After suffering in more than one way at Temple on Wednesday, the UConn men’s basketball team is still seeking a win on the road. But without Jalen Adams, who suffered a sprained MCL and is out indefinitely, it’s going to be a difficult task, especially at Memphis.
The Tigers, boasting the same 13-10 record as the Huskies, have an 11-2 record at home this season and have only lost to No. 1 Tennessee and Cincinnati thus far. Memphis and UConn have fared similarly in conference: They’ve both lost to Temple, Tulsa, Cincinnati and UCF while beating Wichita State and ECU.
But the Huskies are at a clear disadvantage this time around. Not only will they not have Jalen Adams, they will likely be without Alterique Gilbert as well, who has not played the last two games after re-aggravating his shoulder injury against Wichita State. Adams is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 17 points per game, while Gilbert leads the team with 3.8 assists per game.
“We’re not a mature, well-balanced, good basketball team,” head coach Dan Hurley said after the Temple loss.
UConn will have to focus on diversifying their offense if they hope to succeed without Adams or Gilbert, and Josh Carlton is the guy who has to step up. He has been coming into his own over the last few games, though, posting two double-doubles in a row while setting a career-high in points (20) and rebounds (16). He was one of the only bright spots in UConn’s blowout loss to Temple, scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
“The bar has been raised for Josh,” Hurley said.
Memphis is riding a three-game losing streak after beating UCF on Jan. 27. Jeremiah Martin, the Tigers’ leading scorer, averages 16.7 points per game, but he’s been carrying the team through the last three games. In their 84-78 loss to USF, he scored a career-high 41 points on 13-for-20 shooting with six steals. He led the team with 26 points and five assists in their most recent 69-64 loss to Cincinnati.
If the Huskies hope to keep the game close, their defense will have to be worlds better than it was in Philadelphia. Temple out-classed UConn on the offensive side of the ball, and though the Huskies were a force on the glass, that was about as good as it got.
Luckily for UConn, Memphis lacks a signature center, which opens up the door for Carlton to have another double-double performance on offense and to stand his ground on defense. It will be up to the young guys like Sidney Wilson and Tyler Polley to really step up and contribute offensively and not be pushed around defensively.
Wilson is getting used to an increase in playing time and, without Adams and Gilbert for the foreseeable future, he will be seeing more time on the floor than ever. He went 2-for-9 with six points and four turnovers in 25 minutes against Temple—he will have to improve his ball-handling and his presence on defense.
The Huskies’ main focus will be shutting down Martin, because from there, only two more players—6-foot-8 forward Kyvon Davenport and guard Tyler Harris—average double-digit points per game. Harris can be a force off the bench, but he can also play 16 minutes and go 0-for-3, so UConn just has to make sure he doesn’t become another inconsistent player to get a career-high against them.
The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. Tipoff will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday.