The UConn men's basketball team returns to action tonight with hopes that their long break has served them well as they take on No. 18 Arizona on the road tonight.
This will be the Huskies' first true road game—all their games played outs of Connecticut have been at neutral sites—and it won’t be an easy task. Arizona has won 46-straight nonconference home games and 76 of their last 78 home games.
The odds don’t stack up in UConn’s favor—the last true road game they won against a ranked opponent was over No. 17 Memphis in 2014. But it all depends on how they start. The Huskies allowed 40+ first-half points in four straight games before stopping the streak against Coppin State on Dec. 9.
UConn, who hasn’t played in 12 days due to finals week, is coming off a relatively unimpressive performance against Coppin State. While they did perform strong on the glass, out-rebounding them 50-26, the Huskies are still struggling on both offense and defense. They never lead the Eagles by more than 13 points all game and allowed them to get to within seven points with six minutes remaining.
Junior guard Jalen Adams has been inconsistent, but he’s averaging 19.2 points per game and is coming off an 18-point performance against Coppin State. With the status of Alterique Gilbert still up in the air, all of UConn’s guards, especially Christian Vital and Antwoine Anderson, need to step up if they hope to compete against Arizona.
After losing all three of their games in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the Wildcats have won six straight games, including a three-point win over No. 7/9 Texas A&M on Dec. 5.
Freshman forward Deandre Ayton and junior guard Allonzo Trier are Arizona’s best players, with each of them averaging over 20 points per game. Ayton is especially tough on the glass—he’s recorded nine double-doubles in 12 games, including a 19-point, 18-rebound performance against Alabama on Dec. 9. As a team, Arizona has out-rebounded their opponents 447 to 358 this season. Though Ayton is only 6-foot-5, he averages 11.8 rebounds per game and will pose a special challenge for UConn’s big men.
The Wildcats as a whole don’t shoot particularly well from 3-point range, but Allonzo and freshman guard Brandon Randolph are the two sharpest shooters—Randolph shoots 45.8 percent from beyond the arc. Arizona is averaging 84.3 points per game as opposed to UConn’s 71.8.
With nonconference wins being as important as ever, the Huskies are hoping to catch Arizona off-guard and kick off a tough road stint strong. The game will tip off at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.