December 19, 2015

Back in the Top 25, Connecticut has a strong chance to build some momentum before things get more difficult.

In the first of two straight favorable matchups, the No. 25 Huskies face Massachusetts-Lowell on Sunday in Hartford.

Connecticut (6-3) returns to action for the first time since an impressive 75-55 victory over a rebuilding Ohio State squad last Saturday. The Huskies shot 19 of 30 and hit five 3-pointers in the first half, and finished shooting a season-high 60.4 percent.

Though the Buckeyes are not as potent as in recent seasons, the victory was a major step forward in rebuilding UConn's confidence. Prior to the win, the Huskies lost to Syracuse, then-No. 10 Gonzaga and sixth-ranked Maryland in the previous four contests. They haven't won two in a row since starting 4-0.

Senior guard Omar Calhoun set season highs with 14 points in 26 minutes off the bench to lead five Huskies in double figures.

"I feel like this team is together," Calhoun said. "Everyone can light the gym up on any given day. We all know that, but we stick together. No one is selfish and that's going to help us in the future."

Coach Kevin Ollie likely would agree after watching his team hold the Buckeyes to 35.7 percent shooting and a fifth opponent to fewer than 60 points.

"Overall we had a great game on the defense end and offensive end," said Ollie, whose squad was ranked 18th before back-to-back losses at the Battle 4 Atlantis last month.

The Huskies have looked dominant while averaging 87.5 points and shooting 51.4 percent in their four victories against non-major conference teams. Only one of those opponents scored more than 60 points and all combined to shoot 32.4 percent.

It would seem that success should continue with UMass-Lowell (4-6) and Central Connecticut State - which beat UML for its lone victory - visiting Hartford over a four-day span. Things get much tougher for UConn after Christmas with a trip to Texas on Dec. 29 followed by the start of American Athletic Conference play Jan. 2.

Though UML won 68-66 at struggling Boston College on Dec. 6, it's dropped the last two and is allowing an average of 80.2 points on the season. The River Hawks shot a season-high 58.5 percent and hit 11 3-pointers Friday, but committed 20 turnovers and were outscored 21-6 at the foul line in their 83-79 loss to Central Connecticut.

One of three freshmen starters for the River Hawks, guard Isaac White averages a team-leading 11.2 points but shoots 40.8 percent and totaled 13 in the last two contests.

"I'm just trying to get them to grow up fast," said UML coach Pat Duquette, who is also starting two sophomores. "I'm open to any ideas to speed up the aging process... We'll come back in a few years and make it interesting."

In their most recent matchup with a Top 25 team, the River Hawks lost 83-57 at then-No. 18 Notre Dame on Nov. 21.

Averaging a team-leading 13.7 points, UConn's Rodney Purvis has scored in double figures in 15 consecutive games.

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