The UConn Huskies return to action tonight at 7 p.m., hosting the Boston University Terriers at the XL Center in Hartford. Nothing has gone Connecticut’s way so far in the early goings of the season, needing to get on track tonight before facing No. 22 Syracuse in Madison Square Garden on Monday night.
UConn, without Terry Larrier and freshman Alterique Gilbert for the year, is a team very much in flux. Head coach Kevin Ollie is still searching for optimal lineups, looking to carve out defined roles for his depleted roster.
One role has already taken shape: sophomore Jalen Adams as the Huskies’ alpha dog. Adams was named to the Maui Invitational All-Tournament team, averaging 28.7 points and 7.3 assists per game in Connecticut’s 1-3 road trip to Hawaii. Down a scorer and a point guard, Adams is doing it all for the Huskies and has been one of the lone bright spots.
It doesn’t seem probable that Adams will continue on this torrid pace, especially with the opposition scheming to exclusively slow him down. But if the sophomore can keep playing at this high level he has a chance to lift UConn from the dead.
The Terriers (4-2) come to Hartford having won four of their last five, with one of those two losses coming to Northeastern, who offed UConn in game #2. Ranked 163rd in the nation on Kenpom.com, facing No. 72 UConn should be their toughest challenge of the season.
The Terriers are efficient, with an effective shooting percentage of 55.7 and a 2-point field goal percentage of 58.5, the 10th-best mark in Division I. Tonight it is going to be strength against strength as the Huskies boast one of the better interior defensive units in the country led by center Amida Brimah.
Brimah is third in the nation with a 16.13 block percentage and should help neutralize BU’s attack. How Connecticut contends with Eric Fanning (13.8 points per game) and Cheddi Mosely (11.0 points per game) will play a large role in the tonight’s outcome.
The Terriers have also been a sound rebounding team, especially on the offensive end, a fact no Husky fan probably wants to hear.
For UConn the question is now where to go offensively outside of Adams?
Rodney Purvis may have put the early-season slump behind him but he has been too inconsistent to this point. Freshman Vance Jackson has shown flashes of the great shooting ability that was billed when he came in, but hasn’t really found his stride yet.
The Huskies don’t have a definitive second option behind Adams should he be in foul trouble, so he needs to stay clean. UConn needs to be manufacturing easier baskets by finishing defensive possessions with rebounds and igniting a fast break that creates odd-man matchups in transition.
This team has shown great fight even in games where it fell behind big early. Now without two of their best players, they need to pull together and get this season back to respectability.