Pre-game: A little extra motivation for the Huskies today perhaps, as UConn great Shabazz Napier gave them a pre-game pep talk.
STARTERS: Vital, Adams, Larrier, Whaley, Carlton
20:00 - UConn wins the tip, quick bucket from Josh Carlton, nice!
16:10 - Nice start for the Huskies, leading 9-2. The offense is moving the ball around nicely to find good looks, which is new and exciting.
11:29 - UConn looked like it was on track to keep it going, but Tulane has gotten back in it with a 7-0 run. Huskies lead 13-11.
7:37 - Huskies on top, 18-14. Ollie put in some sub-optimal lineups and the offense is having some dumbo moments, but still doing alright, shooting 42% from the field compared to 29% for Tulane. Seven different guys have scored for the Huskies, led by Isaiah Whaley’s four points.
3:56 - Tied at 22. UConn is back on its bullshit.
0:00 - It’s a game of runs. Huskies end the half on an 8-0 run to take a 30-22 lead into the break. Adams and Vital really got things going out of the U-4 time-out. Vital leads UConn with 8 points while Adams, Whaley, and Larrier each have 5 points. Adams has 5 assists to boot.
UConn is outshooting (42%-29%) and outrebounding (21-14) Tulane at the half. It looks like they’ve done a better job of finding and doing the things that work and eliminating the rest. We’re still seeing some misguided shots and there was one bad stretch offensively in the first half, but overall good effort.
20:00 - Second half has begun
15:26 - Tulane jumped out to an 8-1 run out of the halftime break, but KO called a time-out and the Huskies settled down. UConn leads 37-32, Vital has 10 points and Adams has 9.
11:45 - Huskies lead 45-41. Adams and Vital are answering back any time Tulane gets it in close.
6:34 - UConn has its biggest lead of the game, 56-43. Adams and Vital are leading the way but competent play down low from Josh Carlton (7 points, 5 reb) and David Onuorah (7 reb, 4 offensive) has been really helpful as well.
4:00 - Huskies holding on to the big lead, up 60-47 with Adams looking ready to take over late. He’s scored the Huskies’ last 7 points and has 21 on the day to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds.
1:13 - UConn up 61-53 after Tulane hits two free throws.
0:00 - UConn wins 67-57. A really nice win for the Huskies, who have looked improved in two straight games, which is a stark improvement from where we’ve been. Jalen Adams did an amazing job, starting off as a facilitator and then taking over down the stretch. He finished with 25 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Josh Carlton had a great day, scoring 10 points and grabbing 6 rebounds to give UConn a nice boost down low.
A week after falling to .500, UConn (9-7) will put its two-game winning streak on the line this afternoon as it heads into New Orleans to face a Tulane team that might prove more difficult than expected.
The Green Wave (11-5) don’t specialize in any area, which can be a tough matchup for a Huskies team that has struggled to create effective game plans against balanced opponents. Tulane was not tested in its non-conference schedule, save for an expected loss to North Carolina, but has gone 2-2 in conference play, with wins at Temple and against Southern Methodist, and losses against Tulsa and at Memphis.
It’s a mixed bag, to be sure, but the Huskies season has been a mixed bag so far also. The Huskies are 2-6 against opponents who rank in the KenPom Top 100, and 1-1 against teams who rank between 101 and 200. Tulane ranks 126th, slightly higher than UConn’s placement at 139.
Tulane’s strengths include perimeter play (mostly three-point shooting and ball movement) and coaching, as Mike Dunleavy has used his NBA experience to turn around the Green Wave’s reputation as a laughingstock in just his second year at the helm of the program. Their one glaring weakness is their consistent red mark in the turnover battle, and they also lack immediate talent, although they’ve been making the most of what they have.
Their wing-heavy attack starts with Melvin Frazier (17.6 ppg) and Cameron Reynolds (16.3 ppg), who split ballhandling duties with Jordan Cornish. All three have exhibited shooting range this season, and Frazier has shown an affinity to score from inside as well, converting .677 of his two-point attempts to go along with his .380 mark from outside. Their best marksman is Ray Ona Embo, whose .420 rate on four attempts from deep per game complements his passing ability quite well. Blake Paul, the one true big man in the starting lineup, plays quality defense, and Samir Sehic, who has a strong claim to the conference Sixth Man of the Year award, uses his big frame to score from anywhere on the floor.
Virtually the entire team can shoot from three, and they’ve all shown a willingness to share the ball, making for an interesting counterpoint to the UConn offense, which has done few of those things so far this season. They’ll likely have to change that to beat Tulane. By virtue of their four-guard lineups (though their players have plenty of size), the Green Wave defense is vulnerable inside. The Huskies will need to feed the ball to players who can score in traffic, such as Terry Larrier and Isaiah Whaley.
Furthermore, Jalen Adams will presumably have to shed coverage from Frazier (a very good defender in addition to his offensive skills), who is bigger and has more weight. He may not be able to drive to the basket as easily as he does against lesser opponents, which means his scoring opportunities may not be as frequent as they’ve been. A backup plan will need to be involved, and the best way forward seems to be a strategy that involves set plays and purposeful passing.
Compared to preseason expectations, the Huskies need this win much more than Tulane does, given their relative odds of making the NCAA Tournament. Both teams are 2-2 in the American Athletic Conference so far, however, and each would surely enjoy going above .500 in the standings. Expect a hard-fought contest, but don’t be surprised if the disparate talent level makes the ultimate difference.
PREDICTION: UConn 74, Tulane 67