John F. Silver
UConn (26-8) vs. St. Joseph’s (24-9)
When: 6:55 p.m. EST
Where: First Niagara Center, Buffalo, N.Y.
|#13||Ronald Roberts Jr.||31||31||33.0||14.4||59.8||7.4||1.3||0.4||1.4|
What You Should Know
Scouting St. Joe’s
The Hawks are coming in off their best run of the season wining the A-10 tournament and getting off the bubble and into the NCAAs with the auto bid. St. Joe’s is a big team, not necessarily height wise, but they have big guards and skilled frontline players. Leading scorer Langston Galloway is a difficult guard averaging 17.6 ppg. on 43.9 shooting and 43.9 percent from 3-point range on over 7 3s a game.
Galloway is a 6-2, 202 pounds, while Chris Jones is 6-3, 210-pounds in what should be a matchup to watch considering UConn play smallish Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright at the 1 and 2. The Hawks are a good rebounding team and have a lot of skill inside with Halil Kanacevic, 6-foot-8 255 pounds, averaging 10.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Ronald Roberts is another matchup issues averaging 14.4 points per game while freshman DeAndre Bembry averages 12 ppg. at 6-foot-6. St. Joseph doesn’t get much off the bench with all five starters averaging over 30 minutes a game. No one off the bench averages more than 3.0 per game. The Hawks aren’t a dynamic athletic team either and UConn’s defense, holding teams to 38 percent shooting on the season, is a concern.
“(Kancevic) kind of reminds me of Marcus Kennedy with SMU, where they run their offense through them. He’s leading them in assists. He’s an extraordinary player. He can play on the outside, but he can play inside too.”
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us. Galloway is an exceptional shooter. He’s not just a stand still shooter. He can go off the bounce. He can step right and left. They’ve got other players. Bembry is a great freshman that’s kind of their energizer. He can get it off the rebound and push it.
“And what makes them tough, four guys can get it off a rebound and push in and start their fast break because everybody is saying ‘walk it up, team’s slowing down.’ I don’t see it. I see them getting out in transition. They’re selective in their transition. But our first thing is getting back in transition and making them play against our half‑court defense.”
Hitting the boards
When UConn rebounds, it can pick up the pace and that allows the offense to setup quick and create mismatches. UConn isn’t a slow team, as the numbers indicate, but rather have struggled on the defensive boards this season to end possessions. UConn’s defense is so good, that teams are going to miss shots. It’s up to the Huskies to clear the possession by gaining control. UConn doesn’t get much in transition with all their players crashing the boards. UConn is 193rd in the nation in defensive rebounding rate corralling only 66.4 percent of available rebounds.
Handling physical play
UConn has struggled with big guards this season, and Napier at 6-foot-1 and 180-pounds and Boatright even smaller at 5-11 and 170-pounds will giver up 20-30 pounds to their defenders in Galloway and Wilson. UConn is going to have the quickness advantage, but will be at a disadvantage with strength. UConn has to handle that size on the defensive end and will need to pass the ball to beat the defense. St. Joseph’s has the size and strength advantage at every position on the floor.
Giffey heating up?
Niels Giffey has had a breakout senior season and is starting to get more usage as his 24 points against Memphis in the quarterfinals of the American tourney suggest. The Huskies have to get the ball to Giffey, who is shooting 57 percent from the floor and 52 percent from 3-point range this season. He is 16 of 27 from 3-point range over the last three games and the Huskies need him to continue the hot shooting, much like he had early in the year when UConn went 12-1 in the non-conference.
St. Joseph’s weaknesses?
The Hawks have little depth. Any foul trouble on the Hawks could be catastrophic and the Huskies need to attack the paint to force that issue. The Hawks also shoot 64.4 percent from the foul line. That’s a strength of UConn and a close game it is hard to see how that won’t be a factor.