After a dominant win over ECU on Sunday, the UConn men’s basketball team is now 12-2 at home this season, including a flawless 7-0 at Gampel Pavilion. Protecting home court is important, but grabbing wins on the road is necessary to be considered a contending program in what is a surprisingly competitive conference.
So far this season, that’s been a tall task for the Huskies (13-9, 4-5 The American). They’re 0-4 in true road games and just 1-3 at neutral sites. On Wednesday, they’ll have a chance to pick up a road win for the first time, taking on Temple in Philadelphia.
“We feel great about the way the young guys are playing,” head coach Dan Hurley told the media ahead of Wednesday’s game. “We’re excited about the guys coming in, excited about the culture we’re putting together. But if this team really wants to compete for something in March, we’ve got to win some of these road games.”
Temple (16-6, 6-3) has exceeded expectations this season, currently fourth in the conference, but has struggled of late—albeit against some strong opposition. The Owls are coming off a win over last-place Tulane, but dropped three of their previous four outings, including losses to conference foes No. 12 Houston and No. 25 Cincinnati.
The Owls are led by offensively by a pair of dynamic guards in senior Shizz Alston Jr. and junior Quintin Rose. Alston Jr. poured in 29 points in 36 minutes in Temple’s last showing, while Rose, picked to the preseason all-conference first team, is considered one of the best prospects in the AAC. On average, the two combine for 35 of Temple’s 75 points a night.
Temple is a weak team on the glass, averaging the second fewest rebounds per game in the conference. That means expectations for high for UConn forward Josh Carlton, who has looked better and better as the season has progressed. The sophomore is fresh off a monster performance against ECU in which he dropped 20 points and snatched 16 rebounds.
His offensive production has been much-needed since the loss of guard Alterique Gilbert to a shoulder injury on Jan. 26. Gilbert has missed UConn’s last two games, and is unlikely to play on Wednesday as he has yet to practice with the team.
So it seems clear Gilbert will be sitting this one out—but will Jalen Adams as well? The senior was benched for the final 18 minutes of the win over ECU after numerous lapses on the defensive end and a lack of leadership that evidently didn’t sit well with Hurley.
“He’s better than that,” Hurley said on Sunday. “As a senior, you have a responsibility to set a great example for your teammates about accepting coaching. A little bit of frustration from how he was playing probably crept in, but we will sit down and talk about it and you will not see that again.”
On Tuesday, Hurley refused to say whether Adams would be back in the starting lineup on Wednesday. Given his recent play before the ECU game, it’s difficult to see him riding the pine for very long. But Hurley is unafraid to make a statement, and therefore nothing is guaranteed.
A win not only gets the Huskies in the win column on the road for the first time under Hurley, but also finally gets UConn to an even record in conference play. According to Hurley, that’s vital for his team’s confidence.
“Before you can talk about making any type of moves in the league, you’ve got to get to .500,” Hurley said. “We haven’t been able to get there. We’ve got to put ourselves in a position to win the game late.”
Things get underway in Philadelphia at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.