Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for UConn?
Even after posting up their strongest win of the season against North Florida, it’s still hard to trust UCONN basketball.
After such a disastrous start to the year, the Huskies are slowly clawing back to relevancy. Wins against North Florida, Syracuse, and Boston University, surrounding a loss to Ohio State, have evened their record at 5-5, as their play has finally begun to steady.
Sophomore guard Jalen Adams has carried a strong load so far this season, doing everything that has been expected of him. He has carried the leadership torch and has pushed it even further, running the offense, averaging 17.4 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. In a season of question marks and dark spots, Adams has been a consistent shining star.
The biggest improvement has been the gradual transition to an occasional zone defense. In a very un-Kevin Ollie-esque move, UCONN has transitioned to a previously unheard of defense, and it has worked well. While they did give up 98 points in a slugfest against offensive juggernaut Oklahoma State earlier in the year, they haven’t given up more than 65 points in a single game since a matchup against high-powered Oregon. The continuous development of the defense into elite level will help the Huskies stay in games throughout the season.
Despite the positives, there are still reasons to be pessimistic about their chances later in the season. For one, their recent victories have been against middling teams. Season ending injuries to guards Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier have decimated the backcourt, and the added loss of forward Mamadou Diarra hasn’t help, and they have all severely dampened the team’s peak.
While the team’s defense has clamped down as of late, there needs to be a dependable second scoring option behind Adams. He has shouldered the load considerably, and he suits the role of a facilitator better as well. Purvis has been too inconsistent to be relied upon, and no one else has stepped up enough or on a consistent basis to pick up the slack.
Moving forward, the Huskies obviously need something else to kick in. The key very well may be freshman Juwan Durham. Coming off of an ACL tear last year, Durham has been eased into action this year, but he has shown in flashes, the immense scoring potential that made him such a highly sought after recruit before his injury. As his workload increases, it’s possible he can be the one to step up and play second fiddle to Adams.
UCONN needs to continue to develop and find itself before the season is lost, and the greatest area for improvement would be scoring behind Adams. Durham’s continued development will be imperative for the Huskies. Their schedule is starting to heat up as games become more important, but there are signs of promise moving forward.
The Huskies continue their pursuit of another NCAA title when they take on Auburn at home on Friday.