Just a day and a change after a road loss to No. 18 Arizona, the UConn men’s basketball team is back in action Saturday afternoon as they take on SEC opponent Auburn at Auburn Arena in Alabama.
Saturday’s game puts an end to the Huskies’ nonconference portion of the season, although they will play one more game out of conference when they meet Villanova on Jan. 20. UConn (7-4) opens American Athletic Conference play Dec. 30 against Wichita State.
For much of Thursday night, the Huskies put up a strong fight against Arizona. Despite shooting 36 percent from the field in the first half while committing 11 turnovers, they rallied back in the second half to pull within one point before the Wildcats scored 19 of the game’s final 24 points for a 73-58 win.
It was Dusan Ristic, not Deandre Ayton, that powered Arizona in the paint. Ristic posted 18 points and 10 rebounds, while UConn held Ayton to just nine points in 27 minutes. Rawle Alkins (20 points) and Allonzo Trier (15 points) were also important to the Wildcats' win.
Terry Larrier led the Huskies with 18 points, while Jalen Adams added 13 on 5-for-16 shooting. Adams also led the team with five turnovers, while Christian Vital and Eric Cobb each coughed the ball up four times.
Vital was also the team’s leading rebounder, pulling down seven boards.
For 35 minutes, the Huskies played quite well, before falling apart down the stretch. Failing to close games well has been a trend this season; UConn let games against Michigan State and Syracuse slip away in the closing minutes.
Saturday’s game will be the third meeting between UConn and Auburn. The Tigers pulled out a 70-67 overtime win at the XL Center last December, with Jared Harper hitting the go-ahead layup with under a minute left.
Harper led the Tigers with 22 points that day, and he is the third-leading scorer for this year’s team at 12.3 points per game. Bryce Brown leads Auburn with 16.2 points per game, while Connecticut native Mustapha Heron is right behind at 15.9 points per game.
The Tigers are 10-1 this season, with their only loss an 88-74 setback to Temple, and they enter Saturday riding an eight-game winning streak. They are 5-0 on their home court.
Meanwhile, UConn is 1-4 in games away from their home court, with two of the losses coming on neutral hardwood at the PK80 Invitational.
Adams leads the Huskies with 18.6 points per game, and he also leads the team in assists turnovers and steals while grabbing four rebounds a game. Larrier averages 15.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
UConn and Auburn will tip off at 2:30 p.m. at Auburn Arena in Alabama. The game will be televised on ESPN2.