MEN’S BASKETBALL GAMEDAY
No. 19 AUBURN vs. No. 22 UCONN
When: Wednesday, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas
Records: Auburn 3-0, UConn 4-0
Radio: UConn Sports Network, 97.9 FMESPN Hartford, Sirius-137, XM-206, SXM App-965, WAVZ-New Haven (1300 AM), WGCH- Greenwich (1490 AM), WATRWaterbury (1320 AM), WILI-Willimantic (WILI 1400 AM)
KEEP AN EYE ON
Heir Jordan? Freshman Jordan Hawkins was officially unveiled in UConn’s Nov. 17 win over LIU, entering the game midway through the second half and finishing with five points, four rebounds and three steals in eight active minutes. He got more crucial minutes in Saturday’s win over Binghamton, scoring 11 points in 13 minutes and leaving Dan Hurley wishing he had played him more.
Is Hawkins ready to step up against the vastly superior competition of Auburn? That remains to be seen. But without question, his athleticism, skill and, most importantly, 3-point shooting could be a huge key for the Huskies on Wednesday. R.J. Cole and Tyler Polley haven’t shot well from distance so far, and if that continues, Hawkins could be a needed weapon off the bench to help spread out the opposing defense and give Adama Sanogo and the frontcourt more room to operate. Defense can’t rest: Hurley was happy with his team’s defensive play the first three games, but not so much in Saturday’s 87-63 win over Binghamton in which the Bearcats shot 47 percent from the floor in the second half.
“It was a debacle on Saturday,” Hurley said. “I’ve been on-edge the past couple of days with the team because I didn’t like what I saw on Saturday. I’ve been on everybody pretty hard the last couple of days about getting that thing fixed, being in the right spots. There’s a style of defense you can afford to play in a buy game against a low-major that you can’t afford to play against teams like Auburn. So, we’re not going to be able to get spread out and hug our men defensively and allow their athletic drivers and bigs to seal all types of space on the court. We know we’ve got to make adjustments tactically with what we’ve done the first four (games).”
‘Big’ problems: While UConn boasts one of the better frontcourts in the nation, it will have its hands full with Auburn. The Tigers boast 6-foot-10 freshman Jabari Smith, a likely one-and-done lottery pick, and 7-foot-1 North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler up front.
“(They have) unbelievable positional size, a potential top-5, top-3 draft pick, all types of frontcourt size and athleticism,” Hurley noted. “They’re deep. You bring in someone like (guard K.D.) Johnson off the bench, who’s as good as anybody on the court ... They’re two-deep at every position with quality. So, we’re looking at it like we’re playing against a team that can potentially be an Elite Eight, Final Four-level team.”
The Huskies do catch a “break” in that top returning scorer Allen Flanigan, a 6-6 guard, is out until around Christmas with an Achilles injury.