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UConn men heading in the right direction as they host Temple

Storrs — UConn took a much-needed turn down the road to respectability with a terrific all-around performance on Sunday.

Now the Huskies (6-9, 1-3) hope to continue to in that direction on Wednesday, hosting Temple (10-7, 1-3) in an American Athletic Conference game at Gampel Pavilion (9 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

It's a bit of a stunner that they will be attempting to win two straight for the first time in over a month, beating Boston University on Nov. 30 and Syracuse on Dec. 5.

Since that last mini-winning streak, they've lost five of seven. They're coming off of their most complete game this season in a 64-49 win over Central Florida.

They believe it's a sign of good things to come.

"What I like about our team is we didn't add a player and we got better from the Memphis game (last week) to the UCF game," coach Kevin Ollie said Tuesday after practice. "That's positive for us. We want to continue to get better.

"... Hopefully, we can continue to build on it and understand we don't have any time to waste and no games to waste, especially at home. These fans deserve it because they've endured some pain with us during this season. Hopefully, we can give this Gampel crowd something to really cheer about."

Gampel Pavilion is the site of two of UConn's most upsetting losses in recent memory, falling to Wagner and Northeastern in November. That was before the Huskies lost three players to season-ending injuries.

They're looking forward to playing at Gampel for only the second time since Nov. 14.

"It's always good to be back at Gampel," senior Kentan Facey said. "We come in with great energy. We hope we start to turn this thing around this year.

"I love the way we came out last game. Everyone came out with great energy. Defensively and offensively, everything just flowed because we were so locked in that game. I just hope we carry out that same energy into this game."

It's also been an interesting season for defending AAC champion Temple.

After losing lost three of their top four scorers from last season, the Owls are gradually growing into their new skin. They've experienced some highs — defeating two nationally-ranked teams in Florida State and West Virginia in consecutive games for the first time ever — and a few lows — losses to New Hampshire and UMass.

Temple has increased its offensive productivity this season, already scoring at least 80 points five times compared to just two all of last season. The Owls are powered by a balanced attack, as junior Obi Enechionyia (14.6), sophomore Shizz Alston, Jr. (12.6), senior Daniel Dingle (12.1) and freshman Quinton Rose (10.4) all average in double figures.

Ollie said Enechionyia is the key player for Temple.

"Obi can really shoot the ball," Facey said. "He's doing a lot of pick and pop stuff. So to cover him and take him out of the game is something that we really need to focus on."

The key for the Huskies is possess the same effort, energy and execution as they did against UCF. They did everything right, from controlling the boards, to firing up a fast break that produced double digit points (11) for only the fourth time this season, to converting a high percentage (47) from the field thanks in part to crisp ball movement, and cranking up the defensive pressure.

That complete performance will mean little if the Huskies lay a stink bomb Wednesday.

"Winning is always good," Ollie said. "I just like how our guys played. We're not really focusing on the wins and losses, we're really focusing on habits and trying to build them and become better and just stay connected.

"I think when we stayed connected offensively and defensively we give ourselves a chance to beat anybody in America. I really believe that. Hopefully, the guys believe that also."

g.keefe@theday.com

UCONN vs. TEMPLE

Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs

Tip: 9 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Records: UConn 6-9, 1-3; Temple 10-7, 1-3

Last game: UConn beat Central Florida, 64-49, Sunday; Temple defeated East Carolina, 81-62, Saturday

Probable starters: UConn, 6-3 so. guard Jalen Adams (15.5 pts, 5.8 assists), 6-4 r-sr. guard Rodney Purvis (13.1 pts, 4.8 rebs), 6-8 fr. forward Vance Jackson (7.4 pts, 3.2 rebs), 6-10 sr. forward Kentan Facey (6.5 pts, 6.9 rebs), 7-0 sr. center Amida Brimah (7 pts, 6.1 rebs, 3 blks)

Temple, 5-10 fr. guard Alani Moore II (8.4 pts), 6-4 so. guard Shizz Alston Jr. (12.6 pts, 4.3 assists), 6-7 r-sr. guard Daniel Dingle (12.1 pts, 4.2 rebs), 6-10 jr. forward Obi Enechionyia (14.6 pts, 6.8 rebs), 6-10 so. center Ernest Aflakpui (4.6 pts, 5.7 rebs)

Noteworthy: Huskies aiming to win two straight for first time in over a month. ... Owls, defending AAC regular season champs, dropped 3 of last 4 games. ... Series: Tied at 7-7, with Huskies losing four of last five. Last season UConn won 77-62 in AAC tourney semis, lost 63-58 in Philly and 55-53 in Hartford. ... First ever game for Owls at Gampel. ... Temple's AAC losses to Cincinnati, on road to UCF and SMU. Key non-conference wins vs. Florida St, West Virginia, St. Joseph. ... Top reserve: 6-8 fr. forward Quinton Rose (10.4 pts, 3.5 rebs), 3-time AAC rookie-of-week. ... Owls 10th in AAC in scoring defense (70.9) and rebound margin (-3.1).  ... Hot: Facey, Brimah averaging 8.0 and 8.3 rebs in last 4 games. Cold: Adams shooting 34 percent in AAC play. ... Huskies 1-2 at Gampel this season, 3-4 overall at home. ... UConn visits Georgetown Saturday in Washington, D.C.

— Gavin Keefe

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