After a slow start, the UConn men’s basketball team advanced to 1-0 on the 2019-20 season with a convincing 89-67 win over Sacred Heart at Gampel Pavilion. It’ll look to go to 2-0 on the season against a Saint Joseph’s squad at Gampel that is certainly different than when the two teams last faced off in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2014.
At that time, Amida Brimah helped the Huskies survive a late upset bid from a pesky Hawks team led by legendary coach Phil Martelli for an 89-81 overtime win en route to the program’s fourth national championship. Now, St. Joe’s is no longer a perennial tournament team and Martelli was inexplicably removed after the 2018-19 season, replaced by former Villanova assistant Billy Lange.
The Hawks are 1-1 in year one under Lange, defeating Bradley by five to open the season and most recently suffering an 82-69 loss to Old Dominion on the road. It won’t be an easy road back to the tournament under Lange, as the Hawks were predicted to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the Atlantic 10 conference this season and rank No. 218 in KenPom.
St. Joe’s is led by redshirt junior guard Ryan Daly, who has posted solid number in his first season with the Hawks after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. The former Delaware guard can score when needed (26 points in the season opener against Bradley), but isn’t afraid to let his teammates do the work either.
Against Old Dominion, Daly came up just two points short of a triple-double, racking up eight points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. His size (6-foot-5), could be a problem for smaller UConn guards like Christian Vital and Alterique Gilbert, as there is not an ideal defensive for the Huskies in backcourt, with both Daly and Cameron Brown measuring 6-foot-5.
Aside from Daly, Lorenzo Edwards is another focal point for the Hawks offensively, and just scored a career-high 23 points in the loss to ODU thanks to 7-9 shooting from the 3-point line.
While Saint Joseph’s isn’t a marquee game on the schedule, they present a tougher matchup for the Huskies than Sacred Heart. The Hawks have more size top to bottom than the Pioneers did, and UConn will need to be better on the boards to secure a win. St. Joe’s has 27 total offensive rebounds in two games this season and keeping Daly, Brown and Taylor Funk will be crucial to getting to 2-0 on the season. If the Huskies don’t show at least some improvement on the glass, it could be a sign that this could be UConn’s Achilles heel this season.
Prediction: UConn still looks shaky on the boards but overwhelms Saint Joseph’s with talent to secure a 78-60 victory and get to 2-0 on the season.
How to Watch
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut
When: 7 p.m.
TV: CBS Sports
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network