Monday, February 28, 2011

Women's Preview: Manhattan vs. Iona

Here's another in the series previewing the upcoming women's post-season conference tournament games:

No. 3 seed Manhattan (13-5, 21-8) vs. No. 6 Iona (7-11, 11-19), 11:30 a.m. Friday.

WHAT MANHATTAN HAS: Start with a terrific defense. Its 50.0 points allowed per game is No. 3 nationally. Of course that's helped by the fact that Manhattan plays a very deliberate style and the total possessions per game of opponents is kept below the national average. Still, the Jaspers make it tough to score against them. They also have Abby Wentworth, who moved over to point guard this season after three years off the ball and became one of the top two or three point guards in the league as evidenced by her league-best assist average. Manhattan also has long-range shooters, five players with at least 25 three-pointers this season, and the league's best 3-point shooting percentage.

WHAT IONA HAS: A very good one-two punch in forwards Kristina Ford (11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds0 and Anda Ivkovic (11.7, 5.8). Also, some inside height in Milica Palgoric, although foul trouble (one every five minutes) limits her court time.

WHAT MANHATTAN DOESN'T HAVE: Strong inside play, at least for much of the season, averaging 3.4 rebounds less than opponents, third-from-the-bottom in the MAAC in that statistics. But, things have gotten better of late with 6-2 junior Lindsey Loutsenhizer getting more minutes and averaging 13 points and 9 rebounds in the Jaspers' last three games.

WHAT IONA DOESN'T HAVE: Its point guard. Standout Suzi Fregosi, a stellar passer/floor general, got hurt in the team's eighth game and won't be back this season. With her Iona might have fulfilled the preseason predition, by league coaches, for a second-place finish. Without her ... well, they're not anywhere near as good as expected. Surprisingly the Gaels, who usually clean up on the boards, also get outrebounded this season by three per game.

HOW MANHATTAN CAN WIN: If Loutsenhizer can continue strong work on the boards, and Nadia Peter's (6.1 rebounds per game) can elevate their games just a little, Manhattan has enough otherwise to cause some problems, maybe even in a match-up with Marist if that happens. Otherwise, Wentworth is among the most-intelligent players in the league and finds ways to make big plays at key junctures. And, if opponents can't get out to shooters fast enough ... Manhattan can beat anyone if its shots are falling.

HOW IONA CAN WIN: Ford is capable of putting up points in a hurry. So, too, is Ivkovic, whose late-season knee injury last season still seems to limit her mobility. And Ivkovic seems much less selfish an offensive player this year ... maybe too much so. If the inside players can deliver, and Melissa Flagg, who stepped in for Fregosi, plays a solid game ... Iona can cause some problems. Still, the only team in the upper half the Gaels have beaten this year was Siena in an overtime contest. And, Iona has lost six of its final eight games.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The winner advances to a semifinal-round contest on Saturday in the same bracket with Loyola.

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