The first 14 games of the UConn men’s basketball season fared better than many expected – an undefeated run in non-conference action including wins over high-quality Alabama and Iowa State squads. Their successes even trickled into Big East play, defeating Villanova at the XL Center on Dec. 28.
Since then, it’s all been downhill for the Huskies (16-6, 5-6 Big East). Losers of six of their last eight, Connecticut hasn’t been able to find its footing after three road losses to ranked Xavier, Providence and Marquette. This past Wednesday, UConn fell to the Musketeers at home in an 82-79 nailbiter.
From that game, there were plenty of highs and lows. The Huskies allowed Xavier to climb to a 17-point lead, all before leading a charge to bring the contest back within one. After the Musketeers extended their lead back out to 11, UConn battled back to get within one, ultimately falling short. At times, the team looked like one of the best in the country. Other times, not so much.
Over this span of hardship, the Huskies have shown their best and worst parts of their game. On the road at Seton Hall, signs pointed to UConn finding their groove again, only to give up their 17-point lead in the second half. The ball was moving well against Butler, but the next contest with Xavier started out as cold as could be.
Huskies head coach Dan Hurley has taken things in stride, acknowledging his team’s performance while positive the setbacks will make Connecticut more battle-tested for the Big East and NCAA Tournaments in March. At this stage, the once-dominant squad just needs to find their consistency, which is easier said than done. This matchup with DePaul provides them with another opportunity to pick up a hard-to-come-by Big East road win.
The Blue Demons (9-13, 3-8 Big East) have had quite an interesting season to say the least. Ranked No. 136 in the nation in the KenPom ratings, Tony Stubblefield’s squad has mainly underwhelmed in a solid year for the conference overall.
DePaul recently was a topic of discussion after toppling Xavier, previously undefeated in Big East action, at home. They followed that incredible performance up with road losses to Providence and bottom-feeder Georgetown. The Blue Demons are losers of three straight and are looking to snap that streak at home, where all three of their conference victories have come this year.
Leading DePaul this season is graduate transfer Umoja Gibson. Previously playing at Oklahoma, the guard averages 16.2 points, 4.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. In the team’s recent loss to Marquette, Gibson enjoyed a 25-point performance on 8-for-12 shooting, including 5-for-7 beyond the arc. He will certainly look to continue his scoring success, while the Huskies hope to contain their top defensive target.
Since the losses of both RJ Cole and Tyrese Martin to the professional ranks this offseason, it seemed as though UConn was missing a true scoring point guard to lead this offense. As of late, transfer student Tristen Newton has filled that role for the Huskies.
The guard finished the Xavier game with 23 points on 6-for-12 shooting, attacking the rim and getting his team some much needed points. Postgame, he said his mentality has changed over the course of the season and that he’s instilled more confidence in himself. He’ll look to build upon his recent stretch of games on Tuesday night.
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. The game will be broadcast live on FS1 with stats provided by StatBroadcast.