GAME NOTES: The Big East Conference regular season comes to a close on Saturday, as the Connecticut Huskies host the Providence Friars in a key matchup at Gampel Pavilion.
Both teams are currently sitting with 9-8 league records. In the 13 seasons since the Big East went to an 18-game schedule, 94 percent of teams that won at least 10 conference games went on to make the NCAA Tournament field. Connecticut was an 82-79 road winner in overtime when these teams first met on Jan. 31. The Huskies lead the all-time series, 40-25.
Ever since that loss to UConn, Providence has reeled off seven wins in its last eight contests. Most recently, the Friars notched a 76-66 decision over Seton Hall on Tuesday night in their final regular-season home game.
UConn has spiraled in the opposite direction of late and enters this final game hoping to avoid a fourth straight loss. The Huskies were in action on Wednesday night, as they fell at South Florida in a 65-51 final.
The Friars committed only eight turnovers in their win over Seton Hall, and they also enjoyed a 14-7 advantage on the offensive glass. Starting forwards Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton were instrumental in the paint, as both recorded double-doubles. Batts tallied a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Henton finished with 15 points and 10 boards. Henton has really blossomed in his sophomore season, and his 11 double-doubles on the season ranks second in the stacked Big East. Bryce Cotton, who scored 15 points against Seton Hall, leads the conference in scoring with 20.0 ppg. Cotton is a 79-percent free-throw shooter and a 39 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Batts (15.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Henton (13.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Vincent Council (10.2 ppg) round out the team's double-digit scorers.
Leading the way for UConn is junior guard Shabazz Napier, a 41 percent shooter from the perimeter who averages 17.1 ppg. Ryan Boatright is next in line with 15.1 ppg, followed by DeAndre Daniels with 11.9 ppg and Omar Calhoun with 11.1 ppg. The Huskies are among the Big East's smaller teams as evidenced by their three-guard lineup and -3.6 rebounding margin. However, they do top the conference in free throw percentage (.748), an area that often dictates wins and losses this time of year. But in Tuesday's setback, they struggled mightily from the floor with a 35.1 percent effort, which included a 3-of-20 showing from 3-point range. Daniels posted 23 points and 10 rebounds, although Calhoun had a particularly rough outing as he made only 1-of-14 field goals. Playing against a USF squad that entered the game just 2-14 in league play, the Huskies simply did not appear to play with the necessary focus to win a Big East road game.
It is now-or-never time for both of these squads. Although Providence is playing better at the moment, the Huskies will be on their home floor, and the program certainly has a long track record of elevating its level of play come March.
Game Date and Time