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Preview: UConn men’s basketball at Marquette | 9 p.m. ET, FS1

The Huskies begin a stretch of nine games in January with their first tilt away at Marquette.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Xavier
Golden Eagles forward Jamal Cain reacts after a call in the first half against the Xavier Musketeers at Cintas Center.
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch

When: 9 p.m. Eastern

TV: FS1

Radio: UConn Radio Network

Line: Marquette -2

KenPom Predicted Score: Marquette 70, UConn 69

UConn men’s basketball will have nine games in January after a series of postponements due to Covid-19 in December. Its first of those matchups comes against Marquette on Tuesday night at the Fiserv Forum.

The Golden Eagles have been surprisingly good this season despite losing consensus First Team All-American Markus Howard to graduation. They have spread out their scoring fairly evenly so far this season after Howard provided over 35% of their production in Steve Wojciechowski’s seventh campaign in Milwaukee.

Marquette (6-5, 2-3 Big East) has yet to miss any games so far this season but just had their tilt with No. 3 Villanova on Jan. 8 postponed. So far, the Golden Eagles have knocked off two ranked opponents, beating No. 4 Wisconsin early in the season and handing No. 9 Creighton their only conference loss on the year. They have faltered in other big non-conference ties with Oklahoma State and UCLA, though.

Before their 64-60 win over Georgetown — one of the worst teams in the Big East —Marquette had been on a run of poor form. They lost three in a row to Seton Hall, Xavier and No. 5 Villanova by an average of nine points per game.

Even with an up and down season so far, Marquette is still among the conference leaders in key categories.

It has posted the second-best three-point shooting mark thus far, hitting from 38% from distance. The three-ball has made up nearly a third of its scoring thus far and a touch over 37% of their shot attempts. UConn has one of the best 3-point defenses in the nation, limiting their opponents to 27.4% from deep. The Huskies largely shut down Creighton’s potent shooting offense on Dec. 20, holding them to just 25.9%.

The Golden Eagles have also grabbed the third-most rebounds in the conference as well, which makes complete sense considering they’re the 30th-tallest team in the country at an average height of 6 feet, 6.1 inches. But with that length comes some problems with taking care of the ball, as they are near the bottom of the conference in turnover margin this season at -3.64 through 11 games.

Marquette features four double-digit scorers but its backcourt has done quite a bit of the damage. Redshirt senior Koby McEwen leads the team in scoring (13.4) and minutes played (31.5) though sophomore D.J. Carton is right there with him, averaging 11.4 points. They put up a combined 6.8 rebounds and nearly 6.5 assists per game as well.

It has a talented frontcourt in Dawson Garcia and Jamal Cain as well. Garcia was voted the Preseason Big East Freshman of the Year and has not disappointed. In 11 starts, the 6-11 big man has averaged 12.4 points and 7.3 rebounds while hitting 37% from three. Cain is coming off a 25-point performance against Georgetown and has hit seven of his last 10 three’s.

UConn hasn’t won a game in Milwaukee since 2011 when it beat the Golden Eagles 76-68. Marquette has not allowed any fans at their home games so far this season.

What to watch for:

When UConn has the ball

James Bouknight and RJ Cole. Marquette has let opposing guards put up big numbers in recent games against them with Xavier’s Paul Scruggs and Villanova’s Colin Gillespie scoring a combined 51 points and 11 3-pointer’s in their games against Marquette.

Bouknight has scored in bunches and if Marquette can’t keep the ball out of his hands, it could be game over. RJ Cole hasn’t shot the ball well so far this season but UConn could use him to draw attention away from Bouknight or Tyrese Martin.

When Marquette has the ball

Look for them to hold the ball and take a good amount of 3-pointers. The Golden Eagles take an average of 17.8 seconds per possession, according to KenPom. They could attack Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley who have been inconsistent thus far this season with their frontcourt mix of Garcia, Cain and Theo John. If Whaley continues his fouling ways early, that could be how they get the blocking machine out of the game.

Final prediction

This looks to be a battle of two three-and-D teams. Whoever gets their shooting and big men going will take it. After Carlton’s performance in UConn’s last game, he could be the x-factor in this one. If Bouknight returns to his 40-point form from the Creighton game, combined with Marquette’s tendency to let stars get theirs, this could get ugly. Marquette could also shoot the Huskies out of Milwaukee. Time will tell.

UConn 68, Marquette 61