The UConn men’s basketball team will look to snap a four-game losing streak Sunday as they host American Athletic Conference rival UCF at the XL Center in Hartford. The Huskies (5-9, 0-3 The American) have lost their first three games of conference play for the first time since the 1984-85 season.
UConn continued their brutal conference start Thursday with a 70-61 loss to Memphis on FedEx Forum, which followed losses to Houston and Tulsa before the calendar turned over to a new year. Against the Tigers, the Huskies were plagued by a lack of ball security and poor play from point guard Jalen Adams, which caused them to fall behind by 20 points midway through the second half. Despite a late spurt, UConn could never recover.
For the second consecutive game, Adams played all 40 minutes for head coach Kevin Ollie. After posting 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists against Tulsa, the sophomore guard struggled greatly against Memphis, scoring just six points on 3-for-14 shooting.
One positive from Thursday’s loss: the performance from freshman forward Vance Jackson, who came alive late in the second half. Jackson scored 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
The Huskies will try to end their skid at home against UCF, a team they have typically dominated. UConn is 8-1 all-time against the Knights, including a 5-0 mark in American Athletic Conference play. Last season, UConn won both meetings by an average of 23.5 points.
But this UCF team is much improved, and surprisingly so under first-year head coach Johnny Dawkins. Dawkins has led UCF to a 12-3 record, with a 3-0 start in conference play, including a 77-53 romp over Temple on New Year’s Eve.
In that win over Temple, UCF held the Owls to just 11 first half points. Their defense is allowing a conference-best 57.1 points per game, due in large part to the presence of 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall, who has taken a significant step forward in his sophomore year.
“What really impresses me about Central Florida first, is their defense – I think they are among the top five in the nation, holding teams to about 32 percent shooting,” Ollie said of the Knights. “Tacko [Fall] is pretty much like a one-man zone. He stays in the lane, so our 5-man is going to have to be really active.”
UConn will also have to contend with point guard B.J. Taylor, who recently returned from injury. Taylor leads the Knights in scoring, averaging 16.4 points per game.
“He’s the point guard, the head of the snake. He keeps them organized and makes sure that Tacko gets the ball,” Ollie said of Taylor.
UCF poses yet another challenge for this depleted UConn team, which desperately needs a win to get their feet wet in conference play.
“[The Knights] are playing very solid basketball, not turning the ball over – efficient on the offensive end and playing great defense,” Ollie said.
UConn and UCF will tip off at 5 p.m. Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.