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Men's Basketball Preview: No. 23 UConn Looks to Recover Against Memphis

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Following a horrific performance Tuesday, the Huskies are back in Gampel Pavilion Saturday.

Rodney Purvis and the Huskies need to put in an improved performance against Memphis Saturday night.
Rodney Purvis and the Huskies need to put in an improved performance against Memphis Saturday night.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The UConn men's basketball team has not played in Gampel Pavilion in nearly a month. Since beating Ohio State right before finals, all home games have been in Hartford.

The Huskies return to Gampel Saturday night for a showdown with American Athletic Conference rival Memphis (7 p.m., ESPN2). Maybe being back on campus will help bring back some swagger following UConn's performance on Tuesday night.

UConn (10-4, 1-1) played horribly Tuesday in a 55-53 loss at home against Temple. The Huskies grabbed an early 11-3 lead, but the Owls stuck around and took the lead early in the second half. The game was tied in the final seconds when Josh Brown put up a virtually uncontested floater in the lane and gave Temple the lead with 2.5 seconds to play.

Tuesday's loss occurred due to a combination of poor play and curious coaching. UConn shot 31.6 percent for the game, a shockingly poor effort from a team that recently strung together three games above 60 percent. The Huskies missed nine of their final 10 shots over the final 7:14, while the hot hand, freshman Jalen Adams—who scored seven straight points to get the Huskies back in the game—was on the bench.

Daniel Hamilton had arguably his worst showing as a Husky. The sophomore pulled down nine rebounds, but that was overshadowed by his 2-for-13 shooting night. He hit two free throws in the final minute to tie the game, but the Huskies need far more from one of their best shooters.

Rodney Purvis only played 24 minutes, which was surprising, considering he was one of only two Huskies in double figures with 11 points (Shonn Miller had 18).

A lot needs to change about the Huskies entering Saturday's game. Obviously, a shooting night like that is going to spell disaster, even if a team plays good defense. But the offense has looked weak at times lately.

One of the glaring issues: guards are struggling going to the rim. Especially since Amida Brimah was forced to the sidelines, guards seem to be shying away from contact when they get in the lane. Instead of going in aggressively and getting either the bucket or the foul (or both), they fall away and put up errant shots. Sterling Gibbs has missed all 15 shots he has taken inside the 3-point line over the last three games. He had made 23 of 40 in the 11 games prior.

Memphis (10-4, 1-0) relies on a strong defense to overcome a mediocre offense. The Tigers rank 16th nationally entering Saturday with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 93.2. Opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 41 percent against Memphis. Only Purdue and Michigan State have better rates in that category. And while shot blocking may appear to be UConn's thing, Memphis leads the nation with a 16.8 block percentage. UConn is third at 16.5.

Offensively, there is nothing glamorous about the Tigers. Memphis has an effective field goal percentage of 45.4, which ranks 304th nationally. The Tigers are 317th in 3-point percentage (29.9), 261st in 2-point percentage (45.6), 204th in block percentage (9.7) and 286th in steal percentage (10).

Where Memphis does thrive is getting to the foul line. The Tigers have taken nearly one free throw for every two field goal attempts this season. Their free throw rate of 49.8 is third in the country behind South Carolina (51.2) and Evansville (50). If it seems like the whistle is leaning one way Saturday night, it's probably because Memphis excels at getting to the line, while UConn is 292nd in the nation with a free throw rate of 31 percent.