Bridgeport, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - The 15th-ranked Connecticut Huskies will gear up for their American Athletic Conference opener after a duel with the Eastern Washington Eagles at Webster Bank Arena on Saturday.
A recent three-game losing streak has dropped the Eagles to an even 5-5 overall. The loss most fresh in their minds is a 92-70 setback against Seton Hall last Sunday. The defeat was the fourth in as many tries on the road for Eastern Washington, which starts its Big Sky Conference schedule next at Weber State.
UConn bounced back from its first loss of the season with an 82-70 win over Washington during a visit out to Seattle last Sunday. The Huskies are now 10-1 overall, including a 6-1 mark at home. However this contest is technically a neutral site game, though Webster Bank Arena is just over an hour away from UConn's main campus in Storrs. The Huskies will be in action again on Tuesday when they visit Houston for their conference opener.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
In their loss to Washington, the Eagles did knock in 10 shots from 3-point range, but that was part of just a 39.7 percent shooting effort overall. Meanwhile, the Huskies were allowed to knocked down 56.9 percent from the floor, while holding a 27-10 scoring advantage from the free-throw line.
Compared to the rest of the Big Sky, Eastern Washington is a formidable offensive squad, ranking first in scoring (76.7 ppg) and third in field goal percentage (.460). Tyler Harvey (19.3 ppg) is the most prolific scorer on the roster, having scored in double figures in every game this season. Harvey is reliant on his work from 3-point range mostly, where he has hit 47.4 percent of his attempts. Venky Jois (13.4 pg, 8.1 rpg) and Drew Brandon (11.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.8 apg) give the team solid scoring and rebounding work.
Playing on the road didn't seem to affect UConn negatively against Washington. The Huskies shot at a 51.6 percent clip from the field during the contest. They only assisted on seven field goals and managed just 29 rebounds, though they scored 23 points off of turnovers.
Where UConn is most dangerous is on defense. The Huskies are holding teams to just 63.9 points per game and the 18th-best opponent field goal percentage (.382) in the country. The defensive success has come despite a rather paltry performance on the boards (34.6 rpg). Shabazz Napier (15.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 5.5 apg) has been thrust into early talks for Player of the Year, with his exceptional ability to shoot, rebound and distribute. Ryan Boatright (11.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Omar Calhoun (8.2 ppg) supplement Napier's work in the backcourt. Meanwhile, DeAndre Daniels (13.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) adds some length to a team starving for post play.