Men’s Basketball: UConn looks for more positive outcome this time around against Arizona

 UConn men's basketball played against UMass Lowell Tuesday night in Gampel Pavilion. The team ended the game 9-75. Their next game is Sunday against Arizona in the XL Center (Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

UConn men’s basketball played against UMass Lowell Tuesday night in Gampel Pavilion. The team ended the game 9-75. Their next game is Sunday against Arizona in the XL Center (Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

Time and Place: 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2 at the XL Center in Hartford 

Where to Watch: ESPN2, 42.2 on the UConn TV listings  

Last Meeting: UConn lost 73-58 at the McKale Center in Tuscon, Arizona 

UConn’s Last Time Out: The Huskies cruised past UMass Lowell 97-75 behind strong halves from Christian Vital and Jalen Adams 

Arizona’s Last Time Out: The Wildcats lost to No. 10 Auburn 73-57 in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational 

Projected Starting Lineups: UConn (6-1) vs. Arizona (4-2) 

G: Jalen Adams vs. Justin Coleman 

Adams had a strong second half against UMass Lowell after a mediocre first half, totaling 19 points with five rebounds and three assists. Unsurprisingly, Adams leads the Huskies in points per game with 18.4 and continues to be a leader for the Huskies. Coleman is second in points per game with 13.3, but he’s a sharpshooter beyond the arc; he’s made 15 of his 30 3-point attempts. He’s far and away the best 3-point shooter Arizona has, and he may cause trouble for a UConn defense that struggles in defending the perimeter.  

G: Alterique Gilbert vs. Brandon Williams 

Gilbert continues to rack up solid game after solid game. He notched 15 points with four rebounds and six assists against UMass Lowell last Saturday. He’s dished out 30 assists on the year, which is about 4.29 assists per game, and that’s been a key factor in UConn’s ability to score down low. Arizona’s Williams also leads his team in assists with 25. He’s not the best shooter, with a 31.7 percent clip from the field, but he’s efficient at creating scoring opportunities for his teammates. 

G: Christian Vital vs. Brandon Randolph 

Vital’s offensive performance has improved over the last few games, and he exploded for 17 points in the first half against UMass Lowell; at one point, he sank three 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions. He still leads the team in rebounds by a wide margin at 5.4 rebounds per game, as well as being the team leader in steals at 14. His aggressive defense will be an asset against Arizona’s best scorer in Randolph. He averages 17.3 points per game on 53.3 percent shooting from the floor and he dropped 18 in their most recent contest against Auburn.  

C: Josh Carlton vs. Chase Jeter  

Carlton notched another double-digit game on Tuesday, scoring 15, and nearly had a double-double with eight rebounds. Carlton continues to improve when it comes to finishing at the rim, as evidenced by his 4-for-7 performance from the floor. Jeter, a Duke transfer, has been Arizona’s most efficient scorer by far, shooting at a 63.6 percent clip from the floor. At 6-foot-10, he won’t be overpowering the 6-foot-9 Carlton too much in height, but for someone who records 7.2 rebounds per game, Carlton will be challenged to not be pushed around down low. 

F: Tyler Polley vs. Ryan Luther 

Polley continues to get better with each game, and you don’t even need to look at the stat sheet to see it: He takes more shots with growing confidence. Polley scored nine points on 4-for-7 shooting and hit just one 3-pointer in Tuesday’s game, which was better than Luther’s performance against Auburn. Luther didn’t record a single point against Auburn, going 0-for-3 from the field.  

Talking Points 

It’s a rematch: This is the second of a two-year series that has each team visit the other’s arena. Cross-country home-and-home games are rare nowadays, with national programs tending to compete at neutral sites to bolster their resume come March. 

The history between the two teams is quite rich: In 2000-01, the Huskies beat Arizona in Storrs, and then a year later at the McKale Arena, UConn pulled out a 100-98 overtime victory. In 2011, the two teams met in the Elite Eight, with UConn emerging victorious after Arizona missed a few late 3-pointers.  

Welcome back, Sid: Redshirt freshman Sidney Wilson made his UConn debut in Tuesday’s game against UMass Lowell. While he didn’t play many minutes (five) and scored zero points (he missed a wide-open dunk after an offensive rebound), he did grab three boards. It was his first collegiate game, so there will be growing pains. But head coach Dan Hurley has been adamant about Wilson having to earn his spot, and with Polley performing so well, the standard is high. 

Sound Bytes 

Hurley on the team’s defensive effort on Tuesday: “We started fast defensively, we caused a lot of turnovers. But as soon as we lose that appropriate fear and respect for our opponent, we just start getting out of position a foot, two feet, our rotations, our close-outs get sloppy. We lose our integrity and we just become irresponsible. And that’s just a sign of a team that’s not used to winning, not knowing what this thing’s all about.” 

Christian Vital on keeping up intensity: “It’s still early in the season. It’s a whole new system, whole new style, so we’re still adjusting game-by-game, we’re still learning… We’re winning now, so we just need to keep it up, just keep doing our job out there on the court as a team. 

Josh Carlton on playing Arizona again: “I’m very excited. Last year’s game, it was a good game. It was a good atmosphere. I’m happy to have them back on our home turf here, so they get some of our atmosphere [with] UConn fans.”


Stephanie Sheehan is the managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.

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