After stumbling through the early portion of its Big East schedule, Connecticut turned its season around following a loss to Providence in mid-January. The Friars, meanwhile, have been slumping ever since.
On Thursday, the 13th-ranked Huskies look to continue their pursuit of the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament and avenge their earlier loss to the Friars, who are simply trying to make the league tournament.
On Jan. 17, Connecticut (23-6, 12-4) suffered a 77-65 home defeat to Providence, its third loss in four games. That dropped the Huskies to 2-3 in the Big East, and it appeared UConn was on its way to missing the postseason for the second straight time after qualifying 19 straight times.
The Huskies didn’t stay down for long, however, winning 10 in a row after the Jan. 17 loss. UConn has won 12 of 13 since falling to the Friars to clinch a first-round bye in the conference tournament, and is battling Notre Dame for the third seed.
“As the games are won, we’re becoming more and more confident, feeding off each other, and we’re learning to play with each other much better as the game goes along,” Huskies guard Craig Austrie said after Saturday’s 79-71 win over West Virginia.
A.J. Price scored 24 points and shot 5-of-8 from 3-point range against the Mountaineers, while Jeff Adrien had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double.
“We know how good we are,” Price said. “We know what we have here. We know if we stay true to what we do, we’re going to win. It’s just staying mentally tough.”
While the Huskies are surging down the stretch, they shot a season-low 36.7 percent from the floor in the loss to Providence (14-14, 5-11). Adrien had 16 points and 15 boards, but also turned the ball over five times. Price finished with just 12 points in UConn’s only defeat in 16 home contests.
The Huskies have won five of their last six on the road, and are unbeaten in four trips to Providence since an 81-68 loss on Jan. 13, 2001. The road team has won the last seven meetings in the series.
The Friars’ win over the Huskies in January was their third in a row as they opened league play 3-2. Very little has gone right for Providence since, however, as it’s lost nine of 11 and is playing for the final spot in the Big East tournament.
The Friars managed to snap a five-game skid with an 81-79 overtime victory over Cincinnati on Sunday.
“Our confidence level has been basically shot in the last month,” Providence coach Tim Welsh said.
Marshon Brooks matched a career high with 15 points, and hit a leaning bank shot with 2 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 73. In overtime, Brooks had four points and a key block in the closing seconds.
Sophomore Dwain Williams, averaging 11.0 points, has missed the Friars’ last three games with a leg injury. Williams was instrumental in the January win over UConn, scoring a career-high 23 points and shooting 6-of-9 from 3-point range.
Providence has lost four straight against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 18 Arkansas 67-51 on Nov. 16 in Puerto Rico.
The Friars conclude the regular season at home against Villanova on Saturday.