The UConn men’s basketball team opens American Athletic Conference play Saturday afternoon when they host new AAC member No. 8 Wichita State at the XL Center in Hartford.
The Shockers (10-2) come to Hartford after two strong months of non-conference play that cemented them as one of the country’s best teams. The Huskies (7-5) are reeling after a two-game road trip before Christmas that saw them lose to Arizona and Auburn by a combined 40 points.
UConn released the news Thursday that redshirt freshman guard Alterique Gilbert will sit out for the remainder of the season after playing in the Huskies’ first six contests. Gilbert suffered an injury to his non-shooting shoulder, which also suffered a season-ending injury last season after three games.
Gilbert will undergo surgery on that shoulder, leaving UConn without his playmaking and scoring in the backcourt.
“As we have said all along, we are going to listen to Alterique and do what is best for him and his family,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said in a statement released by UConn Athletics. “If that includes surgery, then we will give him all the support he needs and welcome him back on the court next season. Meanwhile, he will have the chance to see the game from a different perspective. I know he will continue to be a great team leader — during practice, during games and off the court as well.”
Gilbert averaged 27.8 minutes per game in the six games he played, scoring 9.0 points on 32 percent shooting.
Without his presence, the Huskies will need Christian Vital and Antwoine Anderson to continue to play extended minutes alongside Jalen Adams, who leads the team with 18.2 points per game. Vital and Anderson currently average 27.2 and 32.9 minutes per game, respectively, behind Adams’ 37.5 minutes.
UConn’s last time out was an abject disaster, as they were smoked 89-64 by Auburn in a game that took only a few minutes to get completely get out of hand. The task will get even harder Saturday as the Huskies host Wichita State, currently ranked No. 8 in the AP Poll.
The Shockers spent the last four seasons dominating the Missouri Valley Conference, going 68-4 in league play to help earn a ticket to the American Athletic Conference this past offseason in all Olympic sports. UConn will be the first opponent they meet in AAC play, and the two programs have only met once in history, with the Huskies pulling out a 83-79 win in 2010.
Wichita State is led by sophomore guard Landry Shamet, who averages 17.1 points and 4.6 assists per game. Darral Willis Jr., Shaquille Morris and Conner Frankamp also average double digits in scoring, while talented forward Markis McDuffie made his season debut Dec. 22 after recovering from an injury.
The Huskies have not been particularly sharp in regular season conference play since the American began four season ago, compiling just a 42-30 mark. They’re much sharper at home, with a 26-10 record in Connecticut.
UConn and Wichita State will tip off 12 p.m. Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford. The game will be broadcast on CBS.