STORRS — University of Connecticut coach Dan Hurley is looking for his third straight win of the season against a University of Buffalo Bulls team that prides itself on playing some tough defense.
The team is looking to do so after a string of crucial injuries to guards Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins and forward Samson Johnson. All three players will most likely be out for this matchup, forcing guards Naheim Alleyne and Tristen Newton to step up in their absence.
Alleyne has prided himself on being a player that this team can count on to guard the opposing team’s best player. With a strong defender in Jackson out of the game, the former Virginia Tech guard is looking to be a crucial factor on the defensive end in this matchup.
“I always just gotta stay consistent with that on both ends of the floor. I take really good pride on defense. Coach always tries to emphasize, ‘Pressure the ball. Pressure the ball. Pressure the ball.’ I might get a little tired once in a while, but I can’t just let that affect me,” said Alleyne.
Taking a look at Buffalo, the team stands at 1-1, but an opening night win against Colgate shows that this is no team to mess around with. Coach Hurley is looking for the team to play some hard-nosed defense, especially on the dribble. The Bulls are led by Zid Powell, who leads the team with 16 points per game and four assists in 25 minutes of action. Along with Powell, the team will need to watch out for Curtis Jones, a dangerous two-way guard who averages 15 points per game and had three steals in the team’s loss to James Madison. Due to the Bulls pesky and fast defense that forces ball handlers to be constantly aware, they’ll have all the tools to give the Huskies some trouble in Tuesday’s matchup.
The team is also coming off a No. 25 selection in the AP Poll, the team’s first of the season. While Hurley likes the ranking, he’s also using it as motivation as the team gains momentum during the program’s non-conference schedule.
“We felt like we probably should have been in it in the preseason. We probably deserved to be in it in the preseason based on what he had in place. We want to win and try to climb,” said Hurley.
Alleyne responded to the recognition from the AP poll, saying that it may be a start, but the team is not at all satisfied with where they are right now.
“I feel like we’re a top 5 team. Everyone has their different opinions. We’re just going to keep on rolling and keep on doing our thing,” said Alleyne.
The list of season accolades does not stop there, either, as junior Adama Sanogo was selected as the Big East Player of the Week as he averaged 23 points and 10.5 rebounds. His teammate, freshman Alex Karaban, was given the Big East freshman player of the week award after averaging 11.5 points, 3.5 assists and three rebounds.
“They’re a great example for the rest of the program with the way they go about their business,” said Hurley. “Both got the award by playing the way we asked them to play.”
Could the team carry that momentum into tonight’s matchup? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain. Tuesday’s game should be a terrific test for Hurley’s squad as they look to test their offense against a quality defensive lineup.