UConn's shooting touch as cold as the weather as it visits Tulsa

UConn coach Kevin Ollie, during the first half of Saturday's game against Witchita State, needs the Huskies to heat up in the shooting department to break a three-game losing streak. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo
UConn coach Kevin Ollie, during the first half of Saturday's game against Witchita State, needs the Huskies to heat up in the shooting department to break a three-game losing streak. (Jessica Hill/AP Photo

About the only thing as frigid as the weather is UConn's icy shooting percentage.

Consider these ugly, cover-your-eyes numbers:

The Huskies are converting an American Athletic Conference-worst 40 percent from the field and rank 10th in 3-point percentage at 30.2, which is on target to set the program record for lowest mark in a season, topping 31 percent in 2009-10.

Coach Kevin Ollie's faith hasn't wavered, believing that his Huskies (7-6, 0-1) will find their shooting touch.

The sooner, the better if they are going to stop their three-game losing streak and beat Tulsa (9-5, 2-0) in their AAC road opener Wednesday at Reynolds Center. Tip-off is 7 p.m.

"This is the guys that we've got," Ollie said after Saturday's loss to No. 8 Wichita State. "They're going to make shots eventually. They had some good looks. ... But, yeah, I've got to have confidence in our guys. We've got to get in the gym more. We've got to shoot. We've got to make the open ones. And we'll start knocking them down.

"I'm not going to lose faith. My coaching staff is not going to lose faith. My players are not going to lose faith. ... We're going to keep working with each other and we're going to keep focusing."

Ollie has no choice but to be optimistic. It's not like he can pick up players on a waiver wire.

With so many players struggling, especially in the low post where no big man averages more than 2.8 points, the Huskies have a limited amount of offensive options. That adds up to a very predictable and therefore easy to defend attack.

The bulk of the scoring burden falls on junior Jalen Adams, redshirt junior Terry Larrier and sophomore Christian Vital who combined for 53 of UConn's 62 points against Wichita State.

The trio is averaging 45.4 points and the rest of the Huskies only 18.4 points in the last five games during which they are 1-4. UConn is shooting a dreadful 38.4 percent and scoring 63.8 points during that span. Slumping guard Antwoine Anderson, who hit double figures in seven of the first eight games, is 5 for his last 24 from the field.

"We do know that Terry, Jalen and I, we are the three scorers on the team," Vital said. "But I believe my teammates are going to definitely be able to put more points on the board. Everyone else is basically new. And now with Alterique (Gilbert) going down, other people are going to have to step up.

"But my teammates are definitely going to put the ball in the basket. Josh (Carlton) missed some easy baskets, but he's going to make that as he starts to get more minutes and just feel out the game. Mamadou (Diarra) had a dunk and he's going to be able to finish down in the post more. So my teammates are definitely going to be able to finish more. I don't have any question about that at all."

With three of the next five games on the road, the Huskies will need all the help they can get. At least they're facing some beatable competition. All six of their losses this season came against teams in the RPI top 40.

UConn has never won at Tulsa, dropping all three games there. Last year, the Huskies lost in overtime 61-59.

Tulsa has an edge in experience, returning four starters including talented senior forward Junior Etou, who earned AAC player of the week honors. The Golden Hurricane has had a solid program under coach Frank Haith, who's posted 35 league wins since joining the AAC, the third most behind SMU (45) and Cincinnati (41).

The Golden Hurricane, picked to place eighth in the league, has surpassed preseason predictions in the three previous seasons.

The Huskies are not concerned about expectations. They're just trying to find their shooting touch and hopefully score a valuable road win.

"Definitely, I think we're going to be prepared," Vital said. "I don't think we're going to hang our heads on this (Wichita State) loss too much. We're going to play a good Tulsa team and we're going to have to win that game on the road."


UConn at Tulsa

Location: Reynolds Center, Tulsa, Okla.

Tip-off: 7 p.m. (ESPNews)

Records: UConn 7-6, 0-1; Tulsa 9-5, 2-0

Last game: UConn lost to Wichita State, 72-62, Saturday; Tulsa won at Tulane, 65-56, Sunday

Probable starters: UConn, 6-2 grad. guard Antwoine Anderson (7.8 pts), 6-3 jr. guard Jalen Adams (18.2 pts, 4.3 rebs, 3.7 assists), 6-8 redshirt jr. forward Terry Larrier (15.7 pts, 5.1 rebs), 6-8 fr. forward Isaiah Whaley (2 pts, 1.9 rebs), 6-9 grad. forward David Onuorah (0.8 pts, 2.8 rebs)

Tulsa, 6-1 jr. guard Sterling Taplin (11.9 pts, 3.9 assists), 6-4 sr. guard Corey Henderson, Jr., (7.4 pts), 6-5 so. guard Lawson Korita (2.9 pts), 6-8 so. forward Martins Igbanu (7.1 pts, 4.9 rebs), 6-8 r-sr. forward Junior Etou (17.9 pts, 6.9 rebs)

Noteworthy: AAC road opener for Huskies. ... Lost four of five overall. ... Series: UConn leads, 4-3, winning last meeting 75-73 in Storrs. Dropped all three games at Tulsa. ... Golden Hurricane one of three AAC teams off to a 2-0 league start. Picked eighth in league preseason poll. ... Top reserve: 6-4 r-so. guard Curran Scott (7.9 pts). ... Tulsa averaging 21 3-point shots per game. ... Etou, AAC player of the week, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds in last two games. .... Tulsa defense allowed 62.6 pts in last seven games. ... Magic number: Huskies 7-0 when scoring at least 70 pts. ... Hot: UConn first in FT percentage in AAC at 75.4. Cold: In last five games, Anderson 5-for-24 from field, including missing last 13 shots. ... UConn 0-2 on the road, Tulsa 6-1 at home ... Adams 2nd in AAC in scoring, first in minutes per game (37.6). ... Huskies last in scoring defense (73 points) and FG percentage (40.0) in AAC. ... Ollie used 11 different starting lineups. ... Up next: UConn hosts East Carolina Saturday in Hartford.

— Gavin Keefe


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