After a brutal double overtime loss to Xavier on Friday, the UConn men’s basketball team will wrap up its time in the 2019 Charleston Classic with a matchup against Miami in the tournament’s third-place game.
The Hurricanes enter their matchup with the Huskies ranked 66th in KenPom, one spot ahead of UConn. They reached the third-place game by defeating Missouri State 74-70 on Thursday before being blown out 78-58 by Florida on Friday.
That loss to Florida makes this matchup a little more intriguing, as Miami and UConn are listed as evenly matched by most analytical and gambling services, but the Huskies were able to beat the Gators just one week ago. They also did so without freshman James Bouknight, who was out due to suspension against Florida. Bouknight has quickly become one of the Huskies’ best players during this weekend in Charleston, South Carolina.
In Bouknight’s season debut against Buffalo, he posted eight points and six rebounds in just 11 minutes. Against Xavier - arguably the Huskies’ best opponent all season - Bouknight was key to keeping UConn in the game, scoring 19 points and adding four rebounds as well as two steals before fouling out in the second overtime. He’s posting an 126.3 offensive rating, and while that’s a small sample size, he certainly looks to be one of the Huskies’ best players and could swing this game UConn’s way with another strong performance.
On the other hand, Miami boasts an offense that is one of best in the country, ranking 31st in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom. The Hurricanes don’t use the 3-pointer too often, but are efficient when they do, shooting 37.5 percent as a team, led by guard Dejan Vasiljevic (43.6 percent). Instead, they play smart, don’t turn the ball over, and rely on guards Kameron McGusty and Chris Lykes to make plays. McGusty, Miami’s leading scorer at 14.7 points per game, could pose a real problem for UConn. At 6-foot-5, he can back the Huskies’ smaller guards down into the post or shoot over them when they close out, much like Ryan Daly did for St. Joseph’s when the Hawks pulled off the upset. Lykes stands just 5-foot-7, but serves as one of the team’s best distributors and isn’t afraid to shoot it when needed, especially from deep.
If UConn wants to pull out the win today, they’ll need to play as well as they did against Xavier and potentially have to do so without Akok Akok, who is a game-time decision due to multiple minor injuries. Winning without Akok, the team’s leading shot-blocker and a solid rebounder, is no small task, and Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley will need to step up to contend with 7-footer Rodney Miller and the 6-foot-10 Sam Waardenburg.
The Huskies need Alterique Gilbert to bounce back from a tough performance against the Musketeers. While Gilbert was able to to get by his defender at will, his shots weren’t falling, shooting just 2-13 from the field but managing to go 9-9 from the free throw line. If Gilbert can either get more shots to fall or drive and kick out to shooters like Christian Vital, Brendan Adams, Tyler Polley or Bouknight, UConn should be able to convert some easy 3-point looks.
Prediction: A bounce back performance from Gilbert, another strong game from Bouknight and big shots from Vital and Polley give the Huskies the edge over Miami, 74-71.
How to watch
Where: 2019 Charleston Classic - Charleston College, Charleston, South Carolina
When: 1 p.m. ET
Radio: UConn IMG Radio Network