E. Washington-UConn Preview
Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie believes his team showed its toughness by getting back on track with a difficult road win.
Now he's hoping the Huskies continue to make strides offensively with one last chance to do some fine-tuning before the start of their inaugural American Athletic Conference slate.
In the program's first home game away from Storrs or Hartford since 1987, No. 15 UConn takes on Eastern Washington on Saturday at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.
The Huskies (10-1) will try to get off to a strong start after they seemed to move past their recent shooting woes in an 82-70 victory at Washington on Sunday.
UConn had missed 26 of 31 from the field - including all 12 3-point attempts - in the second half of a 53-51 loss to Stanford on Dec. 18 that snapped a 54-game, non-conference home win streak.
The slump appeared to carry over to Sunday when the Huskies missed their first six shots from behind the arc and fell behind by 14 points in the first half.
"We were like, 'Man, if we don't step it up right now we're fixing to lose this game,'" said Ryan Boatright, who had 16 points after scoring a season-low seven against Stanford. "And everybody dug down deep and we crawled back in it."
UConn answered with a 15-2 run, including a stretch of 10 straight points, before outscoring the hosts 39-31 in the second half to win its first true road test. The Huskies finished at 54.9 percent from the field after shooting a season-worst 31.7 percent against the Cardinal.
"That's what our team is built on, the composure we showed, but then the toughness," Ollie said of his team's bounce-back performance. "That's what I want our UConn team to be about, toughness."
Star guard Shabazz Napier led the way by scoring 15 of his 20 points in the second half. He had finished with 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting - including three misses in the final 40 seconds - against the Cardinal.
The Huskies shot 46.5 percent from 3-point range over their first nine games, but have made 10 of 34 in the past two. They set season lows in 3-point field goals and attempts by going 4 for 12 against Washington.
"We stopped settling for 3s," Ollie said. "When we played against Stanford, we settled for those shots."
The Huskies will try to keep attacking the basket in their first home game away from Storrs or Hartford since taking on Syracuse at the New Haven Coliseum almost 27 years ago. After taking on the Eagles (5-5), they'll open play in the AAC at Houston on New Year's Eve.
"They are an athletic team - they play with a lot of pressure and play above the rim," Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford told the team's official website. "Stanford did a good job of making Connecticut miss, for whatever reason. But they can shoot the ball a lot better."
Hayford's team has dropped three straight after allowing Seton Hall to shoot 56.9 percent in Sunday's 92-70 loss in Newark. The Eagles have given up an average of 89.5 points while losing their first four road games.
Tyler Harvey leads the Eagles with 19.3 points per game, hitting 37 for 78 (47.4 percent) from 3-point range.
While the teams have never met, Eastern Washington has lost 14 straight to ranked opponents by an average of 20.7 points.