Huskies Hit The Road

Before Connecticut snapped its four-game losing streak with a 69-46 victory over Seton Hall Saturday, associate head coach George Blaney talked about the grind of playing in the Big East Conference and how difficult it can be to break out of a losing "cycle."

So, did the Huskies break out of their losing cycle by beating the Pirates at the XL Center? Can one win do that?

"It gets you out, for sure," Blaney said. "If we didn't have Louisville staring us in the face on Monday, I'd say it would be a little bit easier to get out. Louisville – at Louisville – will be everything we can handle."

The Huskies, who practiced in Storrs Sunday morning and then traveled to Louisville, will have to work hard to avoid another down cycle. They will need to extend the "All In" mentality that was the result of Friday's practice in Storrs. First the Huskies learned they would be without coach Jim Calhoun, who is taking a medical leave of absence, for at least two games. Then there was a players only meeting when Alex Oriakhi stood up and set the tone by talking about the disappointment of his freshman season when the Huskies didn't make the NCAA Tournament.

Oriakhi's teammates took it to heart. The smiles returned to the faces of the Huskies against Seton Hall.

Now the Huskies face a schedule with two road games this week – in two of the toughest places to play in the Big East.

At Louisville Monday.

At Syracuse Saturday.

That new starting lineup Blaney used against Seton Hall was an effort to inject a little energy and life into the Huskies. He turned to the three-guard lineup, starting Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier along with Jeremy Lamb. And Tyler Olander replaced Oriakhi.

But beyond that, Blaney was looking ahead to the two games this week. The Huskies will be seeing a lot of zone defense from Louisville and Syracuse. And UConn's offense often becomes stagnant against zones. "You certainly need ball movement," Blaney said. "Tyler was our best frontcourt passer. When you do move the ball on the top and get the ball changed from one side of the court to the other, that's when you can penetrate zones. Both Ryan and Shabbazz did a terrific job of that. "The ball got moved much better. I'm still not particularly pleased with the 43 percent [shooting] but I certainly will take it over what we've been doing."

GAME CAPSULE

UConn (15-7, 5-5 Big East) at Louisville (18-5, 6-4)

Date: Feb. 6, 2012

Time: 7 p.m.

Site: KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, Ky.

TV: ESPN (Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery, Jay Bilas)

Radio: UConn Radio Network/WTIC-AM 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)

Series: Tied, 6-6

Notes: Louisville holds a 6-5 edge since joining the Big East in 2005-06. The Cardinals won both regular season meetings but fell to UConn 69-66 in the Big East tournament Championship game last year. . . .UConn is 2-3 in Louisville and has lost its last three there. The Huskies are 0-1 in the Yum! Center.

Last meeting: UConn 69, Louisville 66 (March 12, 2011)

Kemba Walker scored 19 points and Jeremy Lamb added 13 as UConn took the Big East tournament championship game in New York. That snapped a four-game losing streak to the Cardinals and capped UConn's amazing run at the Big East tournament on the way to the national title.

LOUISVILLE PROBABLE STARTERS

G 3 Peyton Siva Jr. 6-0 180 8.5 ppg

G 5 Chris Smith Sr. 6-2 195 10.2 ppg

C 10 Gorgui Dieng So. 6-11 235 10.2 ppg

F 24 Chane Behanan Fr. 6-6 250 9.7 ppg

F 14 Kyle Kuric Sr. 6-4 195 13.2 ppg

UCONN PROBABLE STARTERS

G 13 Shabazz Napier So. 6-1 171 13.3 ppg

G 3 Jeremy Lamb So. 6-5 180 17.6 ppg

G 11 Ryan Boatright Fr. 6-0 160 9.8 ppg

C 12 Andre Drummond Fr. 6-10 270 10.2 ppg

F 10 Tyler Olander So. 6-9 225 5.5 ppg

NOTABLE

LOUISVILLE ZONE: The Cardinals give UConn fits with their zone defenses. Louisville coach Rick Pitino will change defenses often, switching from zone pressure to a matchup zone that switches to man-to-man off certain cues. It can be confusing. "Louisville, to me, always presents much more of a problem at home, in that pressure works better at home than on the road," Blaney said. "We're going to have to absorb pressure and not allow people to come up behind us and snap the ball out of our hands." Louisville averages 9.5 steals (second in the Big East and sixth

DEALING WITH INJURIES: Eight Louisville players have missed games this season with injuries. Kyle Kuric was the most recent, missing two games with a sprained left ankle before returning Jan. 21 against Pitt. "He's done a great job," Blaney said of Pitino. "He's had a lot of injuries. I've known Rick most of his life and I know he'll have his kids ready. His teams play hard all the time."

DIENG IMPROVED: Louisville center Gorgui Dieng is averaging 10.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and is sixth in the nation in blocked shots (3.5 per game). Blaney calls the sophomore from Senegal perhaps "the most improved player in the league." He has 10 double-doubles this season but his status for the game won't be determined until Monday. Dieng sprained his right ankle early in the second half of Saturday's 78-66 win over Rutgers. That was Louisville's fourth straight win.

TOP QUOTE: "I called it dead face the last couple of games. We didn't have any dead faces [against Seton Hall], not even on the bench." – Blaney on UConn's increased energy against Seton Hall Saturday.


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