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Takeaways From UConn Men’s Basketball’s Loss To Arizona

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The Huskies showed how far they still have to go.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The UConn men’s basketball team couldn’t do enough to squeak past the Arizona Wildcats in front of a nearly sold out crowd at the XL Center on Sunday, suffering a 76-72 loss and falling to 6-2 on the season.

Here are our takeaways from the Huskies’ first home loss of the season.

Limit Turnovers

Dylan Finer: UConn turned the ball over 19 times against Arizona, marking the fifth time that the Huskies have turned the ball over 18 or more times this season. Christian Vital accounted for seven of the team’s turnovers in 29 minutes on the floor. The UConn guards were driving the lane with nowhere to go and fumbling the ball before they could pitch it back out to shooters. Hurley’s squad wants to push the pace, but the team could benefit from being more patient on offense and taking what the defense gives them.

Mike Sivo: The 21 turnovers stood out, as they have all season, but many valuable possessions were given away at crucial times and we buried ourselves. We’re getting there, but certainly a work in progress. Clean up some of the mistakes (like that BRUTAL Tarin Smith foul on the three) and I like our chances in most remaining matchups.

Also, too many threes! Quick three and a miss carries the same value as a turnover! Arizona clogged the paint well, and was definitely the better screening team, so we need to improve on defending and executing screens too.

Sidney Wilson

Madigan: It still doesn’t make sense why Wilson only played five minutes against UMass Lowell, but the redshirt freshman saw more time against Arizona, playing 12 minutes and scoring seven points, including a big 3-pointer to get the XL Center crowd fired up in the first half.

While he did forget to box out on his first possession on defense which led to an easy layup, he looked good on both ends after that, hitting some shots, grabbing two rebounds and coming out a long ways to block a 3-pointer. The talent and athleticism is clearly there, and once he shakes some of the rust off he should be able to be an impact player for UConn this season.

Too Many Easy Layups

Madigan: People are upset about the referees and the foul discrepancy, and while the referees were not great, they didn’t cost the Huskies the game. In the first half, UConn gave up no less than 8-10 points in easy baskets in the first half alone, just from defensive lapses and miscommunication. That’s what ultimately made the difference on Sunday.

We saw some similar lapses against UMass Lowell, but in that game, UConn was clearly the better team and was able to get through it by just outscoring the River Hawks. Against a team much closer to the Huskies’ skill level, those lapses are much more critical.

Sivo: I don’t recall Arizona having to hit a single (really) difficult shot all game. Many, many baskets right at the rim. So far, the story of the defense has been getting beat often on backdoor cuts, and Arizona was the worst example.

Inconsistent Defense

Dylan Finer: There were long stretches of the game where the defense looked flat — the ball pressure would drop off and the defensive rotations would be far too slow. Arizona would pick apart the UConn defense for these stretches leading to layup after layup. UConn shortened up the rotation today, which may have led to the guards being a bit more tired than usual. Regardless, the Husky defense is in need of improvement.

However, there were stretches where UConn turned up the defensive intensity late in the second half and turned the game in its favor. With 6:43 remaining in the game, UConn was down seven. By the 1:30 mark, UConn had cut the lead to two and had Arizona right where they wanted them, with the shot clock winding down and forced to take a deep 3-pointer.

Unfortunately, Tarin Smith fouled the shooter and Arizona’s Brandon Rudolph went to the line and knocked down all three free throws. The five-point deficit with under 90 seconds proved to be an insurmountable lead for the Huskies to overcome. However, it was a positive sign that UConn could put an experienced team under pressure and claw back into the game.