In their first home conference game with fans since joining the Big East, the UConn Huskies delivered a lackluster performance in a 57-53 loss to Providence to fall to 9-3.
The Friars were up double digits for most of the game as the Huskies struggled all day offensively, even though they did get a boost from the return of Tyrese Martin from a left wrist injury. UConn finished a dismal 8-29 (28%) from three, 31% from the field, and 7-13 (57%) from the free-throw line while committing nine turnovers. Injured forward Adama Sanogo did not play.
Akok Akok and Isaiah Whaley got the XL Center crowd going early with some blocks that quickly led to points on the other end, but UConn didn’t find enough good looks in the first half, succumbing to Providence’s aggressive defense.
Dan Hurley’s squad endured a hideous eight-minute stretch without a field goal but was up 21-20 with three minutes left in the first half thanks to the scoring abilities of Martin, Whaley, and RJ Cole. UConn collapsed in the final minutes of the frame, however, as AJ Reeves caught fire and kept pouring it in. The Friars took an 11-point lead into the break.
The second half saw more of the same as Providence appeared to be on its way to a blowout, growing the deficit to 16 with 10:41 left. But then two Andre Jackson threes and a Cole and-one got UConn back within shouting distance and the Huskies continued to hang around. Providence seemed to have a response every time UConn threatened to get closer, however.
A technical foul on PC gave the Huskies late life and they mounted an 8-0 run, getting within two after a Tyler Polley three. But Cole missed a layup and Martin missed a three off the rebound, and they also missed four free throws in crunch time.
UConn had a chance to win this one but instead got the result they deserved. The offense was way too sloppy and ultimately was the team’s undoing. They got better looks in the second half but couldn’t get enough to fall.
Cole led the Huskies with 16 points and eight assists while Martin added 15 and Whaley had 10. Nobody else was in double-figures. Polley missed all six of his field-goal attempts, all threes, before hitting the three that cut PC’s lead to two.
Jalen Gaffney had an off night with three turnovers and Akok only played 16 minutes despite looking like a difference-maker. Hurley only used three guys off the bench in addition to Jackson and Polley, and it was Jordan Hawkins, the freshman wing and shooting threat who logged 11 minutes. The Huskies’ bench managed just one field goal and four points.
Next up, UConn is visiting Marquette on Tuesday, Dec. 21. The game will be broadcast on FS1 at 9 p.m. ET. The Huskies’ coaching staff must be hoping that Sanogo will be back by then, as his presence has been sorely missed.