The Huskies got their feet wet last week when they beat Central Connecticut and Hartford, but their first real test this season will come on Thursday.
Deemed “Bubbleville,” Mohegan Sun has turned into a hub for college basketball. The Huskies arrived Wednesday afternoon and will play two games over the next three days. First on the docket for UConn is USC (Southern California, not the fake one in South Carolina), with the Trojans being 3-0 on the young season.
“The overall team size, it’s impressive,” head coach Dan Hurley said. “There’s not many teams I think in the country that have their type of size or length or their type of emphasis on throwing the ball inside.”
Hurley mentioned the Mobley brothers, Isaiah and Evan, and touted them as future NBA players. Evan, a freshman, stands at 7-foot-0 and is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points over the first three games. Isaiah, a sophomore, stands at 6-foot-10 and is No. 4 on the team in points, averaging 10.3 so far. Isaiah is also the team’s leading rebounder with 11.3 per game, and Evan is second with 9.0.
The team as a whole just doesn’t shoot much of the three-ball, only making seventeen through the team’s first three games — a per-game average that is tied for No. 195 throughout all of Division I. For comparison, UConn has made 15 through two games and is a very middle of the pack team when it comes to that department so far.
The Trojans live in the paint, so the onus will be on UConn’s bigs to shut them down. Hurley said they will need to have “all hands on deck,” and yes, he means everyone.
That includes senior Josh Carlton, who after being a regular starter through his first couple years at UConn, didn’t even see playing time in their last game vs. UHart.
“There were reasons for it, for where Josh was at in the rotation, coaches decision,” Hurley said. “Or just things that he needed to address to be what we need him to be as a senior with a ton of experience and a guy who should be invaluable to the team.”
Hurley said he’s going to need all his frontcourt players, also naming freshman Javonte Brown and redshirt freshman Richie Springs, both of whom also didn’t see playing time against UHart.
“All of our frontcourt guys have got to be ready, because they throw it inside, and those guys are a problem down there, cause they’re super skilled and know how to play against double teams … all hands on deck,” Hurley said.
One notable absence from that list though is Akok Akok, who is coming off a ruptured Achilles. Akok was cleared to practice earlier in the week, but Hurley said he is still probably a few weeks away from seeing game action.
This is a game that Hurley said he is really looking forward to, seeing as this is their first big opponent of the season.
“These are like high major games, and they’re exciting games to play cause you’re going to find a lot out about your team, and what’s the best course of action coming out of it,” Hurley said. “Unlike the first two games where you’re playing a load of mid-major types, you actually get a chance to go for what would be a really good win as opposed to avoid losing a game that would really blow up your season, especially if you aspire to be a team playing in March. It’s exciting to have a chance to not have to go after a win that you might have to apologize for if you don’t win by enough or play well enough.”
After they take on USC, they play NC State on Saturday. The Wolfpack are currently 2-0, and like UConn, haven’t faced a real high-quality opponent yet. They’re scheduled to play UMass Lowell in the game before UConn vs. USC on Thursday.
Tip-off for UConn’s game vs. USC is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, and the NC State game is scheduled for noon on Saturday. Thursday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN, while Saturday’s will be on ESPNU.