#20 Villanova Wildcats (9-0) vs. La Salle Explorers (5-6)
When: Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Tom Gola Arena, Philadelphia, PA
La Salle’s Previous Season’s Record: 17-13
Key Players For La Salle: #21 Amy Griffin (6-1) Sr., G/F; #15 Adreana Miller (5-11) Jr., G; #1 Shaquana Edwards (5-5) R Fr., G
Villanova women’s basketball is making the short trip to the Tom Gola Arena this Wednesday to face off against Big 5 rival La Salle. Last year at Villanova, despite leading for most of the game, the Explorers were edged out by the Wildcats in the final quarter, 52-49.
In last year’s game the leading scorer for La Salle was Amy Griffin, with 16 points. She closed the 2016-17 season leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring for the second straight year, averaging 19.6 points a game (25th in the NCAA). She also had 54 blocks, one short of La Salle’s single-season block record. So far, she’s picking up from exactly where she left off. Griffin’s senior season is shaping up to be equally as impressive. After the Explorers’ last game, a dominating 71-48 win over Delaware State to break a three-game losing streak, Griffin was named Atlantic 10 player of the week. During the Delaware game she had her first career triple-double, with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Overall this season, she’s made 17 blocks—six against Drexel—and has averaged 16.9 points per game. She’s a threatening two-way presence, one that can score inside and also occasionally from deep. Defensively, her shot blocking and rim protection won’t make it easy for opponents.
Griffin also joins teammates Adreana Miller and Shaquana Edwards as the only three women from the Explorers who can shoot from outside the arc.
The Explorers will be looking to their underclassmen to fill Griffin’s shoes after graduation. In her breakout season, Edwards has shown that she might be up for it as a redshirt freshman. She scored a career high of 20 points against Penn, and is shooting around 40 percent. Despite some inconsistencies this season, she’s developing into a needed team leader.
If there’s anyone to avoid fouling, its junior Adreana Miller. She was last season’s Big 5 leading free throw shooter, finishing the season 70-for-79. Miller is additionally looking to land a spot on La Salle’s all-time list for career three-point field goals. At this point in her junior season (with 119) she is just four away from knocking Tara Lapetina (2005-10) out of the 10th spot. So far this year, she’s shooting around 36 percent and averaging 11 points a game.
The Explorers have notable players outside of their top three women as well. While sophomore Shalina Miller does not see as much game time as the team’s leaders, she’s still one to watch. She is shooting a team-high 62.3 percent on the floor. She’s averaging just under nine points per game and is also a solid presence on the boards and on defense. Also keep an eye out for freshman Deja King, she’s seen action in every game so far and is growing as a facilitator at the collegiate level.
The Explorers look promising on paper, but they’re just not playing together as well as the Villanova women are. Their 5-6 record shows it. While the Wildcats have allowed around nine turnovers a game, La Salle has seen almost 21 per game.
The Explorers rely on Griffin heavily, as she does almost everything for them. She leads the team in scoring, blocks, assists, and rebounds. The Wildcats are deeper and so much more versatile. Villanova has used a balanced, team effort to get this far. Alex Louin leads in rebounds, Mary Gedaka leads in blocks, Adrianna Hahn in assists, and Kelly Jekot joins them as another reliable scorer.
While the Wildcats will have to focus their defense around Griffin, they have proven to be able to keep opposing go-to players quiet. As for the Explorers, Villanova will be a hard team to defend because of its many different weapons.
La Salle’s leaders might have individual success, but expect the Wildcat women to continue their undefeated season as a team.