Turning the ball over 48 times in two games does not normally translate to wins. The Huskies are 1-1 over that span and will look at Sunday’s matinee matchup with the New Hampshire Wildcats as an opportunity to improve.
Behind ball-clamping defense, the Huskies (7-3) were fortunate to walk away with a 10-point win over Saint Peter’s on Wednesday. Ten team blocks and 12 steals marked season highs for UConn, but so did its 26 turnovers.
UConn has had 48 turnovers in the last two games. Coach Dan Hurley on what he’s been working on in practice to fix the problem pic.twitter.com/zI7wTOVfsc
— Gavin Keefe (@GavinKeefe) December 21, 2019
“It’s more of a function of trying to do too much,” Dan Hurley told the media Saturday afternoon. “Just putting yourself in bad situations in terms of driving a gap you shouldn’t drive, playing too fast.”
Hurley could not find an in-game answer for the turnover struggles no matter how far down he dug into his 10-man rotation. Of the 10 players to touch the floor, seven (later branded the “Turnover Brigade” by Hurley) coughed up the ball at least three times. Alterique Gilbert lead the way in both assists and turnovers, posting a 6:5 ratio that is unlike the point guard.
“It won’t last,” Gilbert said of the turnovers after the win. “Against good teams obviously, like Indiana, you won’t win those games. That’s something we’re going to turn around.”
Though he committed four turnovers, all before the halftime break, Jalen Gaffney was not lost in lost in the mix. The freshman guard posted his best game as a Husky, recording 10 points and five assists in his 20 minutes off the bench. Gaffney was noticeably playing with more confidence, something he was lacking in the team’s trip to Madison Square Garden.
Freshmen since 2009 with BLK% over 12%, TRB% over 10%, and two or fewer fouls per game:
— Luke Swanson (@Lukefrom2011) December 19, 2019
“Jalen is going to be a tremendous player,” Hurley said. “He was aggressive. He was assertive. When his physical maturity catches up with his skill and his game, he’s going to be really, really good.”
With the advantage of enrolling a semester early, Akok Akok is providing valuable minutes as the Huskies’ fifth starter and at a high level. He’s played the third-most minutes on the team (27.7 per game) and is averaging more rebounds per game (6.2) than points scored (6.0). Oh, and his 3.20 shots blocked per contest ranks 10th in the entire country.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get a block at certain points in the game, but you gotta make that effort,” Akok said. “Coach doesn’t think anybody else can block shots like me.”
Sunday marks the 118th meeting between the Huskies and the Wildcats (6-5), a series that UConn leads 93-25. In their last meeting a season ago, the Huskies walked away with a 25-point win.
New Hampshire, a member of the American East Conference, won 64-56 its last time out over Marist. The Wildcats let up 65.9 points per game, on average, and will test a UConn offense that is still trying to find its true identity, but is scoring at a 73.5 point per game clip.
Nick Guadarrama, a sophomore and a Newington, CT. native, is scoring a team-best 15.5 points per game. Sean Sutherlin, a 6-foot-5 185 lb. junior, is corralling rebounds at a 10.2 per game rate. Not one Husky is averaging double-digit rebounds, with Christian Vital’s 7.7 rank the highest on the squad.
Tip off is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the XL Center, will be televised by SNY and is the Huskies’ last game before Christmas. The last game of 2019 will come in a week when UConn hosts The New Jersey Institute of Technology for the first time in program history, also at the XL Center.