UConn-Rutgers Preview

The Associated Press

Jim Calhoun is back, and he's probably not happy.

Connecticut seems to be in position to change that - perhaps rather emphatically.

The eighth-ranked Huskies look to bounce back from perhaps their worst performance of the season by continuing their domination of Rutgers on Saturday night.

Calhoun is returning from a three-game NCAA suspension for recruiting violations. He may have been expecting UConn (12-2, 2-1 Big East) to go unbeaten without him, but the team followed victories over South Florida and St. John's with a listless 75-63 defeat at Seton Hall on Tuesday.

Not only did the Huskies' seven-game winning streak end, but they shot a season-low 35.1 percent while the Pirates hit 43.5 percent from the floor - the highest of any UConn opponent.

"I think I know exactly what (Calhoun) is going to say," forward Tyler Olander said. "He is going to say we didn't play hard, we didn't play together. We know what we have to do going into Rutgers."

With Calhoun back on the bench, it would appear Connecticut is primed to get untracked against the Scarlet Knights (8-7, 0-2).

The Huskies have won 19 of the last 20 meetings, including 10 in a row by an average margin of 15.6 points. They last lost in the series Jan. 30, 2002 at Piscataway, N.J., winning the next five visits.

A better effort from Shabazz Napier would help continue that streak. The sophomore point guard is averaging 14.1 points and his 6.4 assists rank third in the conference, but he's struggled on opponents' courts.

Napier has totaled 10 points and seven assists in two road games, missing 18 of 21 from the field and 10 of 12 from 3-point range. He was dreadful Tuesday, shooting 2 of 12 for six points with four assists and five turnovers.

Jeremy Lamb is tied for second in the Big East with 18.9 points per game, and he had 19 on 7-of-14 shooting against Seton Hall.

Alex Oriakhi had one of his best games in a 67-53 win over Rutgers on Jan. 11 of last year, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds with four blocks. The junior big man, however, is averaging just 6.6 points and 4.9 boards this season, with freshman Andre Drummond arriving as a force inside.

Drummond had averaged 14.4 points and 7.8 rebounds in his previous five games before posting just four and five, respectively, on Tuesday.

The Scarlet Knights have struggled in their first two Big East games, losing at South Florida before falling 85-64 to visiting West Virginia on Wednesday. They trailed by 25 at the half and hit just 12 of 25 free throws.

"You can't miss that many free throws and expect to stay in a game," coach Mike Rice said. "You have to find ways to stay in a game when things aren't going your way. (Wednesday) was ugly across the board."

Freshman Eli Carter, however, continued an impressive stretch. The guard scored 19 points against the Mountaineers and has averaged 24.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals over his last three games - including a 31-point performance in an 85-83 double-overtime upset of then-No. 10 Florida.

He leads Rutgers with 13.9 points per game this season.

Sophomore Mike Poole is hoping for another strong performance against UConn. The swingman led the Scarlet Knights with 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in last season's meeting for his only career double-double.

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