Preview: Men’s basketball returns to action against Central Connecticut

The UConn Men’s basketball team practicing at First Night, showing off for the crowd as they start off the season. The team has a promising line-up this year, and this will be the first game for a number of rookies with high rankings. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom/The Daily Campus.

STORRS – Men’s basketball is back in action at Gampel Pavilion on Tuesday, and this time it counts. The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team will compete at home against Central Connecticut State University.  

In UConn’s previous matchup, the team blew out the Blue Devils in last year’s season opener, a 102-75 win for the Huskies. This year, while UConn is without star James Bouknight due to the guard’s departure to the NBA, the team retains its leaders in all of its statistical categories.  

Last season, Central Connecticut struggled, finishing with a 5-16 record under new head coach Patrick Sellers. The team will look to start fresh this year having gained more experience combined with the return of four of its top seven scorers from last season. Historically, the Blue Devils are 0-15 against the Huskies all-time and are looking to change that record on Tuesday.  

While this will be the first time seeing the Huskies’ impressive set of rookies, one important first-year will be on the sidelines Tuesday: Jordan Hawkins. Hawkins, who aggravated his ankle on Saturday, will have to put his Husky debut on hold before suiting up. The team will look for big minutes and a bigger impact from guard Rahsool Diggins, forward Richie Springs and rookie Samson Johnson. 

The team will also look for competitive minutes from forward Akok Akok. Akok, who is playing at peak keep for the first time in 18 months, will look to make a big impact after attempting to come back from an Achilles tendon injury in 2020. Akok was ranked No. 15 in the country in blocked shots per game and total blocks before his freshman season ended in 2020. The Huskies will be lucky to have his defensive presence in an intimidating frontcourt.  

The big storyline in this game is the return of fans back to Gampel Pavilion in a competitive atmosphere. Fifth-year player Tyler Polley certainly appreciates the return of fans in the stadium on Tuesday. “I miss that UConn crowd last year, man,” said Polley. “I’m really excited. It brings us a ton of energy. We’re going to try and feed off that.” Senior Tyrese Martin has high expectations for fans. “I’m expecting a packed house. Based on what I’m hearing, I’ve never played in front of the UConn fans. I’m excited to see everybody come and support us tomorrow night.”  

UConn is 88-30 in 118 season openers and are nearly undefeated at Gampel Pavilion for their season openers. The team will look to continue this remarkable track record during the matchup with Central Connecticut on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports.  

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