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Men's Basketball: No. 23 UConn Hosts Temple

After a scare at Tulane, the Huskies host a wavering Temple team that got annihilated by Houston.

Rodney Purvis scored 20 points in UConn's narrow win at Tulane Saturday.
Rodney Purvis scored 20 points in UConn's narrow win at Tulane Saturday.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Following a scare in New Orleans, UConn returns home for the first time in two weeks for its second game in conference play.

UConn (10-3, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) hosts Temple (6-6, 1-1) in its first home game in the American this season (8 p.m., CBS Sports).

The Huskies went ahead by 19 points early in the second half Saturday at Tulane before things started to unravel. Tulane went on a 17-0 run to cut UConn's lead, and the Green Wave eventually took the lead with about four minutes to play. Sterling Gibbs took over, leading UConn to a 75-67 win with two 3-pointers and four free throws in the final four minutes.

Gibbs finished Saturday's game on triple-double watch, posting 16 points, a career-high eight rebounds and a season-high seven assists. It was arguably his best performance of the season, but Gibbs has struggled alarmingly in one specific offensive category the last two games: shooting inside the perimeter. Prior to UConn's win at Texas Dec. 29, Gibbs was shooting 57.5 percent on 2-pointers (23-for-40). He is 0-for-12 in the two games since, lowering his season percentage to 44.2. On the flip side, he is 6 of 12 from 3-point range during the last two games.

Between Gibbs, Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis and Shonn Miller, UConn is getting positive production from its four main players. Hamilton and Purvis combined for 39 points against Tulane, with Purvis going off for 15 in the first half. Miller scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds before fouling out. He ranks 27th in the nation with a 65.5 effective field goal percentage and 46th with an 8.2 turnover percentage.

Temple enters the game still licking its wounds from a disastrous home performance against high-flying Houston. The Cougars went to Philadelphia and thrashed the Owls, running away with a 77-50 win. Temple was out-rebounded 41-30 and relied too heavily on the 3-point shot, missing 20 of its 23 attempts.

The blowout loss to Houston followed an impressive 77-70 win at Cincinnati. The Bearcats, ranked No. 36 in KenPom as of Tuesday morning, are the only team the Owls have defeated currently ranked in the KenPom top 150. Temple's other five wins are over Minnesota (162), Delaware (239), Farleigh Dickinson (285), Penn (248) and Delaware St. (349). Meanwhile, all of Temple's losses are against teams ranked in the top 80: North Carolina (11), Butler (35), Utah (43), Wisconsin (59), Saint Joseph's (64), Houston (80).

UConn cannot falter against Temple this season. The Huskies started and ended conference play with losses to the Owls last season. In the first game—UConn's conference home opener at the XL Center on New Year's Eve 2014—Ryan Boatright limped off the court early in the second half, and the Huskies struggled the rest of the way. Down six with 1:51 left, UConn came back to force overtime, but only scored two points in the extra five minutes. With UConn down two with 2.8 seconds left, Daniel Hamilton was fouled attempting a 3-pointer. He missed all three shots at the line, and Temple held on to win 57-53.

Hamilton shot 66.7 percent at the line last season (56-for-84). He has only missed five of his 37 attempts this season, and his 86.5 percent free throw percentage is tied for the 60th-best rate nationally.