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    UConn Men's Basketball
    Monday, January 30, 2023

    UConn men embark on important four-game road trip

    UConn coach Kevin Ollie reacts in the second half of Monday's game against Northeastern at Storrs. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    Their long road trip will cover over 10,000 miles, include four games and feature stops in Los Angeles and Maui.

    By the time the UConn Huskies return home late next week, they will know a lot more about the state of their basketball team.

    They're struggling badly in nearly every area entering Thursday's non-conference game against Loyola Marymount University (1-1) at Gersten Pavilion in Los Angeles. Game time is 10 p.m.

    Next week, they'll play three games in the Maui Invitational, starting off by facing Oklahoma State on Monday.

    "We've got to figure it out," coach Kevin Ollie said after Monday's loss to Northeastern that dropped his team's record to 0-2, the program's worst start in 48 years. "We've got to stay together. We go to LA and hopefully we can get a win there and then just have a successful trip to Hawaii."

    There's so much on UConn's to-do list.

    The Huskies have to figure out how to rebound better after losing the battle of the boards in the first two games to a pair of mid-major teams by an average of 6.5 per game. They have to figure out how to ignite an offense that's averaging just 59.5 points and shooting 37.5 percent from the field. They have to figure how to prevent defensive breakdowns late in games.

    And they have to figure out how to get off to fast starts so they're not always fighting from behind. They've led only for five minutes and five seconds this season and twice trailed by double digits in the first half.

    "My coaching staff, we're going to do what we have to do," Ollie said. "Our players are going to stay strong. Everybody has just got to look in the mirror and just come with a way that we can all stick together and find a way to get out of this dark place we're in right now."

    Perhaps the road trip will serve as a valuable bonding experience and help the Huskies develop some on-the-court chemistry that is badly needed. They held practice on Wednesday at the Los Angeles Clippers practice facility.

    UConn is opening the road trip with a Loyola Marymount team picked to finish sixth in the West Coast Conference preseason poll. The Lions haven't had a winning season in the last four years. They showed signs of progress last season, going 14-16 overall.

    In a win over Vanguard University and loss at Nevada, LMU relied on balanced scoring, with senior guard Buay Tuach (15.5) the only player averaging in double figures. The Lions have scored half of their points inside the paint this season.

    Ollie is far more worried about his offensive production than his defense, which has forced foes to shoot 37 percent from the field.

    Outside of newcomer Terry Larrier, who's averaging a team-best 18 points per game, the Huskies have yet to find any reliable weapons. They lack confidence, take too many bad shots and miss the strong inside presence that Shonn Miller provided last season. They've been brutal running half-court offense.

    Only three players – Larrier (46.4), Alterique Gilbert (44.4) and Amida Brimah (50.0) — are shooting better than 40 percent.

    "We've just got to be more aggressive," Ollie said. "Every shot is like the end of the world. We just have to be loose, just play and have fun. We're not doing that right now. These guys are better shooters than this. They're in the gym all the time. We've got to figure it out and we're going to stay on them as a coaching staff.

    "We're not going to waiver with our goals and our dreams. We're not going to let these problems stop us from that."

    Something has to change and change in a hurry for UConn to stop its free fall. It hasn't helped that the Huskies have been shorthanded, with freshmen Mamadou Diarra (sore knees) and Christian Vital (back spasms) dealing with injuries.

    "We're going to dig deep and we're going to find it," Ollie said. "I'm not giving up on this season. A lot of people probably already gave up on us. But we're not going to give up on it. We're going to have brighter days out of this. I truly believe that."

    g.keefe@theday.com

    UCONN at LOYOLA MARYMOUNT

    Location: Gersten Pavilion, Los Angeles

    Tip-off: 10 p.m. (SNY)

    Records: UConn 0-2, Loyola Marymount 1-1

    Last game: UConn lost to Northeastern, 64-61, Monday; Loyola Marymount lost at Nevada, 79-64, Monday

    Probable starters: UConn, 6-3 so. guard Jalen Adams (12 pts, 3.5 assists), 6-0 fr. guard Alterique Gilbert (10.5 pts), 6-4 r-sr. guard Rodney Purvis (6 pts),r-so. forward Terry Larrier (18 pts, 5.5 rebs), 7-0 sr. center Amida Brimah (4.5 pts, 6 rebs, 4.5 blks)

    Loyola Marymount, 5-11 sr. guard Brandon Brown (9.5 pts, 5 assists), 6-6 sr. guard Buay Tuach (15.5 pts, 3.5 rebs), 6-6 jr. forward  Steven Haney (8.5 pts), 6-7 sr. forward Shamar Johnson (8 pts, 3 rebs), 6-11 sr. center Stefan Jovanovic (7.5 pts, 6 rebs)

    Noteworthy: First of four straight road games. ... UConn off to worst start since 1968-69 season. ... First meeting between two programs. ... Member of West Coast Conference. ... Return seven players from team that went 14-16 overall. ... LMU's win came vs. Vanguard University (99-51). ...Averaging 81.5 pts and allowing 65.0 ... Balanced attack: Nine players score 6 pts or more. ... Top reserve: 6-4 sr. guard Kelvin Amayo (8.5 pts, 4.5 rebs). ... Inside job: Lions scored 82 points in the paint so far. ... UConn connections: LMU's Mike Dunlap was Kemba Walker's Charlotte Hornets coach for 2012-13 season. Asst. AD of sports performance Patrick Dixon a 2002 UConn graduate, spent two seasons as undergraduate asst. in Storrs. ... Haney a Central Florida transfer. ... Hot: Huskies with 14 blocks. Cold: Huskies averaging 59.5 points per game, lowest output thru 2 games since 1950-51 season. ... Out-rebounded by average of 6.5. ... UConn 21-20 in true road games under Ollie. ... Up next: UConn plays Oklahoma State in Maui Invitational opener on Monday.

    — Gavin Keefe

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