The Huskies look to recover from a losing streak by jumping back to a .500 record as they host Temple at Gampel Pavilion tonight for the final home game of the season.
Only two of the Huskies’ five seniors are active for senior night, as Jalen Adams and Kassoum Yakwe will both miss the game with injuries and Kwintin Williams continues to serve an indefinite suspension. Eric Cobb and Tarin Smith will see the floor in a game where either’s contribution could be vital.
With Alterique Gilbert finally healthy, the Huskies (14-15, 5-11 American) are only missing one key contributor in Adams, but the team is still reeling from his absence. The Huskies have figured out how to get quality play through the disadvantage, though, suffering close losses to Cincinnati and Wichita State before breaking through at home against South Florida.
Temple (21-8, 11-5 AAC) represents more of a threat than the Bulls did. Firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Owls are hoping not to slip up before the season ends, as any loss could put them outside of the field.
Fran Dunphy has done a nice job with this year’s team, an overachieving squad that grinds out wins rather than excelling in certain areas. In fact, the stats don’t make it clear—at all—why Temple has won 20 games this year. The Owls rank outside the top 80 nationwide in both offensive and defensive efficiency, their shooting percentages are pedestrian, and their defense doesn’t appear to stand out in any area. In fact, the only statistical area that makes Temple look like a tournament team is an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio.
So maybe it’s just ball movement that has led to the Owls’ success this season, a conclusion in line with the rest of Dunphy’s career. The Big Five legend took Penn to the top of the Ivy League after Pete Carril’s retirement, and earlier this decade led Temple to six-straight NCAA Tournament bids. A berth this season would be the Owls’ first in three years, and with Dunphy retiring after the season, he desperately wants to get another shot at a Sweet 16, which his teams have never reached.
They’ll first have to get through the Huskies, as a loss in Storrs would wreak havoc on their tournament chances. For UConn, the game represents a chance to break a tie with SMU in the American Athletic Conference standings. The Huskies still have tournament hopes, as they believe they can win the conference tournament with a healthy team, and righting the ship before the potential return of Adams is something on the entire team’s minds.
What to look for
When UConn has the ball: Does the perimeter shooting recover from an ofer performance against South Florida, when the Huskies shot 0-15 from three? Can the guards find more scoring opportunities for a much-improved Tyler Polley? Can Christian Vital adjust to his new role coming off the bench (assuming Dan Hurley again does not start him)?
When Temple has the ball: Do the Owls again rely on their three scorers (Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose, and Nate Pierre-Louis) or do they try to spread the ball around a little more? Does Josh Carlton maintain his same level of defensive impact against a team with a more complex offense than most other AAC teams?
How to watch
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
When: 7 p.m.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network