Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Women's Quarterfinal Match: Manhattan vs. Siena

Here's a look at one of the quarterfinal round women's games in the upcoming MAAC tournament.

Friday, 11:30 a.m.

WHAT MANHATTAN HAS: A hard-to-figure-out 1-3-1 zone defense that causes opponents problems. How much so? Manhattan allows just 53.9 points per game, the 27th-best nationally. It also ranks 21st nationally in steals and 21st in turnover margin. Much of the defense, though, is predicated on a deliberate style that results in fewer possessions. It also has some talent, starting with 6-foot-0 forward Lindsey Loutsenhizer, who averages 12.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Shyanne Halfkenny, a forward, might be the league's most-improved player since last season and averages 10.9 points. Monica Roeder is a good long-range shooter, and forward Nadia Peters is an athletic, productive forward. The Jaspers also have much experience. Halfkenny, Loutsenhizer, Peters and point guard Alyssa Herrington are all seniors.

WHAT SIENA HAS: Some strong play of late, discount a blowout loss at Niagara on Friday. The Saints are 7-4 in their last 11 games, to get to a 9-9 conference record that's good for a three-way share of fourth place (tie-breakers have Siena seeded sixth). It also has one of the top two or three players in the MAAC in 6-1 junior post Lily Grenci, the only player to score in double figures in every conference game this season. It had its own point-guard issues when its starter, Allie Mullings, blew out a knee eight minutes into the team's first game, but senior Cristina Centeno has moved over well enough to have earned third-team all-star honors. There's also much depth. The team legitimately has been going eight deep in its recent run. And, there's also a little confidence about the opponent. Siena had a 3-pointer that would have tied the game go off the rim in the first meeting with Manhattan, and won the second meeting.

WHAT MANHATTAN DOESN'T HAVE: A prototypical point guard. When Allison Skrec went down with a broken collarbone in early February, it left the position to be run by former shooting specialist Alyssa Herrington and she has been hit or miss with 23 assists against 26 turnovers in the past six games. Manhattan also lacks height, and it shows in the rebounding stats where it has a minus-5.7 rebounding differential vs. opponents, the worst rate in the league.

WHAT SIENA DOESN'T HAVE: Year-long consistency. When it plays well, it plays very well. But, that doesn't happen every game. The Saints also struggle with perimeter defense, allowing opponents to shoot 37 percent from three-point territory, the second-worst percentage nationally.

HOW MANHATTAN CAN WIN: Continue its strong defense and take care of the ball. Skrec's loss, though, is noticeable. Without her, the Jaspers are 5-3, but none of the five wins came against a team with a better than .500 record and the three losses came to Niagara (2) and Siena, teams with 9-9 conference marks. Manhattan, though, certainly has the potential to win this matchup and, give a semifinal-round opponent problems.

HOW SIENA CAN WIN: By playing to its potential, by playing with energy and by moving the ball quickly on the perimeter on offense against Manhattan's effective zone. A repeat of the way it played in a 61-56 victory over the Jaspers' in the last meeting, when eight different Siena players scored, would be good enough to win this. The Saints, too, can cause some problems in the semifinal round if they get there.

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