20:00 - Isaiah Whaley wins the tip and we are off! Jalen Adams with a quick bucket too!
15:36 - UConn up 8-1. ECU is really bad, but hey we’ve done worse against really bad teams so yay us.
11:16 - UConn up 14-4. Man is ECU bad. Christian Vital leads the Huskies with 5 points and Jalen Adams has 4. Huskies shooting 50% from the field, ECU didn’t hit their first FG until about 7 minutes in, currently at 11% from the field.
7:53 - Ollie calls a time-out after some sustained sloppy play from the Huskies. UConn still leads, 20-12. BJ Tyson is up to 6 points for ECU.
2:43 - A 9-0 ECU run was ended by Christian Vital but the Pirates have gotten back into this one and are over the Huskies in FG%. UConn is up 26-25. Jalen Adams has four turnovers, Larrier has two. Vital is the Huskies’ leading scorer with 7 points.
0:00 - UConn leads 32-31 and is back to playing like crap. The Huskies showed small spurts of competence after ECU took the lead to take it back, but overall they are few and far between.
20:00 - Second half has begun
15:29 - UConn leads 39-35. Jalen Adams getting the Huskies off to a good start in the second half and Antwoine Anderson breaks his 0-17 field goal streak with a nice drive and lay-in.
11:27 - UConn ahead, 46-43, but doing their best to give up the lead. Huskies have 12 turnovers, six from Adams. Vital leading the way for UConn with 13 points.
8:15 - UConn is playing bad but ECU is doing worse. The Huskies mounted a 6-0 run to take a 50-43 lead. But my goodness this is so ugly.
2:43 - UConn pulling away 61-55. Really just want this to be over.
0:00 - UConn wins, but not without sweating it out at the end.
Sitting at a disappointing 7-7 record after losing their first two conference games, UConn couldn’t ask for a better opponent to end their four-game losing streak than East Carolina. The Huskies tip off against the Pirates at the XL Center at noon and should have a good chance of winning their first game since the December 9 contest against Coppin State.
A big part of the reason for that is because ECU is UConn’s weakest opponent since Coppin State, though they’re far from that level of ineptitude. KenPom ranks the Pirates 315th in the nation (UConn is 120th), and their offensive stats are about as bad as they come. They’ve yet to be tested, too; their strength of schedule is among the very worst in the country, and it’s likely their best opponent so far has been Rutgers.
The Pirates’ struggles start at the perimeter, where they have the worst three-point percentage in Division I at only .261. As you can imagine, this doesn’t give them a whole lot of room to work on the inside, converting slightly less than half of their two-point attempts. Compounding that issue is their problem with ball movement; they have 38 more turnovers than assists.
Part of the reason for these is the lack of chemistry between the three lead guards. Kentrell Barkley, who broke out with impressive performances in last year’s conference tournament, has taken a big step back from the perimeter. Since he’s at his best with the ball in his hands, that regression has likely had something to do with the addition of Isaac Fleming, a transfer from Hawaii, who has struggled to adjust his play with his new team but is too talented to sit on the bench. B.J. Tyson, a senior, has been the focal point of the offense this year, but his baseline efficiency alone cannot elevate an otherwise-horrid offense.
The Pirates’ defense is much better, although their statistical production so far is likely a product of their unchallenging schedule so far. Regardless, Barkley is a perimeter stopper who doesn’t foul often, Usman Haruna is a tall forward who comes off the bench to make plays at the rim, and Jabari Craig (the Pirates’ other starting senior) is more than capable of holding his own on the defensive end.
It’s possible East Carolina’s defense causes some problems for the UConn offense, but I don’t expect their offense to keep them competitive in even a sloppy game. UConn can win by getting penetration from Jalen Adams and Antoine Anderson (who, thankfully, has looked more aggressive with his ballhandling skill lately) and creating consistent looks from the inside. ECU’s forwards can be foul-happy when faced with mismatches, so getting Josh Carlton and (especially) Isaiah Whaley more involved in the offense could be a huge benefit to the Huskies.
The Huskies won’t need to change anything defensively, just continue to get focused play from Christian Vital (a strong perimeter defender when locked in) and make sure Terry Larrier doesn’t lose his man on defensive shifts. The one way East Carolina could keep themselves in the game is if UConn has too many defensive lapses that allow for easier shot opportunities.
UConn hasn’t had many easy opportunities this season, but East Carolina shouldn’t provide too much of a challenge. Of course, I said the same thing about Monmouth and Columbia, but the Huskies have appeared to improve since then. Regardless, this is a game that the Huskies absolutely must start showing signs of life in, if this season is to be salvaged in any way.
PREDICTION: UConn 75, East Carolina 59