After a heartbreaking loss to Creighton, the UConn men’s basketball team has a chance to pick up their first conference win since returning to the Big East this season when they host the DePaul Blue Demons on Wednesday.
UConn fell 76-74 in overtime to Creighton on the backs of two crucial missed free throws by R.J. Cole at the end of regulation which opened the door for a Bluejay comeback, and shooting 7-30 from three throughout the game. Five of those threes came from sophomore star James Bouknight, who dropped 40 points in his Big East debut — something that (obviously) caught the eye of DePaul head coach Dave Leitao.
“With James Bouknight playing his first Big East game and having 40 points kinda gets my attention,” Leitao said. “Remember going all the way back to high school, the kind of talent that he displayed then, looks like he’s well on his way to becoming another in a long line of really great players that Connecticut has had.”
This is somewhat of a homecoming for Leitao, who spent nearly a decade and a half in Storrs over two stints with UConn as an assistant coach under Jim Calhoun.
“Over 37 years, a lot of time has been spent in Storrs, and a lot of relationships are ongoing, so it means a lot, from a historical standpoint, and I’ll always cherish that,” Leitao said. “It’s where I grew up as a man and it’s where I grew up as a coach, so like I said it means a lot, but at the same point in time, as the ball gets thrown up, none of that really matters, only thing that matters is both Danny [Hurley] and I are gonna try to win the game.”
Leitao and the Blue Demons also lost a heartbreaker in their Big East opener this season, falling to the Providence Friars 95-90 in double overtime — a game where they too found themselves up in the final seconds before having the game get sent to OT.
Senior point guard Charlie Moore scored 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting in that game with eight assists, five rebounds and six turnovers in a team-high 46 minutes.
“Charlie Moore, it all starts with him, tremendous point guard, he generates a lot of offense, he generates a lot of pace in terms of getting the ball down court quickly on makes, on misses,” Hurley said. “They’re a very, very quick team, just like a quick, aggressive type of team.”
It wasn’t Moore though who led the team in scoring against Providence, it was sophomore forward Romeo Weems, who had 21 points on 8-10 shooting, including 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.
“Obviously Weems is a hard matchup at the four, with his shooting and ability to drive his right hand,” Hurley said.
The Huskies were without their own stretch-four last game, as Tyler Polley had not yet been cleared from COVID-19 protocol, but he’s set to return on Wednesday.
“When you’re coming out of our last one and you’re literally just [needing] as it turns out one more point, and you have a game where you’ve got so many 1-for-8, 1-for-6, just so many guys that struggled offensively, he’s a very important guy,” Hurley said. “I think that the time off has been hopefully a good reset for him. He gives us some flexibility as a bigger guard, as a small-ball four-man, a stretch-four that can open up the court for James in particular. It’s very important that we get some offense around James, cause I’d imagine people are gonna be really creative with the way that they guard him.”
Finding other scorers around Bouknight is crucial; he’s not going to be scoring 40 points a night. If UConn is to find any semblance of sustained success this season, someone else is going to have to step up and be that secondary scorer.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m., and you can find the game on CBS Sports Network.