A Look At Connecticut

The Sports Xchange takes at look at the Connecticut men's basketball team.

GETTING INSIDE It is a measure of how seriously they take college basketball in Connecticut that the poll on the Hartford Courant Web site following Saturday's game at Georgetown was "Will UConn Beat a Heavyweight?''

The Huskies entered the weekend as the No. 13 team in the country, with an 11-3 record. But the loss to the Hoyas left the team winless in three games against Top 25 opponents. And the way the Georgetown game transpired made people forget about last year's Final Four squad and remember other squads that never found that extra gear and bowed out early in the postseason.

UConn led by 15 at halftime, and 17 early in the second half, but then seemed to be standing still while the Hoyas found their stride and raced to victory. One factor: the Huskies' inability to find and exploit the mismatches.

It was hard to ignore that while Georgetown was finding Austin Freeman at every opportunity, going to the hot hand to the tune of 28 second-half points, Connecticut seemed to forget about Stanley Robinson. The senior had 16 points, but just four after intermission. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel had 10 points in the first half, one in the second.

The Huskies broke down in the second half, couldn't figure out a way to stop Freeman and were miserable at the free throw line. But at his postgame press conference, Jim Calhoun cited his disappointment at the offense in the second half.

Georgetown was able to find its key players, Connecticut could not, and for the Huskies to break through against a Top 25 team that's going to have to change.

NOTES, QUOTES --Saturday's 72-69 loss to Georgetown's marked UConn's fourth in a row to the Hoyas.

--F Ater Majok continues to have difficulty getting his feet under him in Big East play. Facing a very strong Georgetown front line over the weekend, he played just eight minutes and missed the only shot he took.

ON THE SPOT: In both of their Big East losses, to Cincinnati and Georgetown, the Huskies have been poor at the free throw line. They went 17 of 26 in the loss to the Bearcats in the conference opener, and made just 9 of 17 in last weekend's defeat at Georgetown. An average performance at the line in either game could have made the difference, and it's something the team will continue to work on.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not running plays off screens, and the bigs aren't setting screens, so it falls on the whole team.'' -- Connecticut guard Jerome Dyson, in the Hartford Courant, on the Huskies' offensive struggles.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL SEASON RECAP: Connecticut continues to beat the teams it is supposed to beat and lose to everyone else. It has looked good against Notre Dame and Seton Hall, both of whom have played well in the early season, but faltered on the road against Cincinnati and Georgetown. That puts the team in the middle of the pack in the Big East through four games, which is about where it deserves to be based on its play thus far.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Stanley Robinson, F Ater Majok, F Alex Oriakhi, G Jerome Dyson, G Kemba Walker. Key Subs -- F Gavin Edwards, F Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, G Donnell Beverley, C Charles Okwandu, G Darius Smith, G Jamaal Trice.

GAME REVIEW: Connecticut 72, Notre Dame 60 Connecticut 71, Seton Hall 63 Georgetown 72, Connecticut 69

GAME PREVIEW: vs. Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Jan. 13 at Michigan, Sunday, Jan. 17 vs. St. John's, Wednesday, Jan. 20 vs. Texas, Saturday, Jan. 23 at Providence, Wednesday, Jan. 27

IN FOCUS: On paper, the Huskies should knock off the Panthers at home, but Pitt coach Jamie Dixon's teams almost always play better when they're able to fly under the national radar. The Pitt backcourt should give the UConn guards problems with its multiple ball-handlers and strong shooters, led by Ashton Gibbs. Connecticut will have more size inside and should do well on the boards.

ROSTER REPORT: --The Huskies got a verbal commitment from 6-8 wing Roscoe Smith, playing his senior year at Oak Hill Academy. Rivals.com rates Smith the 31st-best player in class of 2010.

--F Jamal Coombs-McDaniel took advantage of the extra playing time generated by Jerome Dyson's first-half foul trouble against Georgetown, scoring 11 points. Fifteen of his 19 minutes, and 10 of those 11 points, came before intermission.

--F Alex Oriakhi continues to play well in the paint as a freshman. He had his first career double-double against Greg Monroe and the Hoyas, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Panther More Top Stories