The UConn men’s basketball team opened the 2017 portion of their season with yet another loss as they fell 70-61 to American Athletic Conference rival Memphis at FedEx Forum. The loss handed UConn their first four-game losing streak since 2012.
Vance Jackson and Rodney Purvis each had 14 points for the Huskies (5-9, 0-3 The American), while Amida Brimah finished with 15 rebounds. Markel Crawford led Memphis (11-4, 1-1 The American) with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
The Huskies got off to a reasonably fast start offensively, receiving baskets from four different starters to grab a 9-6 lead at the first media timeout 4:18 into the game. The two teams traded missed field goals for a few minutes after that and found themselves tied at 15 points apiece at the midway point of the first half.
There were two big surprises from the game’s first ten minutes: UConn protected the ball, as they did not turn it over even once, and the Huskies held Memphis forward Dedric Lawson in check. Lawson, who entered Thursday leading the conference with 20.6 points per game, scored for the first time 8:05 into the game and finished the first half with just six points.
Instead, fellow Tiger K.J. Lawson burned UConn in the early stages, with seven points in the first six minutes. He then handed the scoring reigns to Crawford, who finished the first half with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
Meanwhile, UConn fell apart on the offensive end, turning the ball over seven times over the half’s final 10 minutes while scoring just eight points. The Tigers used a 12-1 run to help secure a 32-24 lead at the halftime break.
In the second half, Crawford continued to power the Tigers as they gradually increased their lead. By the midway point of the second half, Memphis led 50-34, as UConn continued to struggle from the field while frequently turning the ball over.
With 7:10 left in the game, Memphis went up 59-39, with the 20-point mark standing as their largest lead of the game. The Huskies did respond somewhat well over the game’s final minutes, even trimming the lead as low as nine points with 3:26 remaining, but the Tigers hit a couple of important shots to stifle momentum and closed out a 70-61 win.
Jackson did finish notably well down the stretch, scoring 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting after Memphis went up by 20.
Two opposing players that found themselves in the preseason discussion for Conference Player of the Year delivered wildly different performances. D. Lawson posted 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, while UConn guard Jalen Adams scored just six points on 3-for-14 shooting in 40 minutes of action.
Up next, UConn will return home in search of their first conference win as they host UCF Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.