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Preview: UConn Men’s Basketball vs. Ohio State | TV: 6 p.m., Big Ten Network

After a meaningful win, the Huskies are on the road against a Buckeyes team coming off a stunning upset loss.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut vs Syracuse Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Momentum is only as good as the next day’s practice, but chances are UConn is holding its heads a little higher after Monday’s thrilling 52-50 win over Syracuse.

Awaiting the Huskies (4-4, 80th per KenPom) on Saturday, however, is a desperate Ohio State squad (7-2, 33rd per KenPom) coming off a shocking 79-77 home setback at the hands of Florida Atlantic on Tuesday.

Nearly a year after UConn beat Ohio State by 20 in Storrs, the series shifts to Columbus, with the rematch set for 6:00 p.m. on the Big 10 Network.

Scouting the Buckeyes

Ohio State has six double-figure scorers, including Keita Bates-Diop (10.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG), a 6’7” wing with a sweet shooting stroke that has been slowed by an ankle injury this season. After missing five straight games, Bates-Diop returned in limited action on Tuesday, scoring 10 points in 20 minutes.

Jae’Sean Tate (14.0 PPG, 58% FG) is Ohio State’s leading scorer. Listed at just 6’4”, Tate plays more like he’s 6’9”, grabbing nearly eight rebounds per night.

Two other Buckeyes to watch are wing Marc Loving (11.8 PPG, 1.6 made threes per game) and point guard JaQuan Lyle (10.8 PPG, 5.8 APG).

Lyle is the guy to key on here. He plays at his own pace and has improved upon his shooting percentages from a year ago (46% FG this season; 40% FG last year), but the verdict is still out as to whether or not he is entirely capable of running the show.

In Lyle’s last three games, he has posted an average Offensive Rating of just 79, shooting 39% from the floor with 16 turnovers to boot. This immediately follows a four-game stretch in which the sophomore posted an average Offensive Rating of 138, earning KenPom Game MVP three times thanks to 54% shooting and seven total turnovers.

It’s no coincidence that Ohio State has lost two if its last three games after beginning the season with six consecutive wins.

What’s up with the Huskies

How does UConn get over the .500 mark for the first time this season?

It would help if Kevin Ollie is as masterful at mixing his defenses as he was versus Syracuse, when the Orange shot 26% and averaged a lowly 0.77 points per possession.

UConn’s offense needs to improve, and it better be sooner rather than later if a postseason run is still in the cards.

Out of 351 D-1 teams, the Huskies’ Adjusted Offensive Efficiency ranks smack in the middle at 180th. For context, consider the lowest it has ever been in that category in the KenPom Era (since 2002) is 176th, back in the lean 2006-2007 campaign.

It has become clear that UConn will need to win ugly often this season. On Monday, the only reason that came to fruition can be attributed to the constant alteration of defensive sets.

Ollie played all the right hands, employing a 2-3 zone most of the night, sprinkling in man-to-man assignments at times, and applying a full-court zone press on made baskets occasionally.

UConn will need to score on particular high-leverage possessions on Saturday if it wishes to take down Ohio State in a great road test. In the meantime, though, all the defense has to do is keep it close with their multifaceted scheme.

News and Notes

  • Expect another low-scoring affair on Saturday, with the over/under set at around 129.5 UConn has drawn a lot of praise for its recent defensive efforts, but the Huskies’ Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (37th-best nationally) is actually lower than OSU’s (24th).
  • Two areas of improvement that Ohio State needs to address offensively are turnover rate and free-throw shooting. Its 20.4% Turnover Rate ranks 231st in America, while the Buckeyes’ 63.1% free-throw percentage is 305th.
  • Can we get more of that Kentan Facey? The mostly underwhelming senior, who was also sick leading up to the Syracuse game, finished with seven points and a career-high 13 rebounds against the Orange. UConn will need a similar effort against a long, rangy Ohio State frontline.
  • The backcourt tandem of Jalen Adams and Rodney Purvis combined for 37 points and seven made triples on Monday. The rest of UConn? 15 points, no made threes.