Wagner-UConn Preview

BY foxsports • November 13, 2011

Connecticut may be the reigning national champion, but coach Jim Calhoun doesn't agree with his team's current status among the elite.

The fourth-ranked Huskies look for an improved effort Monday night when they welcome upset-minded Wagner to Gampel Pavilion for the first time in nine years.

UConn (1-0) has won 12 games in a row, a stretch that includes Big East and NCAA tournament titles.

The Huskies kept that streak going in their season opener Friday, beating Columbia 70-57. However, Calhoun wasn't happy with the performance, which included just 17 points from the frontcourt starters and 20 offensive rebounds for the Lions.

Sophomore forward Tyler Olander had seven points, eight rebounds and four of the Huskies' 13 blocks, but junior center Alex Oriakhi scored two points on 1-of-6 shooting with five boards.

Highly touted 6-foot-11 freshman Andre Drummond had no points, four rebounds and three fouls in 12 minutes off the bench.

"We don't have anybody in the frontcourt that can play right now, or is ready to play right now, except for Tyler, who understands how to play basketball," Calhoun said.

"We are not the No. 4 team in the country at this point," he said. "Not even near it."

Another sluggish effort from the big men could mean an increasing reliance on sophomore guards Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. Lamb had a career-high 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting - 5 of 8 from 3-point range - against the Lions, while Napier had 21 points, eight assists and six boards.

"Guys like myself and Jeremy, we had to actually score a lot of points, but hopefully it's not going to be like that all the time," Napier said. "I told my guys, I don't like scoring a lot of points. I love passing the ball."

While UConn looks for some balance, it should benefit from playing at home against a non-conference foe. The Huskies have won 34 in a row when hosting teams from outside the Big East, outscoring them by an average of 19.9 points.

Connecticut has won all four meetings with Wagner (1-0), but hasn't faced the Seahawks since a 97-85 win at Gampel Pavilion on Dec. 7, 2002.

Wagner is looking to start 2-0 for the first time since 2005-06, and the Seahawks got their season off to an impressive start with Saturday's 73-57 win at Princeton. They forced the reigning Ivy League champion Tigers into 28 turnovers with 14 steals, and will now try to win consecutive road games for the first time since Feb. 26-28, 2009.

"We're a good road team because we bring our defense with us," second-year coach Dan Hurley said. "We've got a lot more depth this year, especially on the perimeter, well, all over the place. We can go 10 or 11 deep and we'll be able to wear teams down.

"We've got good players."

Tyler Murray led Wagner with 15 points and four assists Saturday, making 4 of 7 field goals while hitting both 3-point attempts. The senior guard led the Seahawks with 16.9 points per game last season, but he struggled in the only matchup against a ranked opponent. He was 1 of 8 from the floor and 0 of 4 from beyond the arc in an 86-51 loss to then-No. 25 Texas A&M on Dec. 21.

That was Wagner's first game against a Top-25 foe in five years.


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