The UConn men’s basketball team returns to the court Thursday after last weekend’s drubbing by No. 1 Villanova when they face American Athletic Conference rival SMU at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies (10-9, 3-3 the American) looked to be turning things around earlier in the month, as they won three straight games, but back-to-back 20-point losses (Memphis and Villanova) have the team reeling again as they prepare for another tough AAC game.
SMU (14-6, 4-3) remains one of the American’s best teams despite the departure of multiple starters from last season’s squad, which won the conference. The Mustangs suffered a big blow Tuesday when junior guard Jarrey Foster (13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists) was announced out for the season with a torn ACL.
UConn is also dealing with injury issues. Forward Terry Larrier underwent facial surgery Wednesday and is expected to be out for roughly a week while he recovers. Larrier sits second on the Huskies averaging 14.8 points per game, behind Jalen Adams, who leads the team with 18.5.
When the Huskies were forced to play without Larrier in Memphis, the offense was disastrous. The Huskies scored just 49 points on 37 percent shooting from the field, including a horrid 4-for-17 mark from 3-point range.
Freshman Tyler Polley said after Wednesday’s practice that he thought he would be starting against SMU, with Larrier sitting out. Polley posted nine points and four rebounds in the opener against Colgate but hasn’t reached either of those marks since. He has played less than 10 minutes in 11 of 19 appearances, although he did start the first five games of the season.
Adams remains the Huskies’ top dog. He’s second in the American in scoring and fourth in assists at 4.2 per game. He also leads in minutes played, with a remarkable 38.4 minutes played per game. Adams and Larrier both average 39.8 minutes per game played in the ACC.
SMU holds a 6-2 record against UConn in conference play, including an unbeaten record at home, but Thursday is the only meeting of the season between the two teams. The Huskies’ only two wins against the Mustangs have come at the XL Center.
Shake Milton is the Mustangs’ best player, leading the team in scoring at 18.4 points on 45 percent shooting (44 percent from three). Milton also averages 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, and has been named American Player of the Week twice.
Ethan Chargois, Jahmal McMurray, Ben Emelogu and Jimmy Whitt all average double digits in scoring. Without Foster, Emelogu is the leading rebounder at 5.1 boards per game, while also shooting 57 percent from deep on 83 attempts.
UConn and SMU will tip-off at 7 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion Thursday. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.