UConn men’s basketball gets back at it on Wednesday, when the Huskies play host to the Sharks of LIU, which are ranked No. 275 in KenPom. UConn is looking to extend its season-opening winning streak to three games.
When: 6:30 p.m. Eastern
Where: Gampel Pavilion
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Line: UConn -24.5, over/under 142.5
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 83, LIU 59
The Huskies are off to a strong 2-0 start this season, with 35-point home victories over CCSU and Coppin State, starting off quickly in each contest and refusing to take their foot off the gas until well into the second half. Both teams that UConn has played so far are in the bottom 10 of the KenPom rankings and UConn had a size, speed and strength advantage, like they will have against the Sharks, but the Huskies have taken care of business and kept their place in the AP Top 25 as a result.
Tuesday’s game against LIU is UConn’s penultimate tune-up before the Battle 4 Atlantis, where a first-round matchup with No. 21 Auburn awaits, so keeping the momentum from its first two games is key.
Meanwhile, the visitors have struggled in a pair of contests out west. LIU opened the season with a resounding 98-64 defeat at the hands of San Francisco on opening night, followed by a 24-point loss to Fresno State on Friday. It’s been five days since the Sharks have taken the court, so they should be fresh, but it’s highly unlikely that they will pull off the upset over what will likely be the highest-ranked KenPom team they face all year.
When UConn has the ball
LIU is longer than either CCSU or Coppin State, with three players standing at 6-foot-9, though only Ty Flowers and Jake Cook have played minutes this year. However, UConn will still have a size advantage, especially at guard, where Tyrese Martin and RJ Cole will likely start against Alex Rivera and Tre Wood, each of whom are just 6-foot-1.
The Sharks are ranked No. 253 in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom, allowing 102.5 points per 100 possessions and 91 points per game in the early going. By contrast, UConn is No. 33 in adjusted offensive efficiency, scoring 108.7 points per 100 possessions, and putting up 94 points per contest.
UConn came out hard early in both games they’ve played so far, using their length and strength to generate early leads and get the home crowds into it, riding the momentum to blowouts. Adama Sanogo has averaged 20 points per game this season and has been able to score nearly at will, shooting 19-24 on the season. The same can be said of much of the rest of the team, as only Andre Jackson and Tyler Polley are shooting less than 50.0 percent from the field out of the eight Huskies that are averaging more than 10 minutes per game.
It’s also important to note that UConn may trot out a new starting lineup for this game, as senior Isaiah Whaley is questionable to play after suffering an ankle injury in the win over Coppin State. Whaley and freshman Jordan Hawkins, who hasn’t played yet this season, will be game-time decisions.
When LIU has the ball
Derek Kellogg’s crew has struggled offensively just as much as they have defensively. Averaging just 62 points per game, the Sharks are shooting just 38.5 percent from the field, which is worse than UConn’s 41.9 percent 3-point rate. LIU’s adjusted offensive efficiency is ranked No. 286 in the country, scoring just 93.6 points per 100 possessions. They’re going up against a stingy UConn defense that forces a lot of turnovers and is ranked No. 18 in adjusted defensive efficiency, surrendering 89.2 points per 100 possessions.
The Huskies have thrived on turnovers, forcing an average of 26 per game, including 29 against CCSU. Jalen Gaffney has five steals so far, but Cole and Polley each have four, followed by Jackson and Akok Akok, with three. Akok and Sanogo each also have a trio of blocks, as Dan Hurley’s defense uses its length to get in passing and shooting lanes, making it hard on offenses.
Flowers, a graduate student from Waterbury, Connecticut, leads his team in points (17.5) and rebounds (5.5) per game, as well as three-pointers made (7) and is second in shooting percentage (43.8 percent). He will be the focal point of LIU’s attack, followed by Eral Penn, who has 16.5 points per contest.