Over a month after a downright depressing 24-point loss at Memphis, UConn gets a shot at revenge when they host the Tigers at Gampel Pavilion in a nationally-televised contest.
UConn played its first matchup against Memphis without Terry Larrier, and saw its outside shooting struggle as a result. With Jalen Adams’ status uncertain—the point guard sat out the Huskies’ Thursday night loss to Cincinnati with an illness—the perimeter play may cause a problem for the offense again.
Memphis (17-11, 8-7) is 4-5 since its January 16 victory over the Huskies, and the Tigers have slipped to fifth in the American Athletic Conference. That’s still better than the 13-15, 6-9 record UConn currently finds itself at. The Huskies will again be the underdog in this contest, even at home.
The Tigers’ three-point shooting is one of their big points of weakness. They do clean up their own misses well, however, as offensive rebounding is a big part of their overall scoring, and get fouled at one of the highest rates in all of Division I. This ugly-ball style is a poor matchup for the Huskies, who struggle against physical opponents on both ends of the floor.
Memphis gets the bulk of its scoring from a pair of juniors, Jeremiah Martin and Kyvon Davenport. Martin is a volume shooter and the de facto point guard, but runs a tight offense and might be the best defender on the Tigers. Davenport is more versatile offensively and the best rebounder on the Memphis roster, but sometimes struggles to be a creator.
The Tigers have less individual skill on defense—Jimario Rivers is their only other notable defender—but play a team system that gets some value out of the talent Tubby Smith has to work with. Their interior defense is strong as a result, but it deemphasizes defending outside shots, and Memphis can be vulnerable from the perimeter as a result.
A better jump-shooting team than UConn should be able to exploit this advantage, but the Huskies have struggled from three all season, and the problem would only be worse if Adams is unable to play again.
Kevin Ollie will have his work cut out for him if the Huskies are shorthanded again, but they saw Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley play well against Memphis last time, and the Huskies would be smart to give the freshman frontcourt duo extended minutes again. Avoiding foul trouble is an imperative, as the Tigers get a lot of extra points from the free throw line.
To increase their scoring, though, the gameplan would be less clear. The Huskies will have to hit their three-pointers to keep up the scoring pace, and that’s more a matter of skill than strategy.
With only three regular season games left in the season, a loss to Memphis ensures that the Huskies would enter the AAC Tournament with a record below .500. That should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind as UConn looks for just its third win in a month.
PREDICTION: Memphis 64, UConn 58