A season-defining stretch for the Huskies begins tonight in Philadelphia when UConn takes on Temple for bragging rights in the American Athletic Conference.
Though both teams sit below SMU in the conference standings, the Mustangs are not eligible for the postseason, including the AAC tournament. A win for the Huskies (17-6, 7-3) would improve their conference record to 8-3, putting them a half-game ahead of Temple and in the driver's seat for the top seed in the conference tournament.
UConn is 6-6 all-time against Temple (14-8, 8-3) and will have its hands full with the AAC's second-leading scorer, Quenton DeCosey, who averages 16.5 points per game. He scored 15 points in the Owls' 55-53 win at the XL Center on Jan. 5. Josh Brown buried the game winner with 2.5 seconds left to play, upsetting the then No. 23 Huskies.
Senior Jaylen Bond is the conference's eighth-best rebounder, with 7.9 boards per game. Bond had a double-double back in early-January, scoring 11 points with 10 rebounds.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie said after Sunday's win over East Carolina that'd he'd continue to ride the hot hand in his front court while Amida Brimah works his way back from injury. Phil Nolan started against the Pirates with Brimah and freshman Steven Enoch the first bigs off the bench. Kentan Facey was limited to nine minutes.
Temple features the 140th-ranked adjusted offensive efficiency rating (104.9) and is the 27th luckiest team in the nation, according to Kenpom.com. The Owls adjusted tempo of 66.7 possessions per 40 minutes is 297th in the country.
Conversely, the Huskies adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 89.7 is tied with Louisville for third in the nation. Rodney Purvis and Jalen Adams have been key cogs in the UConn defense as of late, helping the team force an average of 15.33 turnovers per game over the Huskies' recent three-game winning streak.
Offensively, UConn produced balanced production with five players scoring in double figures against East Carolina. Adams connected on his first seven shots on Sunday and looks to be the catalyst this Husky attack. Daniel Hamilton's shooting touch seems to have made a return but this Owls' defense has been successful, limiting opposing teams to 67.9 points per game. UConn hit 7-of-19 from beyond the arch against the Pirates but should face more resistance tonight as Temple holds opposing teams below 30 percent from three.
The Huskies have two home games against Tulsa and SMU followed by a road matchup with Cincinnati after tonight. It's a crucial four-game stretch which may define UConn's season. A win tonight on the road against a solid Temple team would be a great way to start this stretch and a nice addition to the tournament resumé.