More than a week after a tough loss to Indiana at Madison Square Garden, the UConn men’s basketball team returns to action Wednesday night against the St. Peter’s Peacocks at the XL Center.
The Peacocks (2-4) come to Hartford off a week-long hiatus of their own, defeating Fairleigh Dickinson 86-70 for their second win of the season. The victory marked win No. 12 for second-year head coach Shaheen Holloway, who starred for Seton Hall as a player and returned as an assistant coach before joining the Peacocks in 2018. Because of the Seton Hall connection, head coach Dan Hurley is more than familiar with Holloway and his work.
“He came in after me at Seton Hall and was an amazing player,” Hurley said of Holloway. “He’s got a great feel for the game. He played for great coaches, he’s going to be a great coach. He’s a young guy, but he’s really studying and wants to be great. He’s working at his craft.
Year two of working on that craft means that Holloway and the Peacocks are towards the bottom of the barrel in the NCAA this season, ranking No. 315 according to KenPom. Despite the low ranking, Hurley doesn’t see this game as a cake walk.
“They move the ball well... They’re one of the hardest playing teams we will have seen. Really, really deep. Good defense, they’ll pressure you, play some zone. One of the best offensive rebounding teams we’ll play. They’re really good defensively, lot of gritty, tough, athletic guys. They play like a North Jersey style of basketball...If we think this is just a buy game where we can show up and win it will be a long night.”
Hurley isn’t wrong about the Peacocks. Although they might not be very good, they pose a problem for the Huskies as they play slow, shoot the three, and dominate the offensive glass. In fact, the Peacocks are one of the best offensive rebounding teams, ranking 11th in offensive rebounding percentage per KenPom and third nationally with 15.17 offensive boards per game. For a UConn team that has struggled on the boards this year, this could pose a major problem.
Aside from offensive rebounding, the Peacocks also boast two elite freshman shooters that could keep the upset bid in play. Guard Doug Edert ranks fourth nationally in 3-point percentage, shooting 53.1 percent from the arc while leading the team in attempts. Teammate Matthew Lee is just behind Edert, shooting 47.4 percent on 19 attempts from deep this season. If St. Peter’s wants to have a chance at an upset, Edert and Lee will have to shoot well from deep early and often and rely on senior big man Derrick Woods to clean up on the boards.
As a team that struggles to make shots inside the arc, ranking dead last in two-point field goal percentage according to KenPom, expect the Peacocks to shoot threes, slow the game down and try to win the battle on the boards. KC Ndefo and Woods also have the potential to alter shots around the rim despite being smaller than UConn’s front court.
Prediction: If UConn can avoid some of the lulls they encountered against Indiana, the Huskies should have no problem handling St. Peter’s. But if they come out flat and the Peacocks hit some shots early, another loss like the one to St. Joseph’s is not out of the question.
All in all, look for the Huskies to bounce back and take care of business agains the Peacocks, with Hurley looking to get Brendan Adams and James Bouknight (zero points total against Indiana) back on track to ensure UConn’s bench is an asset come conference play. UConn 77, Peacocks 59.
How to watch
Where: XL Center - Hartford, Connecticut
When: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: UConn IMG Radio Network