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Breaking Down UConn’s Second Half Defense Against Memphis

See what the Huskies did differently in the final 20 minutes of a comeback victory.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Yes, it’s true—the UConn Huskies finally have a winning record for the first time this season.

After losing four of their first six games, UConn has managed to win six of its last seven, including a thrilling comeback victory against Memphis on Thursday night. The Huskies gave up 40 points in the first half, but an improved defensive effort in the second half helped them take the win.

Let’s take a look at what went differently in the first half compared to the second.

Memphis is a team that makes a conscious effort to get transition baskets. Because Amida Brimah is jogging back on defense in the play below, Rodney Purvis has to stay attached to Brimah’s man to prevent the easy layup. This leaves Markel Crawford, one of Memphis’ best shooters, wide open in the corner.

A bad shot on one end typically leads to a good look on the other end. In this sequence, Purvis takes a tough shot in the lane. Brimah does a better job this time of sprinting back and being ready to play defense. Purvis fails to recognize that Brimah is already in good position to cover his own man. Purvis sticks with Dedric Lawson, leaving his own man Craig Randall III wide open.

On this play, Purvis and Kentan Facey play the pick and roll poorly. Purvis can’t get through the screen, causing a switch. Facey doesn’t hedge on the screen or put any sort of pressure on Randall, which leads to another wide open look for the Tigers.

We now move on from the disaster first half. UConn looked really focused defensively late in the game and this clip is a great example. Facey hedges on the screen this time, which buys Purvis an extra second to recover. The ball should have gone into Lawson, but Crawford decided against it. Christian Vital does a great job staying in front of his man and preventing penetration. Facey stays solid in the post and forces a steal that leads to a fast break dunk.

The Huskies went with a zone on this play. Vital is able to get through the screen and keep the ball handler in front of him. Purvis is quick with his show and recover out on the wing, giving him enough time to cover the corner. Brimah shows high hands, which prevents the shot. When the ball is reversed to the other side of the floor, Brimah is able to step in the lane and challenge the shot.

This possession was the winning defensive stand for UConn. Facey hedges and recovers on the screen while Brimah is in good help position in the middle. Purvis plays excellent individual defense on the dribble and Jalen Adams denies the handoff. Facey finishes the play with a nice contest on the shot and secures the rebound.

UConn forced 17 turnovers in the game and the Huskies gave up just 22 points in the second half, including two points in the final five minutes. Their effort and attention to detail on the defensive end was the key to the much-needed victory. It also doesn’t hurt that Jalen Adams was masterful late, but you already know all about that.

UConn will look to extend its winning streak to four games as it takes on Temple on Sunday.