Connecticut’s inexperience has not been evident during its non-conference schedule. That likely won’t change when it hosts Pepperdine on Wednesday.
With no juniors or seniors on scholarship, the 14th-ranked Huskies (9-0) have still cruised during their non-conference run. They are winding down a stretch of 11 straight home games to open the season before beginning Big East play at West Virginia on Dec. 30.
UConn has won 28 straight at home since a 77-70 loss to No. 2 North Carolina on Feb. 13, 2005.
The Huskies, who start three sophomores and two freshmen, have a chance to become the first team in school history to enter January with a 12-0 mark.
Freshman guard Jerome Dyson took over the team scoring lead with 19 points and added five rebounds in the Huskies’ 89-73 win over St. Mary’s on Sunday. Dyson, who is averaging 14.2 points per game, was named the Big East’s rookie of the week on Monday.
“Jerome puts so much pressure on you, because he just comes right at you,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said of Dyson’s ability to drive the lane. “You kind of don’t know what to do, because he’s coming at you. You’re not going to get a charge because he’s just going to slide away.”
Sophomore Jeff Adrien, the only starter averaging double-digit points (13.4) and rebounds (10.3), had 15 points and eight boards against St. Mary’s.
The Huskies shot at least 50.0 percent from the field for the seventh time this season, posted 13 blocked shots to up their average to 10.8 per game and held St. Mary’s to 37.1 percent shooting from the field. UConn is holding opponents to 33.3 percent field-goal shooting, among the best in the nation.
Still, Calhoun knows his team can’t take it easy, even during the non-conference season.
“It was a good performance by us, tainted by about 12 minutes of not playing defense,” said Calhoun, who needs six wins to reach 500 at UConn and eight for 750 overall. “I don’t think this team is going to have much garbage time, freedom time, this year. Those days are long gone.”
Pepperdine (3-9) shot 31.5 percent and went 1-for-10 from 3-point range in a 75-56 home loss to UConn in the last meeting on Nov. 18, 2005.
The Waves are shooting 43.6 percent this season and have made almost 39 percent of their 3-pointers. They rank in the top five in the nation for 3-pointers made and attempted, shooting 133-for-343, but have yet to face a defense as good as UConn’s aggressive man-to-man style.
Pepperdine shot a season-high 54.7 percent and snapped a three-game skid with a 101-86 win over Northern Arizona on Saturday.
In its best all-around performance of the season, Pepperdine shot 52.0 percent (13-for-25) from 3-point range and scored 100 points for the first time since a 109-88 victory over Portland on Jan. 19, 2002.
Marvin Lea, the team’s leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, led five players in double figures with 22 points against Northern Arizona.
The Waves have lost six straight against ranked teams, with their last win coming against then-No. 20 Wisconsin on Nov. 27, 2004. They fell 99-91 at No. 17 Washington on Nov. 12.
UConn has won the last three meetings in this series.