Connecticut Huskies Suffer First Loss of Season, Look Lost Against the Zone

By Daniel Karpuc
Kevin Ollie
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 10 Connecticut Huskies, who were at the top of the American Athletic Conference standings prior to their matchup against the Stanford Cardinal on Wednesday night, have thrived on their high field goal percentage this season, especially from three-point range. However, an atrocious shooting performance, 19-for-60 (31.7 percent) for the game, including 5-of-33 (15.1 percent) in the second half, led them to their first loss of the season. The Huskies fell to 9-1 while the Cardinal improve to 8-2 and will most likely be in the Top 25 next week.

Taking a 38-28 lead into halftime, the Huskies felt confident — so confident that they took the meaning of complacency to a whole new level when they returned out of the gate in the second half. When Stanford switched into a 2-3 zone, Connecticut simply shut down and passed the ball back and forth around the perimeter for 25-to-30 seconds of the shot clock, eventually forcing up a bad shot in the remaining seconds. Shabazz Napier, UConn’s leader, looked completely lost as he shot 4-of-13 for just 12 points and 2-of-7 from three-point range. At times, Napier looked content passing the ball around the arc, and other times he ran down the court with the ball and chucked up wildly-long three-point attempts in the first couple seconds of the shot clock.

When introduced to a 2-3 zone, kids learn that penetration, especially dribble penetration, gives the offense the best chance of scoring because it gives them the most options. The driver can kick out to an open shooter on the outside, pass down low to a big man, pass to a cutting slasher, or simply take a shot. However, Kevin Ollie’s team must have forgotten what to do against a zone last night as confusing as that may sound. When the momentum shifted early in the second half the problem should have been fixed right away. But for some reason Ollie’s messages didn’t translate to improvements on the court. In past situations this season the coach has been able to immediately impact on-court play for his team, but in this game he certainly wasn’t able to. This has to make every UConn fan extremely nervous.

The assists, rebounds, fouls, and turnovers for both teams were pretty much identical at the end of the game, and both teams certainly did not shoot the lights out as Stanford shot 35 percent for the game compared to Connecticut’s 31.7 percent. But the Huskies were the clear losers if you happened to watch the game. Their play in the second half, in which they scored just 13 points, must have caused Kevin Ollie and his staff to get absolutely no sleep last night as the team had one or two solid possessions the entire half.

Napier, though struggling badly in the second half, had the best overall game for the Huskies, putting up 12 points, five rebounds, and eight assists. DeAndre Daniels had 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go with five rebounds, and Ryan Boatright struggled mightily, scoring just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. The sharpshooting Huskies, who were at the top of the AAC in three-point shooting percentage before the game, shot just 6-of-22 for the game, good for 27.3 percent.

Let’s see if the Huskies can get back on the winning track when they travel to take on the Washington Huskies in the northwest-most part of the country. Tip-off is at 3:30 p.m. ET. If I were Washington, I might try playing zone against Connecticut. Just a thought.

Dan Karpuc is the Connecticut Huskies beat writer for Follow him on Twitter @dan_karpuc, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google

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