In the span of five days, Connecticut went from defeating the top-ranked team in the nation to looking lost on the court.
The uneven Huskies try to regroup and get back to .500 in Big East play Saturday when they host a Marquette team searching for some consistency of its own.
Connecticut (13-7, 3-4) jumped back into the poll this week at No. 19 on the strength of an impressive 88-74 home victory over then-No. 1 Texas last Saturday. All those good feelings, though, vanished Wednesday at Providence, where the Huskies faded badly down the stretch in an 81-66 defeat.
The Huskies built a 10-point lead in the first half, only to see the Friars take control with a 14-0 burst as part of a 26-5 run in the second half. The loss came despite interim coach George Blaney warning his team against having a letdown after knocking off the Longhorns.
“We just took our foot off the gas,” said forward Gavin Edwards, who had 17 points. “Everybody was just resting on their laurels from the Texas game, and as a result, nobody really came out to play, and we got beat.”
At 6-foot-10, Edwards and 6-9 forward Stanley Robinson could be keys in turning around Connecticut, which is trying to avoid a fifth loss in seven games. The pair, who combine to average 27.6 points, 13.6 rebounds and 4.0 blocks, will have a distinct height advantage against a smaller Golden Eagles squad that has struggled at times from keeping bigger teams from scoring inside.
Freshman forward Alex Oriakhi has contributed 5.3 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds per game, and 6-11 freshman Ater Majok rounds out the Huskies’ frontcourt rotation. Connecticut leads the country with 8.8 blocks per game and is on pace to finish first in that category for a ninth straight season.
While Connecticut has size, Marquette (12-8, 3-5) will try to counter with speed and proficiency from the perimeter. The Golden Eagles lead the nation in 3-point shooting at 43.3 percent, including 46.3 against Big East opponents.
They avoided a three-game losing streak Tuesday with an 82-59 rout of Rutgers. Maurice Acker hit four 3-pointers in the first half as Marquette made eight in the first 20 minutes en route to a 44-21 halftime lead.
The 5-8 Acker is shooting a conference-best 56.1 percent (32 for 57) from beyond the arc, and the senior has made 18 of his last 23 3-point attempts.
“When Mo has his feet set, I think it’s a basket,” coach Buzz Williams said.
Darius Johnson-Odom is shooting 51.1 percent from 3-point range, while leading scorer Lazar Hayward (18.1) and David Cubillan have combined to make 57 3-pointers. The 6-6 Hayward and 6-7 forwards Jimmy Butler and Joe Fulce will try to slow Edwards and Robinson on the defensive end.
“We’re really tough because every day in practice we’re going at each other,” Butler said. “We’re not scared of anybody. We just bang with the big boys.”
The teams have split four all-time meetings since the Golden Eagles entered the Big East for the 2005-06 season. Robinson had 19 points and 10 rebounds last season in a 93-82 victory at Marquette.