Before this season started, Saturday’s nooner between UConn and Wichita State was tabbed as a marquee matchup between the American Athletic Conference’s most successful program and a newcomer who promised to add some pizazz to the basketball league.
Wichita State held up its end of the bargain, entering this contest ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll and 10th in the Coaches’ Poll. Unfortunately, UConn has not. The Huskies are currently sitting at 7-5, outside of the top-100 in KenPom, and have been dominated by a handful of decent-to-good teams. The Shockers, ranked 12th in KenPom, are projected by the analytics site to beat UConn by nine points in Hartford.
The Huskies are floundering, as we have discussed somewhat extensively over the past week or so, and just received confirmation that Alterique Gilbert’s re-aggravated shoulder injury will cause him to miss the rest of this season, meaning that across two years, the former McDonald’s All-American will have played in less than 10 games. Gilbert’s return from injury was supposed to be a key to UConn’s improvement after last year’s disappointing season, so there goes that.
If we’re looking for reasons to believe UConn can hang in this one, we know that this team found some sort of competitive spirit on the road against Arizona, one of the best opponents on the schedule to date. Perhaps in front of a packed home crowd and with the national spotlight on them, the Huskies can find that second level they have been mostly lacking since the Arkansas game. But who knows; we’re pretty well-conditioned at this point to expect the worst.
The Shockers enter this game with a 10-2 record and the expectation that they’ll be a competitor for the AAC regular-season title in their first year in the conference. Head coach Gregg Marshall’s squad is led by sophomore combo guard Landry Shamet (17.1 ppg, 4.6 apg) and a trio of seniors in 6-foot-9 forward Darral Willis Jr. (12.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg), 6-foot-7 center Shaquille Morris (12.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg), and guard Conner Frankamp (11.5 ppg). This is a very experienced team, with three more seniors contributing off the bench. I wonder what that’s like...
If UConn’s going to make any sort of significant improvement this season, it’s going to have to be on the backs of Jalen Adams, Terry Larrier, and Christian Vital. The frontcourt-by-committee has shown signs, but ultimately is getting dominated. Adams and Vital need to make sure this team is playing the smartest basketball it can and Larrier needs to spend more time playing the low-to-midrange game at and not taking contested perimeter shots. If those three need to take every single shot, I’m all for it. This is no time to be shy—this team has looked like garbage for the vast majority of the past seven games.
This is the open thread. We’ll also have live updates here.
20:00 - Isaiah Whaley wins the tip and we are underway at the XL Center.
16:00 - Wichita State leads, 7-4. UConn is hanging in there but still shooting itself in the foot with three early turnovers and missing all two three-point attempts. At least this Mamadou Diarra alley-oop happened.
11:05 - UConn mounts a 10-0 run to take the lead, 12-9. Eric Cobb hit a three.
6:43 - Wichita State hits two threes to pull ahead 21-20, but UConn is playing pretty well. The offense is competent and the defense is holding it down alright. Rebounding and shooting percentage are even for both teams. Christian Vital leads the Huskies with 5 while Adams and Larrier both have 4. WSU’s Landry Shamet leads all scorers with 6.
3:54 - Both teams have not scored since the last time out. UConn is scoreless for 3:51 and Wichita State hasn’t scored in 2:52. UConn is turning it over and taking bad shots again, but overall the offense has looked better today, even if it’s still not great.
0:00 - Wichita State leads 33-29 at the break. UConn went a long stretch there for about nine minutes at the end of the half with just one field goal. So the offense still needs work, but the defense is looking good. The Shockers can put up points quickly beyond the arc so UConn needs to keep up the intensity on that side of the ball, but this was a decent half by the Huskies. If they could just be a little bit more disciplined offensively, it would make a world of a difference.
20:00 - Second half has begun
15:58 - Adams makes a steal and hits a crazy runner shortly after a nice Larrier jumper and UConn has tied the game up at 35.
11:55 - UConn pulled ahead for a second but then Wichita State hit two threes and is now up 47-43. Adams leads the Huskies with 14 while Vital and Larrier have 10 each.
8:00 - UConn is hanging around, tying it up at 49, but a tip-in followed by a three-pointer have the Shockers on top, 54-49.
2:59 - Wichita State is pulling away, 64-55. The Shockers have calmly answered back any time UConn threatened in this one.
0:00 - UConn takes the loss, 72-62. Good effort but wavering down the stretch.