The Huskies return to action today when they host Houston at Gampel Pavilion at 1 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. While most projections have UConn in the NCAA tournament, the Huskies can't afford to let a home game against this Cougars team, solid as it may be, slip away.
The Huskies (20-8, 10-5) put on an offensive display in their last outing against USF and will need a similar performance if they're to beat a strong Houston (20-8, 10-6) squad. The Cougars have won four of their last five but have struggled against the AAC's top contenders, with a record of 3-6 against SMU, Temple, Tulsa and UConn.
Houston does bring the top-ranked offense in the conference into Gampel Pavilion, averaging 78.6 points per game. The Cougars are also second in the conference in field goal percentage (.468) and offensive rebounding (13.4 per game). Houston has three players averaging in double figures led by Rob Gray Jr. who leads the AAC in scoring at 17.1 per game. Gray Jr. scored 15 against the Huskies back in January on an inefficient 6-of-19 shooting.
Devonta Pollard (13.9 ppg) and Damyean Dotson (13.6) are both efficient scorers who have helped the Cougars to an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 115.1- 22nd in the country according to kenpom.com. However, UConn's adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 92.3 is fifth in the nation.
If the Huskies are to stay undefeated at Gampel Pavilion and sweep Houston, they'll need another stellar defensive effort like they got on January 17. UConn held the Cougars to .333 percent shooting, holding them to 22 points in the second half while winning the rebounding battle without starting center Amida Brimah. Freshman point guard Jalen Adams made just his second career start in as UConn jumped on the Cougars early thanks to a 1-of-15 start from the floor by Houston. A second half cold spell (shocking, I know) let the Cougars back in it but the Huskies closed the game out on a 16-4 run and took the win.
Adams' development and the return of Brimah as helped the UConn offense climb to an adjusted efficiency rating of 109.4, 73rd in the nation after being in the 120s. The Huskies come into this one having had one of their best offensive performances of the season against USF. They moved the ball, got easy shots in the lane and hit opportunities from the perimeter. If the Huskies can play with that same energy, the Cougars' 185th-ranked defense will struggle.
A win would put UConn in a three-way tie for third place in the AAC with Tulsa and Cincinnati. Tulsa plays Tulane later today.