When: Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Where: XL Center — Hartford, Connecticut
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn -4.5, over/under 148.5 (odds via Borgata)
KenPom Predicted Score: UConn 78, Marquette 74 — 66 percent win probability
No. 21 UConn men’s basketball looks to exact its revenge on Tuesday night against a No. 10 Marquette team that helped force it down in the polls and the Big East standings with its six-point win on Jan. 11.
A top-10 matchup according to KenPom, a victory would help re-establish the Huskies as a top team in the conference, while the potential for a three-game winning streak heading into the final stretch of games could bring a lot of confidence, particularly with a trip to Creighton looming.
When UConn has the ball
Turnovers were the issue when these two squads faced off in Wisconsin just under a month ago. Marquette’s defense is elite at forcing them, with a 22.9 percent turnover rate. That’s a top-25 mark in the country. While UConn is typically fine with holding onto the ball, turning it over on 18.0 percent of its possessions, they coughed it up 16 times in 69 possessions in their first meeting, a 23.2 percent turnover rate, and led to 20 Golden Eagles points.
Marquette goes small most of the time, as Ben Gold, a 6-foot-11 freshman who averages just 7.5 minutes per night, is the only player taller than 6-foot-9. This helped Donovan Clingan tremendously in the first matchup, as he was five inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than everyone else. In 21 minutes, he was 8-11 from the field with 20 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, and two steals. Most importantly, he had just two fouls. Another performance like that from the freshman will be key.
The other killers were bench points and 3-point shooting. Converting from outside the arc can be fluky from game to game and on the year, UConn hits its 3-point shots at a 35.6 percent rate, but the Huskies were just 6-22 in the first matchup. A regression to the mean from this unlucky performance, as Joey Calcaterra and Jordan Hawkins each went 1-4, would swing the pendulum back in Tuesday’s host’s favor.
The bench has been more inconsistent. On Jan. 11, non-Clingan bench players contributed five points. Three of those came on Calcaterra’s look, while Hassan Diarra was 1-1 from the field. This is partially because Dan Hurley kept his bench minutes short aside from his center, with just 31 combined minutes for Calcaterra, Diarra, and Nahiem Alleyne, but they were a combined 2-8 from the field. Clingan did his part, but better performances from the trio of reserve guards, more in line with what they gave during the non-conference season, can only help.
When Marquette has the ball
A top-five offense in efficiency according to KenPom at No. 4, UConn’s 20th-ranked defense is going to have its work cut out for it. Xavier is one slot behind the Golden Eagles, but the Musketeers do a lot of their damage inside with Jack Nunge and Zach Freemantle, a pair of big men, though Souley Boum is a terrific scorer. Xavier is near No. 300 in the country in share of points from 3-point shots and 56.0 percent of its points come on 2-pointers.
Marquette is a different animal. The trio of wings are athletic, long, and can get to the bucket. The Golden Eagles are first in the nation in 2-point percentage at 60.4 percent, nearly a full point above No. 2. In particular, they used their size against Alex Karaban, backing him down early and often.
Olivier Maxence-Prosper was the primary beneficiary, grabbing 17 points on just eight field goal attempts after going to the line seven times. Center Oso Ighodaro also had a strong game with 19 points, though it came on 16 shots. Of their four players that played more than 20 minutes in the first matchup, only Ighodaro shot under 50 percent from the field.
Marquette is also elite at holding onto the ball, with a turnover rate of just 15.6 percent, a mark that is in the top 25 in the country. UConn forced just 11 turnovers in 69 possessions in the first matchup, which is right in line with the Golden Eagles’ season-long rate.