Before the Temple game on Thursday night, we noted how Kevin Ollie's UConn Huskies were beginning a critical four-game stretch, with home dates against Tulsa and SMU and a road matchup with Cincinnati coming up after the trip to Temple.
Everything seemed in place for UConn to open that stretch successfully Thursday night, with the Huskies up by 12 and late in the second half at the Liacouras Center, but the Huskies collapsed in epic fashion and are now squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation, if not further away by people who already had them as a borderline candidate. They'll have one more game with SMU and the conference tournament to add some quality wins to their resumé but realistically need to win two out of their next three to stay in the hunt.
While it would be easy to say that a poorly-coached team collapsed Thursday night, especially with two hideous Husky turnovers to end the game, Temple shot lights out to close the game and from this vantage point it just looks like another close loss to a good team on the road. But losses are piling up, and this team needs to do a better job of closing out games.
Last time UConn met Tulsa, the Huskies also had a late lead before allowing the home team to make a comeback and win. In both instances, and across the season really, Ollie and fans alike have clamored for an "alpha dog," someone the Huskies can turn to when times are tough and they need a bucket. If the team needed to draw up a play for someone at the end of a game for a last-second shot, who would you want it to go to? Daniel Hamilton? Sterling Gibbs?
We didn't even get a chance to find out Thursday night, as a Rodney Purvis double dribble and Jalen Adams behind-the-back turnover prevented UConn from even bringing the ball across half court.
Somebody needs to step up and be the guy to take control of this offense, particularly when it is sputtering like it is prone to do. Whether that is freshman Jalen Adams, who found himself in the doghouse in the second half last time out, checking in for the first time with 2:43 left in the game, Purvis, Gibbs, or Hamilton, someone needs to get that ice water running through his veins.
UConn's defense is good enough to beat anyone. The offense needs to be just a hair sharper with its execution to get there. Hope is not lost for this team, but the margin for error going forward is dwindling.
This is the open thread. Feel free to share your pregame thoughts and predictions and stick around to discuss tonight's huge game!