UConn looks to rebound from alarming season-opening performance
Storrs — UConn has had a few days to let an alarming season-opening loss sink in.
The Huskies considered the disappointing result against Wagner Friday a learning experience.
After the game, they all accepted responsibility for the dreadful effort and vowed to improve.
Monday, they expect to play significantly better against Northeastern Gampel Pavilion (7 p.m., SNY). After starting out at No. 18, they'll likely fall out of the rankings when the new Associated Press Top 25 poll comes out prior to Monday's tip.
"I know everybody's got that chip on their shoulder now and they're just eager to prove that we're better than how we played," sophomore Jalen Adams said.
The young Huskies have no choice but to grow up fast or suffer the consequences like they did on Friday. This week, they'll embark on a demanding road trip that starts in Los Angeles against Loyola Marymount on Thursday and ends with three games at the Maui Invitational in Hawaii, which features an elite field, next week.
They badly need to win Monday to build some confidence and momentum. They'll try to avoid starting 0-2 for the first time since the 1968-69 season.
"We've got to play better and we've got to do it quickly," coach Kevin Ollie said after the Wagner loss. "We've got to get our heart in the right place where we're sharing the basketball and just really worrying about playing defense. ... And defense has to change to offense and we've got to make some more shots."
Against Wagner, UConn did very little of the above. The Huskies had only nine assists, suffered defensive breakdowns late in the shot clock and converted just 35.7 percent from the field.
Northeastern (1-0) is similar to UConn in that it has a decent number of newcomers, with three freshmen and two transfers. The NU Huskies relied heavily on the duo of senior guard T.J. Williams and forward Alex Murphy, a graduate student, in Friday's 87-77 win over Boston University.
Williams scored a career-high 30 points while Murphy, the son of former Boston College standout Jay Murphy, added 20 in his Northeastern debut. While at Florida, Murphy played against UConn, finishing with two points in 14 minutes in a 63-59 loss in Gainesville in January 2015.
Northeastern, which returns seven players from a team that went 18-15 last season, was picked to place seventh in the Colonial Athletic Association.
UConn has dominated the series, winning 35 of 39 meetings and not losing since 1985.
But anything is possible after UConn struggled in nearly every category, from rebounding to ball movement to defense, while losing its first season opener in 17 years.
The Huskies need more production out of their top four returning players — Adams, Rodney Purvis, Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah — who combined for just 18 points. Newcomers Terry Larrier (19 points) and Alterique Gilbert (14) carried the Huskies.
"I've got to get these guys ready to play better," Ollie said. "I take full responsibility and I will do that.
"We've all got to get better. I've got to get better as a coach. We've got to get better as a team. It's a long season. I'm not going to stop coaching and not going to stop pushing. And we'll get through this."
NORTHEASTERN AT NO. 18 UCONN
Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs
Tip: 7 p.m. (SNY)
Records: UConn 0-1, Northeastern 1-0
Last game: UConn lost to Wagner, 67-58, Friday; Northeastern beat Boston University, 87-77, Friday
Probable starters: UConn, 6-3 so. guard Jalen Adams (9 pts, 5 assists), 6-0 fr. guard Alterique Gilbert (14 pts), 6-4 r-sr. guard Rodney Purvis (5 pts), 6-8 r-so. forward Terry Larrier (19 pts, 7 rebs), 7-0 sr. center Amida Brimah (4 pts, 5 rebs)
Northeastern, 6-1 so. guard Donnell Greshman (12 pts), 6-3 sr. guard T.J. Williams (30 pts, 8 assists), 6-4 fr. guard Shawn Occeus (7 pts), 6-8 grad. forward Alex Murphy (20 pts, 4 rebs), 6-10 so. forward Jeremy Miller (6 pts, 7 rebs)
Noteworthy: UConn trying to avoid 0-2 start for first time since 1968-69. ... Series: UConn holds 35-4 lead, taking 22 of last 23 games including last meeting, 59-57, in 2010 in Storrs. Last NU win in 1985. ... NU returns seven players from 18-15 team, eight underclassmen on roster. Picked to finish 7th in Colonial Athletic Association. ... Williams and Murphy, who played at Duke and Florida before NU, combined for 50 points vs. BU. ... Top reserve: 6-5 fr. forward Max Boursiquot (6 pts, 2 rebs). ... NU shot 55.1 percent, hit 10 of 21 from 3-pt land in opener. ... With 14 pts, Gilbert first UConn freshmen to hit double digits in debut since Shabazz Napier (12) and Jeremy Lamb (11) reached that mark vs. Stony Brook in 2010. ... Hot: Huskies with a 3-pter in 246 straight games. Cold: Adams and Purvis a combined 6-for-22 from field vs. Wagner. ... Up next: UConn plays road opener Thursday vs. Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles.
Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.