Huskies Blog: Texas’ size will be biggest challenge for UConn on Sunday

AP Photo

By: Kels Dayton

We’re four games and a preseason tournament into the 2014 season, and UConn still hasn’t beaten anyone.

That’s the reality of the situation following the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which ended for the Huskies in a disappointing 78-68 loss to West Virginia.

Jonathan Holmes Texas
Texas’ Jonathan Holmes has emerged as one of the best players in the Big XII this season. (AP Photo)

UConn had a season-high 19 turnovers in defeat, and never led in the game as their former Big East rivals ran them off the floor. The loss hurts much more for UConn than it would have had the two teams still been in the Big East, because it means the Huskies have squandered a rare opportunity to earn a quality win.

This Sunday is another such opportunity.

No. 7 Texas travels to Storrs, fresh off a dominant performance in the 2K Classic, in which it dispatched Iowa (71-57) and California (71-55) without much of a fight.

The ‘Horns are loaded on the interior, with leading scorer Jonathan Holmes (6-8, 240, 13.4 points per game), Myles Turner (6-11, 240, 12 ppg, 7 rpg) and Cameron Ridley (6-9, 285, 8.8 ppg) all providing big-man production. Holmes can finish inside, but he’s also dangerous on the perimeter, where he has a reliable jump shot, a quick first step and can stroke it from three–he’s shooting 64.3 percent so far on the season.

Holmes has been one of the country’s best offensive threats this November, earning Big XII Player of the Week honors after his work in New York City (20 points, 9 rebounds per game). He’s a candidate for the conference’s player of the year award, and one of the main reasons to take Texas seriously this season.

Turner, meanwhile, scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a win over St. Francis (PA) earlier this week, and Ridley had 16 and 5 in that game.

Needless to say, UConn’s bigs are going to have to step up in this game, and that means Amida Brimah staying out of foul trouble. He’s done a decent job of that so far–only reaching four fouls in the Charleston game and averaging 26 minutes per outing. Expect Kentan Facey and Phillip Nolan to play major roles in this game as well, as both should get big minutes spelling Brimah.

The big men will have to rebound, too. UConn has struggled on the boards yet again this season, ranking 143rd in the country at 37 per game. Texas, on the other hand, ranks seventh nationally (43.0).

The Huskies will, however, have the advantage in the backcourt, and not just because of Ryan Boatright and Daniel Hamilton. Texas was dealt a devastating blow when point guard Isaiah Taylor broke his wrist in the Iowa game, and he’s now out indefinitely. Taylor was leading the team with 15 points per game so far this season. He’s replaced by juniors Javan Felix (9 ppg, 3 rpg) and Demarcus Holland (8.5 ppg, 3.4 apg). Head coach Rick Barnes said the team has adjusted well to Taylor’s absence.

“We try to put a system in place where if we have injuries, it’s not so much on one person,” Barnes said. “Javan and DeMarcus do it a little bit differently. Javan moves the ball a little bit more than Isaiah did. He was more dribbling and using his speed in the open court. Obviously, there’s some stuff we had for Isaiah that we can’t run anymore, but overall we haven’t really changed that much.”

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