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Preview: No. 20 UConn men’s basketball vs. Seton Hall Pirates | 12 p.m. ET, FOX

The Pirates start a five-game stretch of winnable games to close out the regular season for the Huskies.

Creighton v Seton Hall Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

When: Saturday, Feb. 18

Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut


Radio: UConn Sports Network

Odds: UConn -10 via Odds Shark

KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 73, Seton Hall 61 — 85 percent win probability

Back on Jan. 18, UConn led by 14 at the half in these teams’ first matchup and was up by as much as 17, but coughed up that advantage and lost.

The Huskies didn’t hit a shot from the field over the game’s final 6:54 and scored just four points. Seton Hall converted just thrice in that span and scored 10 points, but that was enough to escape with a last-second win.

It was UConn’s fifth loss in six tries and while the St. John’s defeat at home three days prior was a worse result for its NCAA Tournament resume, blowing a 14-point halftime lead to Seton Hall felt like rock bottom, particularly as the Huskies fell below .500 in Big East play.

Dan Hurley’s team came back and ran Butler out of the building in its next game and is now 4-2 since that loss, with both losses coming by one possession. With a win over Seton Hall on Saturday, UConn will all but clinch a top-five finish in the Big East with four games remaining.

When UConn Has the Ball

The Pirates have a stingy defense and that was on full display in the teams’ last matchup. UConn has been held under a point per possession just five times this season and the Huskies scored 66 points on 67 possessions inside Prudential Center last time.

Seton Hall was ranked No. 17 in adjusted defensive efficiency headed into that contest and sits at No. 15 in advance of the return game.

Shaheen Holloway’s team does this by blocking shots, preventing 3-point makes, and getting steals. Seton Hall is in the top 50 in the country in block rate, 3-point percentage against, and steal percentage, leading to a top-30 mark in effective field goal percentage and status among the top 50 in turnover percentage.

Two out of three ain’t bad, according to Meatloaf, and it was enough for the hosts back in January. The Pirates blocked six of UConn’s 56 shots and forced 18 turnovers, though the Huskies were a more-than-respectable 9-23 from beyond the arc in their first matchup. KC Ndefo had a pair of rejections, while a trio of Seton Hall players grabbed two steals to set the pace for eight thefts.

UConn will need to take much better care this time around, as 18 turnovers is much too high for one game, particularly against a defense as stingy as Seton Hall’s.

When Seton Hall Has the Ball

The offense lags much behind the defense for Holloway and the Pirates. Seton Hall is ranked No. 165 in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and is only elite at getting to the line, with a top-15 free-throw rate. However, they convert on only 67.8 percent of those shots, which is below No. 300 in the country.

In the first matchup, Seton Hall was right at 1.00 points per possession and was an uncharacteristically high 19-35 on 2-point shots. On the season, the Pirates have converted 48.7 percent of their inside shots, while UConn has surrendered a 45.6 percentage on 2-pointers this season. Ndefo was 6-7 inside and only the five starters pulled the trigger from inside the arc, each of which was at or above 50 percent.

The Huskies need to focus on not letting this trend recur, as they were effective at preventing a poor 3-point shooting team from burning them outside. The Pirates were just 4-21 from beyond the arc, while they were right on their season average in free throws, but got to the line 25 times. Al-Amir Dawes was just 1-8 from 3-point range.

If Dan Hurley, who missed the initial contest in the series with COVID-19, can get his 2-point defense in order, then the Pirates should have trouble scoring the ball in a road environment.

Seton Hall has exceeded 1.00 points per possession in five of its 10 true road games this year and is 5-5 in this setting. Neither team plays particularly fast, so this is a game that will be played in the 60s, with 67 possessions back in January. Taking advantage of the limited possessions available, and preventing the Pirates from doing the same, will be the key to victory.