The UConn Huskies kick off the Maui Invitational tonight against Oklahoma State. This week’s tournament will feature some of the stiffest out-of-conference competition the Huskies will face this season, and coming off a disappointing 1-2 start, UConn needs to get things figured things out quickly.
The Cowboys enter with a 3-0 record, ranked 61st in the nation according to KemPom.com. Oklahoma State has wins over Pittsburg State, Campbell, and Central Arkansas—currently among the lowest-rated teams in the nation.
A win over a solid Big 12 foe would do wonders for the Huskies' confidence. UConn is coming off its best performance of the early season but will need a better effort to knock off Oklahoma State. Senior big men Amida Brimah and Kentan Facey corralled 16 rebounds, including seven offensive boards in the team’s win over Loyola Marymount, a pleasant change of pace after being outmuscled on both ends of the floor against Wagner and Northeastern.
Freshman point guard Alterique Gilbert is a game-time decision with a left shoulder injury, and expected not to play, so the pressure is on Jalen Adams, Rodney Purvis and Christian Vital to run the offense and ignite the fast break. The Cowboys have struggled to defend the three and could help the Huskies find their rhythm from beyond the arch. It would be nice to see freshman Vance Jackson going after struggling from downtown in the opening three contests.
How the Huskies defend Jawun Evans and Jeffery Carroll will go a long way towards tonight’s success. The duo has combined to take over 60 percent of the Cowboys shots, and considering UConn’s defense struggles with scoring guards, locking Evans and Carroll up will be paramount.
If the Huskies get a similar effort from their bigs, Terry Larrier continues to impress and the guards can shoot well from the outside while taking advantage of fast-break opportunities, they’ll have a great chance at a much-needed victory tonight.
Starting lineup tonight is Brimah, Facey, Larrier, Purvis, Adams.