Location: XL Center in Storrs, Conn.
Marquette 11 (No. 2 Big East)
Connecticut 20 (No. 4 Big East)
Line: UCONN -2.5 (139.5 o/u)
Marquette Players to Watch: G Darius Johnson-Odom, 6-2 Sr. (18.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.9 apg); F Jae Crowder, 6-6 Sr. (16.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 50% FG); G Junior Cadougan, 6-1 Jr. (6.6 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.2 spg). Crowder had a great all-around game in Saturday’s 95-78 win over Marquette with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
Connecticut Players to Watch: F Jeremy Lamb, 6-5 So. (17.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.4 spg); G Shabazz Napier, 6-1 So. (13 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4 rpg); G Ryan Boatright, 6-0 Fr. (10.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.2 spg). Napier earned his third double-double of the season when he had 14 points and 11 assists, along with six boards and a pair of steals, as UConn ended a 2-game losing streak with an 80-54 win over DePaul on Wednesday.
Storylines: Marquette remains two games behind Big East-leader Syracuse after seven wins in its last eight games, including blowout victories over DePaul and Cincinnati last week. The defending national champion Huskies have lost 6-of-8 but won in their last outing, 80-54 over DePaul.
Key Stats: Marquette is 15-0 this season when Cadougan, who is fifth in the Big East in assists, has six or more assists. The Eagles lead the Big East with 17.5 assists per game and are the second-leading scoring team in the conference – and 27th in the country – at 76.7 points per game and they are third in the league with a 46.1 field goal percentage. UConn has the Big East’s second-best field goal defense, allowing opponents to shoot 38 percent from the field. The Huskies should have a significant rebounding advantage. They average 38.4 boards per game and out-rebound opponents by 5.1 per game. Marquette has out-rebounded opponents by six (932-926) this season. Marquette has a plus-4.08 turnover margin, forcing 16.8 per game. UConn is 14th, turning the ball over 13.4 times per game and forcing just 11.9 errors. The Eagles are 4-4 in true road games this season, including three victories in their last four games away from home. The Huskies are 12-2 at the XL Center this season, including a 4-2 mark in the Big East. Marquette leads the all-time series 4-3, including a 74-67 overtime win in their last meeting on Feb. 24, 2011.
The Bottom Line: A win over DePaul certainly doesn’t mean Connecticut has come out of its slump, but it’s a start. If the Huskies have any pride, they should beat a team with inferior talent – and injury problems – at home.
The Pick: Connecticut 71, Marquette 67