Travel-weary UConn looks to rebound from brutal loss

Storrs — A travel-weary UConn men's basketball team went through a shortened practice on Tuesday.

The Huskies are still shaking off the fatigue from playing three games in four days and then making a cross-country, red eye flight home that arrived Monday morning.

There's no time for the Huskies to rest or dwell on a humbling 35-point loss to Arkansas on Sunday in the final game of the PK80 Invitational in Portland.

Next up is a non-conference game with Columbia (1-4) on Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion (7 p.m., SNY).

"Definitely tired," redshirt junior Terry Larrier said. "It was a long flight. But we've got to turn right back around and get ready for Columbia. I felt we had a good practice. Guys brought a lot of energy and were excited to come back out. And I think it's going to carry over to (Wednesday) and we'll have a good game."

Adding to the challenge is that the Huskies are banged up.

Redshirt freshman Alterique Gilbert (shoulder), a starting guard, and reserve forward Eric Cobb (high ankle sprain), who's missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain, were held out of practice Tuesday. They're both day-to-day.

Larrier, who sprained his ankle against Arkansas but practiced Tuesday, says he feels fine. The Huskies know all about dealing with adversity coming off an injury-plagued season. They're much healthier and deeper this year.

"Nothing like last year," coach Kevin Ollie said. "We're not going to put that in our mind. ... We're just going to keep playing hard and playing together. I've got to get better. Our coaching staff has got to get better and our team has got to get better, and that's every day we're going to have that evolution.

"We're going to continue to have trust in one another and believe in the system and go forward and not look backward."

The Huskies (4-2) had mixed results at the PK80 Invitational. They opened up by beating Oregon, played a competitive game with nationally-ranked Michigan State before fading about midway through the second half and then got blown out by Arkansas.

At times, they played with grit and energy, according to Ollie. There were also some brutal minutes, too, especially against Arkansas. They looked completely overmatched on both ends of the court on Sunday.

During the trip, they shot a combined 37 percent in the three games. Offensive production from the big men has been almost non-existent this season. Perimeter players have accounted for 87 percent of the team's shots and 63.1 of 70.3 points overall.

The Huskies are also committing far too many turnovers (76) compared to just 53 assists.

Wednesday's game is about re-establishing their identity, according to Ollie.

"It's not about wins or losses, it's about our identity," Ollie said. "Who are we? We've got to get back to that defensive mindset. We've got good shooters; We've got to take better shots. That shooting percent is not indicative of who we are."

The Huskies are shooting just 40.8 percent overall from the field and the Lions convert only 41.9 percent, so it could be an ugly offensive game.

One thing Columbia can do is light it up from 3-point range. The Lions average an Ivy League leading 10.4 per game and sink 36 percent from beyond the arc.

"They're going to test our 3-point defense with their motion and pick-and-roll motion," Ollie said. "We've got to make them shoot contested threes. The Arkansas game, we played bad defense, but, man, some of those guys were hot. I don't think they missed a shot and some of them were contested."

"So we want those guys to shoot contested shots."

More than anything, the Huskies are eager to wash out the bitter taste of Sunday's poor performance and snap a two-game losing skid.

"We've got to bounce back," redshirt freshman Mamadou Diarra said. "We're talking about how we're going to recover and how we're going to handle things from here on out because it's a long season ahead. We're going to have to grow from this experience and keep working." 

g.keefe@theday.com

UCONN vs. COLUMBIA

Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs

Tip: 7 p.m. (SNY)

Records: UConn 4-2, Columbia 1-4

Last game: UConn lost to Arkansas, 102-67, Sunday; Columbia lost to Colgate, 77-71, Saturday

Probable starters: UConn, 6-0 redshirt fr. guard Alterique Gilbert (9 pts, 2.8 assists), 6-3 jr. guard Jalen Adams (18.8 pts, 4.2 rebs), 6-8 redshirt jr. forward Terry Larrier (17.3 pts, 5.3 rebs), 6-8 fr. forward Tyler Polley (3.5 pts, 1.3 rebs), grad. forward David Onuorah (0.4 pts, 4 rebs)

Columbia, 5-11 so. guard Mike Smith (17.4 pts, 4.0 assists), 6-0 sr. guard Adlesh Quinton (11 pts 3 rebs), 6-4 sr. guard Nate Hickman (8.8 pts, 5 rebs), 6-8 jr. forward Lukas Meisner (11.2 pts, 6.8 rebs), 6-10 so. forward Patrick Tape (4.3 pts, 4.8 rebs)

Noteworthy: UConn dropped two straight, trying to bounce back from worst loss since 1977. Columbia lost three in a row. ... Series: Huskies up 8-2, winning last meeting 80-65 in 2014 in Bridgeport. ... Injury update: Game time decisions for Gilbert (shoulder), Eric Cobb (ankle). ... Lions picked to place fifth in Ivy League preseason poll. ... Stat to watch: 3-point shooting. Columbia tops in Ivy in made threes at 10.4 per game. Tied a school record with 16 vs. Longwood. ... Top reserve: 6-10 fr. Jaron Faulds (5.4 pts, 2.8 rebs). ... Common foe: Colgate. UConn won 70-58, Columbia lost 77-71. ... Hot: Antwoine Anderson 22-for-24 from foul line. Cold: UConn shooting 29 percent from three. ... Trending down: Assist to turnover ratio an ugly 53 to 76. ...  Trending up: Adams averaging 23.5 points in last two games. ... Up next: UConn hosts Monmouth Saturday (4 p.m.) at XL Center in Hartford.

— Gavin Keefe


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