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The Huskies are looking to avoid a losing streak on the road against a tough opponent.
There are no free passes in Big East play and the No. 4 UConn Huskies are suddenly under pressure heading into Wednesday night at Providence.
The Huskies (14-1, 3-1 Big East) just lost their first game of the season and are looking to bounce back against a peaking Friars squad (12-3, 4-0), which has won seven straight. Tip-off is 8:30 p.m. (FS1) at the Amica Mutual Pavilion.
UConn’s 83-73 loss at No. 18 Xavier was the first time all season that head coach Dan Hurley’s squad has allowed an opponent to score more than 80 points.
“You prefer to learn from winning, but I think the further you get away from losing, you forget what it feels like,” Hurley said. “It’s a bad feeling.”
The defensive effort was particularly painful for the Huskies, who allowed Xavier to shoot 53.8 percent from the field. UConn also committed 21 fouls, leading to 23 Musketeer points from the free-throw line.
“There have been cracks from us with getting away from our identity and that begins on the defensive end of the court,” Hurley said. “That defensive performance on Saturday both in the game plan and execution were very poor.”
The Friars are executing at a high level after a slow start to the season and share first place in the conference with the Musketeers. Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins leads PC in scoring (15.7 ppg) and on the glass (9.5 rpg).
“He looks to me like a Player of the Year candidate,” Hurley said. “Just his blend of athleticism, strength, and fluidity - he pushes the ball off the defensive glass like Andre (Jackson) does for us.”
The Huskies have their own star in junior Adama Sanogo, who was the conference’s preseason player of the year. Sanogo is averaging 17.8 points and 6.7 rebounds, while sophomore Jordan Hawkins is averaging 14.6 ppg.
“We have to get back to our identity is the main thing, we didn’t do that last game,” Hawkins said. “Loses, you learn from them.”
UConn is a better passing and scoring team and a more efficient team overall, including on both ends of the floor. Providence has a slight rebounding edge and is a decent offensive team in its own right.
KenPom projects a 74-68 UConn victory.
Hurley said Samson Johnson (foot) has begun running on the court and “maybe next week moving into serious basketball activities.” … UConn holds a 45-30 edge in the series. … UConn closes out the week with preseason favorite Creighton at Gampel Pavilion. It’s a noon tip-off.