South Florida-UConn Preview
After a slow start in league play, Connecticut has taken advantage of a relatively weak stretch of schedule.
The 24th-ranked Huskies' conference slate gets much more difficult after they face South Florida at the XL Center in Hartford on Wednesday night.
UConn (18-5, 6-4 American Athletic Conference) has won four of five, with the victories coming by an average of 23.0 points. However, those wins were against Temple, Rutgers, Houston and UCF, who have a combined 37-54 record.
The loss in that stretch was 63-58 at then-No. 7 Cincinnati on Thursday.
After facing South Florida (12-12, 3-8), the Huskies will face four ranked opponents in their final seven contests - one more than they've played through their first 23 games.
Their latest lopsided victory was 75-55 at UCF on Sunday, with five UConn players scoring in double figures.
Lasan Kromah scored 17 for the Huskies and has totaled 30 in the last two contests. He's averaging 7.7 on the season.
"The second half we got a little sloppy and complacent, but we composed ourselves, so overall I was pleased," said coach Kevin Ollie, whose team outscored the Knights by just three in the second half after taking a 17-point lead into halftime.
UConn held a 42-31 edge on the boards after being outrebounded 32-29 by Cincinnati. While the Huskies endured another subpar long-range shooting performance, going 5 for 17 from 3-point range after a 5-for-21 effort against the Bearcats, leading scorer Shabazz Napier was much improved. He was 3 of 4 from beyond the arc after going 2 for 12 against Cincinnati.
Connecticut scored 19 points off 18 turnovers and recorded 10 steals for the second time in three games. Kromah had four steals, two of which led to fast-break buckets.
"We rebounded and got out on the fast break and Lasan was terrific," Ollie said. "I think he got four steals and made some amazing layups. Everybody was running, playing together and playing unselfish."
The Huskies hold a 10-2 series edge over South Florida, though the Bulls won 65-51 at home in the last meeting March 6, which Napier missed due to a foot injury.
The Bulls have lost all six games against ranked squads by an average of 19.0 points, going 12 of 65 (18.5 percent) from 3-point range in those contests.
South Florida is coming off a 79-69 home defeat to Rutgers on Saturday. Martino Brock scored a season-high 17 points for the third time in five games.
The Bulls grabbed a five-point lead early in the second half but allowed runs of 12-0 and 11-0 as Kadeem Jack finished with 31 points for the Scarlet Knights.
"We started the second half well, but we had too many lapses in the game," coach Stan Heath told the team's website.
South Florida has lost 16 of its last 17 road games against ranked teams.
The teams' last two meetings at Connecticut have been decided in overtime.