UConn singing the road blues as it visits Memphis

UConn could change its road trip travel routine.

Maybe alter its shoot-around time on game day.

Even try wearing its lucky socks.

One thing the Huskies can't do to try to break out of their road funk is change their roster. They are who they are.

And they'll have even more trouble breaking their winless streak Sunday at Memphis without leading scorer Jalen Adams, who's out for four to six weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee. The Huskies and Tigers tip at 2 p.m. in an American Athletic Conference game the FedExForum.

Before Adams was sidelined, sluggish starts contributed to UConn losing all five road games this season. The Huskies (13-10, 4-6) trailed at the break in four of those games.

Given their inexperience and general lack of toughness, it may be difficult for Huskies to top last season's road win total of two, the fewest since the 2001-02 season when they won one.

So what can UConn do to avoid slow starts?

"We're not a really good team," said coach Dan Hurley after falling behind by 26 by halftime and losing at Temple Wednesday. "If we were a really good team, we would get off to a better start. We're not a really good team.

"We've got some young guys. ... We're not a mature, well-balanced, or a really good basketball team."

There's a chance that UConn will welcome back guard Alterique Gilbert, whose missed the last three games with a left shoulder injury.

The absence of Adams, who averages 17 points, hurts the Huskies offensively and places more pressure on their defense to contain opponents. UConn's supporting cast also will have to help fill the void.

Memphis (13-10, 5-5) has had an up and down season under first-year coach Penny Hardaway, a former four-time NBA all-star looking to revive his alma mater's program. Since beating Central Florida by 20, the Tigers have lost three straight.

Hardaway is searching for solutions for his team's lack of toughness.

"Every other team is just tougher," Hardaway told the Memphis Commercial Appeal after Thursday's 69-64 loss to Cincinnati. "They impose their will on us. They're just tougher."

The Tigers own the highest scoring offense in the conference, averaging 82 points per game. But they're prone to defensive lapses, allowing a league worst 77 points.

Sound familiar?

That basically describes the Huskies, who are the second highest scoring team in the conference at 77.5 points and eighth in scoring defense at 71.0 points.

They're still searching for consistency on the defensive end.

"We're still trying to find that out," junior Christian Vital said. "Hopefully, we can before the season is over."

g.keefe@theday.com

UCONN at MEMPHIS

Location: FedExForum, Memphis

Tip: 2 p.m. (CBSSN)

Records: UConn 13-10, 4-6; Memphis 13-10, 5-5

Last game: UConn lost at Temple, 81-63, Wednesday; Memphis lost to Cincinnati, 69-64, Thursday

Probable starters: Memphis, 6-3 sr. guard Jeremiah Martin (16.7 pts, 4.3 assists, 4 rebs), 6-3 sr. guard Kareem Brewton (8.8 pts), 6-7 sr. forward Raynere Thornton (7.1 pts, 6.3 rebs), 6-8 sr. forward Kyvon Davenport (14.3 pts, 7.4 rebs), 6-9 sr. forward Mike Parks, Jr. (6.1 pts, 3 rebs)

UConn, 6-3 grad guard Tarin Smith (8.4 pts), 6-2 jr. guard Christian Vital (14 pts, 6 rebs), 6-7 r-fr. forward Sidney Wilson (3.7 pts, 2.4 rebs), 6-8 so. forward Tyler Polley (7.4 pts, 2.2 rebs), 6-10 so. forward Josh Carlton (8.6 pts, 5.9 rebs)

Noteworthy: Huskies 2-14 on road last two seasons, 0-5 this season. ... Tigers 11-2 at home. ... Memphis lost four of last five. ... Series: UConn leads series, 7-6, losing both meetings last season, 83-79 in Storrs, 73-49 at Memphis. ... Top reserve: 5-9 fr. guard Tyler Harris (12.1 pts). ... First-year coach Penny Hardaway a former NBA four-time all-star and ex-Memphis standout. ... Martin one of two players in AAC top 10 in pts, assists and steals. ... Tigers force 17.6 turnovers per game, ninth best in nation. ... Injury update: Jalen Adams (knee) out four to six weeks, Alterique Gilbert (left shoulder), probable. ... Tigers highest-scoring team in league, averaging 82.0 pts, UConn 2nd at 77.5. ... Memphis last in scoring defense at 77.0. ... Hot: In last five games, Vital averaging 17.6 pts, 7.8 rebs,  4.2 assists, 1.6 steals while shooting 54.5 percent, including 48.3 percent from three. Cold: Polley averaging 5.8 pts and shooting 32.8 percent in conference play. ... Carlton scored in double figures four of the last five games. ... Up next: UConn hosts Houston Thursday at XL Center in Hartford.

– Gavin Keefe

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