UMBC vs. Connecticut

March 18, 2007|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Reporter

The game

What -- NCAA women's tournament Fresno Regional first-round game

Where -- Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center

When -- 9:30 (approximate)

TV/Radio -- ESPN2/1370 AM

The teams

No. 16 seed UMBC -- 16-16; America East tournament champion; first NCAA tournament appearance.

No. 1 seed Connecticut --29-3; Big East regular-season champion (16-0); 19th NCAA tournament appearance.

The frontcourts

Both teams start two players up front and employ a three-guard alignment. UMBC's tallest regular, 6-3 Amanda Robinson (10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), was the most outstanding player after the surprising run by the seventh seed to the America East title. She teams with the leading scorer and rebounder, senior Sharri Rhode (13.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg). Big East Freshman of the Year Tina Charles (12.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and All-Big East second-team player Charde Houston (12.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg) were high school All-Americans.

Edge -- Connecticut

The backcourts

Kristin Drabyn hit 66 three-pointers, fourth-highest single-season total in school history, for the Retrievers, and Brittnie Hughes added 38 to rank as the squad's second high scorer (11.4 ppg). All-Big East guard Renee Montgomery (13 ppg) paces the Connecticut guard corps, Kalana Greene made the league's second team and Mel Thomas made 78 threes for a .431 shooting percentage from long range.

Edge -- Connecticut

The benches

UMBC goes eight deep with 6-2 Mackenzie Butler supplying added size and freshman Carlee Cassidy another deep shooting threat (31 threes). The Huskies also play basically eight, with backup point guard Ketia Swanier the most valuable reserve, averaging nearly 22 minutes. Brittany Hunter has been another key bench player, contributing 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Edge -- Connecticut

The coaches

Phil Stern is 151-161 in 11 seasons, including five at UMBC. His team has never been this far; a Northeast Conference tournament final was the previous best. He is intense and exacting, and his team runs a disciplined offense that relies on backdoor cuts and scoring from beyond the arc. Geno Auriemma of Connecticut is a coaching legend in the women's game and a Hall of Famer. His Huskies teams are 618-119 over 22 seasons and have won five national titles, never losing a championship game.

Edge -- Connecticut

The keys for UMBC

The Retrievers need to impose their tempo on the game, use the clock to their advantage and forbid Connecticut from turning it into a run-and-shoot affair. If their accuracy from outside is good enough, they can stay competitive. Keeping the starters out of foul trouble is also important since the reserves have not provided much scoring. The team must keep its composure in its first appearance on a national stage.

The Bottom line

Connecticut is one of the most storied programs in the game with a 58-13 record in NCAA play; UMBC is very happy to have made it after going 6-10 in its conference during the regular season. The Huskies have far too much history, talent and home-court advantage to lose this one.

Prediction

Connecticut -- 72-50

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