UConn men’s basketball hasn’t played DePaul since Feb. 2013, when then-junior Shabazz Napier dropped 28 points in an 81-69 win. That squad was the last UConn team coached by Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun.
On Wednesday, the Huskies (3-1, 0-1 Big East) will play a Blue Demons team (1-1, 0-1 Big East) coached by Calhoun disciple Dave Leitao, who spent two stints as an assistant in Storrs before his first tenure with DePaul starting in 2002.
“It’s where I grew up as a man and it’s where I grew up as a coach, it means a lot,” Leitao said on his return to Storrs.
It will be the first matchup between current UConn head coach Dan Hurley and Leitao, Hurley told reporters Tuesday. It will also be just the third game of DePaul’s season after they had a series of postponements and cancellations to start the year.
Hurley said that senior Tyler Polley will be ready to go after he registered a DNP during UConn’s last game against Creighton. Polley had yet to clear COVID-19 protocol so he was not available for the Creighton game. Hurley said Polley is an important player for UConn, who has been searching for a second offensive weapon to pair with star guard James Bouknight.
Redshirt sophomore Akok Akok is getting close to a return, Hurley said Wednesday. He has been dealing with a mild hamstring strain and has been held back by UConn’s program pauses.
Prized recruit Andre Jackson will be out at least six weeks as he recovers from a broken bone in his left wrist.
UConn has allowed opponents to shoot 28.2% from beyond the arc so far this season, which is good for 52nd in the nation and tops in the Big East.
In their first two games, DePaul shot 45.5% from three-point range which makes them the best three-point shooting team in the conference by nearly 6%. UConn is the second-worst shooting team so far, hitting just under 31% from deep this season.
Hurley said UConn went small in order to contain a lethal Creighton team from deep. They may implement the same strategy against DePaul, which could mean more minutes for Jalen Gaffney and RJ Cole in lieu of some of the big guys.
Cole and Gaffney played a combined 68 minutes in the double-overtime loss to Creighton. No center played more minutes than Josh Carlton’s 19.
- Hurley went on a short rant about masks toward the end of his Tuesday afternoon press conference, asking why coaches had to wear masks when players and some referees don’t have to. He specified that he thinks mask-wearing is important away from the court but questioned why it was necessary considering how often he is tested.
- Hurley did not end up wearing a Santa hat during UConn’s Christmas practice.