Before a major showdown in its Big East opener, Connecticut has two home games this week following a lengthy break for exams.
Kemba Walker and the fourth-ranked Huskies return to action Monday night to host Coppin State in Hartford.Connecticut (8-0) has not played since a 78-54 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Dec. 8. The Huskies have this contest and a matchup with Harvard on Wednesday before next Monday's first conference game at No. 8 Pittsburgh.Walker is tied with Northern Illinois' Xavier Silas for the Division I lead with 28.1 points per game. Connecticut, though, is looking for other players to get involved since coach Jim Calhoun wants his team to show more balance in conference play.Walker led the way with 21 points Dec. 8, his lowest total since an 18-point effort in the season opener. Freshmen starters Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith, though, combined for 22."It's just good to see that those guys' confidence is getting higher, and that's what we need," Walker said. "When those tough games come around, if I'm not on, I think some of those guys, especially the young guys, will come along."The Huskies saw some different defenses, with FDU a employing box-and-one against Walker at times and a 2/3 matchup zone similar to what Big East rival Syracuse uses. UConn made 10 of its 32 3-point attempts, a school record for a regulation game."Maybe two of the 32 3s weren't good 3s," Calhoun said. "But, generally speaking, we need to shoot those shots, and all we have to do is make them."UConn has shot 38.0 percent from the field or worse in two of its last three games, finishing at 37.9 percent in its last game. The Huskies are in the bottom half of the Big East in field-goal percentage at 45.2 and rank next-to-last with 13.3 assists per game.Defending the 3-point arc has also been a problem, as UConn is second worst in the conference at 38.6 percent."We are 8-0 right now but, at the same time, we are not satisfied because there are things we can still work on and things we can still improve as a team and as individuals," Smith said.The Huskies will debut a new big man that should take some of the pressure off of center Alex Oriakhi, second on the team in minutes behind Walker at 30.1 per game.During the layoff, UConn added 7-foot-1 German center Enosch Wolf from Massachusetts prep school Wilbraham & Monson Academy. Wolf may see action Monday.UConn is 3-0 against Coppin State (4-3), winning by an average of 36.7 points. The Eagles are beginning a four-game road stretch that includes games against Wisconsin, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 22 Texas.Antonio Williams and Tony Gallo scored 16 points apiece as Coppin State won its last game, 79-63 over NAIA opponent West Virginia Tech on Dec. 11.The Eagles have dropped 33 straight against ranked teams.