Three early Big East losses knocked Connecticut from the ranks of the league’s elite, but the Huskies return to Big East play after making a major non-conference statement.
Still without coach Jim Calhoun, 19th-ranked UConn hopes to harness the momentum from a win over the nation’s top-ranked team and notch its first true road victory Wednesday night as it meets a Providence team that’s reeling from a major collapse.
Trailing by eight at halftime against then-No. 1 Texas and in danger of a fourth loss in five games, the Huskies (13-6, 3-3) may have turned around their season Saturday with a dominating second half, outscoring the Longhorns 54-32 after the break en route to an 88-74 win.
Senior guard Jerome Dyson scored a career-high 32 points to lead an offense that shot 54.9 percent from the field and overcame 17 turnovers in the first 21 minutes.
That performance, which also featured double-doubles from forward Stanley Robinson (17 points, 12 rebounds) and point guard Kemba Walker (19 points, 10 assists), helped the Huskies surge back into the Top 25 after a one-week absence and restore their confidence after losing their first four meetings with ranked foes.
“Now you know you’re good, you know you can play,” associate head coach George Blaney said. “You just beat the No. 1 team in the country, so that should tell you that you’re good.”
Blaney is filling in for Calhoun, who is taking a medical leave of absence. The Huskies improved to 2-0 without him, also beating St. John’s 75-59 last Wednesday.
“We’ve got to play for him,” Dyson said. “We know these wins will help him get better, because it will take some of the stress off him having to worry about us, and he can focus on getting himself better.”
UConn, though, has yet to head on the road without its coach, and the Huskies have not fared well outside of Connecticut. They are 0-3 in true road games and 1-2 at neutral sites, one season after going 9-1 on the road and 8-2 at neutral sites.
They’ve also struggled with Providence in the last several years, dropping three straight and five of seven before a 94-61 home win Jan. 31. UConn lost its last visit to the Dunkin Donuts Center 85-76 on March 6, 2008.
Dyson, however, may be eager for the trip after the Friars (11-8, 3-4) allowed 46 points to another high-scoring guard Saturday night. South Florida’s Dominique Jones had the career night, adding 10 rebounds and eight assists in a wild 109-105 overtime win at Providence.
The Friars blew a nine-point lead in the final minute of regulation and allowed a tying 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left.
While Jamine Peterson, Marshon Brooks and Sharaud Curry each scored at least 24 points for Providence—with Peterson adding 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double—it had major problems defensively as South Florida scored 70 points in the second half and overtime.
In the Friars’ previous game, Marquette shot 61.4 percent from the field in a 93-63 win Jan. 17. Providence is allowing 84.1 points per game in Big East play, worst in the conference.