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UConn men's basketball objective is to bounce back

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published December 22. 2013 4:00AM
Fred Beckham/ AP Photo
UConn's Omar Calhoun, right, fights Stanford's Anthony Brown for a loose ball during the teams' game Wednesday at the XL Center. Stanford won, meaning No. 10 UConn heads across the country to meet another Pac-12 team in Washington coming off its first loss of the season.

UConn is in unfamiliar territory today.

For the first time this season, the Huskies are entering a game coming off a loss. And they're playing their first road game, too.

No. 10 UConn (9-1) will attempt to bounce back from Wednesday's disappointing loss to Stanford and also try to score a resume-building victory when it visits Washington (6-4) at 3:30 p.m. today (ESPNU) at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle.

"We're going to learn a lot about ourselves and this team going on the road and playing at Washington in their house," junior DeAndre Daniels said following the Stanford game. "We've all got to bounce back and be together."

The Huskies will need to play significantly better, especially on offense, to accomplish their mission. They had their worst offensive game of the season against Stanford, finishing with season lows in points (51) and field goal percentage (.317), but still just lost by two points. They settled for jump shots against an active zone instead of attacking the basket and shot an icy 5-for-31 in the second half.

Coach Kevin Ollie stated in his postgame remarks that the Huskies didn't possess the toughness and togetherness to hold onto a 13-point lead in the second half, continuing a bad habit of failing to put teams away, leading to too many high-wire acts.

"Hopefully, we'll learn from this," Ollie said. "When we get up and have a team on the ropes that we keep them on the ropes."

It's a safe bet Ollie challenged his team during practice.

Ollie will find out how the Huskies respond to their first bout of adversity this season.

"When adversity hits, you find out who you really are," senior Shabazz Napier said. "But this team is resilient and we're going to come back. We understand we weren't going to go the whole season undefeated. We've got a good game against Washington on Sunday and we've got to be ready for that one.

"We can't be hanging our heads."

UConn has been very successful over the years against Pac-12 programs, winning 13 straight until losing to Stanford.

Washington poses a different challenge than Stanford. The West Coast Huskies are a perimeter-powered team, starting four guards. Senior C.J. Wilcox is the main offensive threat, averaging 20.9 points per game. He was limited to just five points on 2-for-12 shooting in last season's meeting in Hartford, which UConn won 61-53.

Like Stanford, Washington is defensively challenged, allowing opponents to shoot 49.3 percent and score 80.1 points per game. The West Coast Huskies have played better in recent weeks, winning four of their last five games.

Then again, crippled by poor ball movement and questionable shot selection, UConn fizzled offensively against Stanford. Those two issues are easier to correct than a shooting slump.

Starters Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun are both mired in prolonged funks, shooting 32.7 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in the last six games. There's pressure on them to produce because the Huskies are receiving little production from their big men.

Of course, there's no reason for UConn to panic after just one loss. But the Huskies want to avoid a losing streak as they start a difficult stretch that will take them on the road three out of the next four games.

"We've got to keep playing our game and go out and win," Daniels said.

g.keefe@theday.com

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