outstanding outside shooter. She has hit 59-of-134 three-pointers this
season, good for 44%. Brittany Cook has hit 15-of-57 shots from the outside, a
26.3% mark. No other Tech player has taken more than 16 three-pointers on the
season.

Virginia Tech is a little banged up on the inside. Senior center Megan
Finnerty is suffering the effects of a stress fracture in her right fibula. She
played in the first round with an air cast up to her right knee, but she only
played 16 minutes, down from her average of 20.8. 6-foot-6 Nare Diaware (16.2
minutes per game, 4.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg) will have to step up for the Hokies.

Depth will not be an issue for either team. UConn regularly uses ten players
in their lineup, while the Hokies will probably play 11 players.

The winner of this game will move on to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where they
will take on either #3 Georgia or #11 Hartford. Other remaining teams in the
Bridgeport Regional include #1 Duke, #8 Southern Cal and #4 Michigan State.

2006
NCAA women’s tournament bracket

Virginia
Tech women’s basketball 2005-06 schedule/results

Virginia
Tech women’s basketball statistics (hokiesports.com)

Connecticut
women’s basketball 2005-06 schedule/results

Connecticut
women’s basketball statistics

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