UConn men’s basketball has started the season off on a tear, winning each of its seven matchups by 15 points or more, even against increasingly high-quality competition. Beating Oregon (in the state of Oregon) by 24 and No. 18 Alabama by 15 to begin the Phil Knight Invitational has UConn fans completely re-evaluating their ceiling for this year’s team.
Dan Hurley’s bunch looks to stay undefeated and earn a trophy on Saturday night. Iowa State, which took down the No. 1 team in the country on Friday, is standing in their way.
When: Sunday, Nov. 27 — 10 p.m. ET
Where: Moda Center — Portland, Oregon
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -5.5, over/under 135.5 (odds via Borgata)
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 72, Iowa State 65
When UConn Has the Ball
The Huskies have shot the lights out so far in Portland. They set a program record in the opener by hitting 17 3-pointers against Oregon while shooting 45.9 percent from behind the arc.
While UConn came back to Earth against a strong Alabama team, going 9-for-24, it’s still a great mark and one that feels sustainable. The most encouraging part of this performance has been Joey Calcaterra. It was unclear how the San Diego grad transfer would handle the jump in competition, but he’s connected on five of his six attempts from three during the tournament and seems to be a reliable, solid player. Alex Karaban has also proven to be a dependable scorer, perhaps a bit unexpectedly given that he’s a freshman.
This has been an emergent part of a well-oiled and efficient Husky attack, as they were No. 10 in the country in 2-point field goal percentage before their journey out west thanks to Donovan Clingan and Adama Sanogo. While that percentage and rank have fallen since the introduction to high-major opponents, 30-for-62 over the past two games is solid enough, especially when Clingan (6-for-11) and Sanogo (11-for-17) are playing so well.
Iowa State is ranked No. 21 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, anchored by the country’s second-best turnover percentage (30.5). At 18.0 percent, the Huskies are toward the middle of the pack and have turned the ball over 12 times in each of their first two games in the Phil Knight Invitational. Protecting the ball will be key for UConn in this one.
When Iowa State Has the Ball
The Cyclones rely on their defense to win games, as each of their games out west have been played in the 60s through regulation, though Iowa State did break 80 in overtime against Villanova. Offensively, they are ranked No. 79 in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is dragged down by poor 3-point shooting. T.J. Otzelberger’s team shoots just 30.4 percent from beyond the arc and focuses on getting the ball inside, which should favor UConn and its 14th-ranked block percentage.
Jaren Holmes is in the top 50 in usage rate and has taken 32.0 percent of his team’s field goal attempts. He’ll face a tough match-up with UConn’s long guards. Nahiem Alleyne, Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson, and Tristen Newton will all take turns trying to reign in the St. Bonaventure transfer. In last year’s battle with the Bonnies at the Prudential Center in Newark, Holmes played all 40 minutes and scored 19 points, and grabbed eight rebounds on 6-for-14 shooting. The offense runs through him and keeping him quiet will be key to shutting down the Iowa State offense.
Elsewhere, fellow St. Bonaventure transfer Osun Osunniyi is in the top 125 in the nation in offensive rating. His team faced UConn last December and he was mostly quieted by the UConn big men as he scored 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 26 minutes. He has averaged 10.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game this year while shooting 64.7 percent from the field.