WBB: No. 3 Huskies set to take on Villanova in battle of the undefeated

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UConn’s stretch of four games in eight days is finally coming to a close. But after cruising to victories against Seton Hall, Creighton and Xavier, the Huskies face their toughest test of the young season as they travel to Pennsylavania to play undefeated Villanova.

It was a complete team effort last time out for UConn (4-0, 3-0 Big East Conference) in a 106-59 win over Xavier, headlined by a 24-point performance from Christyn Williams. The junior was one of six Huskies to score in double figures against the Musketeers, joined by Paige Bueckers (19), Olivia Nelson-Ododa (16), Evina Westbrook (15), Aubrey Griffin (13) and Aaliyah Edwards (11) en route to the team’s first 100-point effort of the year.

Even more impressive than their offense was their effort on the defensive end, particularly in the first quarter. The Huskies started out the game with a full-court press that saw them get out to a 19-0 run that would be 38-7 lead by the end of the first. Going up against an offense like Villanova, who is averaging over 70 points per game, UConn is going to need another great team effort to slow them down.

Projected to finish No. 7 in the conference in the preseason, the Wildcats have shocked the Big East with their unbeaten start, even earning three votes in the AP’s latest Top 25 poll. What’s unsurprising, however, is the start sophomore Maddy Siegrist has gotten off to. 

Villanova and Connecticut tip off at an NCAA college basketball game in an empty arena due to COVID-19 restrictions, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in Villanova, Pa. Photo by Laurence Kesterson/AP

A unanimous selection to the preseason All-Big East Team along with UConn’s Williams and Nelson-Ododa, Siegrist has built off her historic freshman year and looks unstoppable so far this season. Through seven games, the 6-foot-1 forward is averaging 24.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and a combined 2.3 steals and blocks while shooting 53% from the field, earning three of four Big East Player of the Week awards over that span.

In their last matchup against conference foe Creighton, Siegrist willed her team to victory, putting together an insane 34-point, 19-rebound performance in Villanova’s five-point win. Her unique skill set as a forward with range — she is shooting 30% from deep this year — has rightfully caught the attention of UConn’s head coach Geno Auriemma, who believes this will be a great test of the Huskies’ defensive capabilities against one of the top players in the country.

“She is really talented,” Auriemma said. “She’s got a lot of ways to beat you and that’s gonna be really good for us, because we have to be able to identify who’s gonna guard who and who can shut down somebody on the other team without needing help every time down the floor.”

UConn feels good about their rotation at the forward position between Nelson-Ododa, Griffin and Edwards, so it will be interesting to see who takes the lead in defending the red-hot Siegrist. 

Where the Huskies will have to separate themselves is at the guard position, led by potentially the best duo in college basketball in Bueckers and Williams. With either of the pair a nightly threat to drop 30 points on you, they will be the two to watch offensively while all eyes will be focused on shutting down Siegrist on the other end.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 22 and will be broadcast on SNY as well as 97-9 ESPN radio.

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