When: Wednesday, Feb. 22
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -7.5, over/under 14.5 (odds via Borgata)
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 77, Providence 69 — 77 percent win probability
It’s Senior Day already, as UConn men’s basketball’s last contest inside Gampel Pavilion is on Wednesday against the 20th-ranked Providence Friars. The Huskies, who have won four of their last five games, are looking to avoid a season sweep against Ed Cooley’s team, which has responded from a road loss to St. John’s on Feb. 11 with victories over then-No. 18 Creighton and Villanova, each at home.
UConn came out hot in the series opener on Jan. 4, but Andre Jackson was whistled for his second foul and missed the last chunk of the half, which helped let the Friars get back into the game and take a three-point lead into the break. The hosts scored 1.20 points per possession, which was the Huskies’ worst defensive performance on the season.
Bryce Hopkins scored 27 points that night, going 13-15 from the free throw line, one of two Providence players who got to the charity stripe at least 10 times.
When UConn Has the Ball
The Huskies’ 100.3 offensive efficiency rating in the series opener was the team’s fifth-worst on the year to date. They were an uncharacteristically low 10-19 from the free throw line and just 5-22 from beyond the arc. They only turned the ball over eight times, which is something it should try to replicate in this matchup, as Providence only forces turnovers on 16.4 percent of its possessions, which is near to No. 300 in the country.
Other than that, Providence’s No. 65-ranked defense according to KenPom and coughs up an adjusted 98.7 points per 100 possessions, but isn’t elite at anything in particular.
UConn’s starting lineup has been playing better since that first meeting. Jordan Hawkins in particular has shown he can lead his team to victory. He was just 2-7 from beyond the arc and 3-7 on 2-pointers at PC but the sophomore has been shooting much better of late. Adama Sanogo also didn’t score in the second half and a more consistent game from the big man this time around will be a welcome sight, provided he is back to 100 percent after feeling ill last week.
When Providence Has the Ball
The Friars are led by their offense, ranked 20th in offensive efficiency in KenPom. Like UConn, they’re a great rebounding team, as they’re in the top 50 in offensive rebound percentage both for and against.
Hopkins plays some of the most minutes in the country and has a 24.0 percent usage rate. He shoots nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc and is at 48.5 percent on 2-pointers, and, as we saw, he also gets to the line a bunch. Keeping Jackson out of foul trouble is crucial, as he should draw Hopkins for most of the game.
While every team shortens the rotation as we reach this time of year, Cooley likes to keep his starters in the game as often as possible. His typical starting five plays at least 27.7 minutes per game and Alyn Breed is close behind at 19.9 minutes per night. No other player averages more than 15 minutes and only six players have gotten into each of the team’s 27 games.
Providence doesn’t foul much, as free throw attempts against are just over one-quarter of field goal attempts against, which is a top-50 mark in the nation, while two-foul participation is in the top 100. It takes a lot for Cooley to dig into his bench more than to get his guys a breather and keeping players like Hopkins and Noah Locke on the bench could loom large.