March 20, 2014
When 7 seed Connecticut and 10 seed St. Joseph’s face off on Thursday night, two senior guards will be looking to continue their regular season success and carry their team to a second round victory.
UConn is led by Shabazz Napier, who comes in averaging 17.4 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game and 4.9 assists per game. He plays a similar role to former guard Kemba Walker, who famously led the Huskies magical run through the 2011 Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament.
Napier is a do it all type player for the Huskies. But he will need help from his supporting cast. Napier is one of three Huskies to average double figures in scoring- DeAndre Daniels, 12.5 points per game, and Ryan Boatright, 11.8 points per game.
If the Huskies can get contributions from players like Niels Giffey, they will help take the scoring burden off Napier’s shoulders. But defensively is where UConn makes their name.
They were ranked No. 9 nationally in blocked shots (6.2 blocks per game), led by Amida Briham, who averaged 2.5 blocks per game.
Also, their .387 field goal percentage defense ranked No. 10. When they are locked in defensively, they are a tough team to beat. They were able to defeat top ranked Florida, Memphis (three times), Harvard and Cincinnati.
The Huskies can use their pressure defense to disrupt St. Joe’s flow.
The Hawks come in with momentum on their side. They are coming off an Atlantic 10 Tournament victory and finished the year 20-5 after starting 4-4.
The Hawks are hot and led by Langston Galloway. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot in the A-10 Tournament and will be counted on heavily.
Galloway is averaging 17.5 points per game and shooting over 40 percent from the three point line. He has scored 27, 31, 19 and 18 points in his last four games.
He is a big guard that can give problem to the undersized UConn guards. But the key to a Hawks victory will be their “Swiss army knife” player in forward Halil Kanacevic.
Kanacevic took A-10 Tournament MVP honors and will look to continue to do everything for the Hawks. He leads the team in rebounds, assists and blocks.
The Hawks have weapons on the offensive end. All five starters are average double figures in points per game and have senior leadership at three positions.
But the Hawks have virtually no depth. They have relied heavily on their starters all year and will continue that heading into Thursday. Papa Ndao is sixth on the team in minutes- averaging 11.8. If any starter gets in foul trouble early, the Hawks could be in trouble.