Hartford, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - The 18th-ranked Connecticut Huskies will bring in the Yale Bulldogs for a in-state matchup at the XL Center on Monday.
Yale battled Central Connecticut State on Saturday to kick off the 2013-14 campaign. The Bulldogs came away victorious in the contest as they rolled up a 93-77 victory. Justin Sears was the star of the game as he posted a double- double to power the Bulldogs to victory. The Bulldogs played well as a team overall, and shot 54.4 percent from the floor, while knocking down eight shots from beyond the arc and 23 from the free-throw line. Yale continues on the road, though it will take a trip out of the state of Connecticut, for its next contest against Rutgers.
For UConn its season opener also ended in victory, although in a much less comfortable fashion. The Huskies faced Maryland at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and held on for a 78-77 victory. Shabazz Napier scored 18 points in the win, continuing his reign as the top scorer for the Huskies. What was more disturbing was the effort the Huskies got from Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, who each seemed to be trying to shake off the rust of the offseason. Rust is not all UConn will be shaking off this season as the Huskies are once again eligible for the postseason after serving a one-year ban. That is great news for a team coming off a 20-10 campaign. UConn will play its next two games in historic Gampel Pavilion against Detroit and Boston University.
Although these teams share residency in the same state they have not had a very even all-time series. UConn has won 43 of 64 all-time meetings, including each of the last 12.
Yale was the second-best scoring team in the Ivy League last year (68.5 ppg) and looked as effective on the offensive end as ever against Central Connecticut State. To pull the upset on Monday the Bulldogs will need to continue at that pace, which will require another big game from Sears. The 6- foot-8 forward had 26 points and 13 rebounds in the season opener and was also a force on defense as he blocked four shots. Last year Sears had just a single double-double and only one game with at least 20 points. Sears wasn't the only scoring threat for the Bulldogs. Armani Cotton (17 points) and Javier Duren (16 points) each produced well out of the backcourt. Having the offense rely on just a handful of scorers is not the strategy that the Bulldogs took a year ago, when no player scored more than 11 points per game.
Napier was as productive as ever for the Huskies in the season opener. The senior guard not only led the team in scoring but he also dished out seven assists and pulled in seven rebounds, all team-highs. If the Huskies want to live up to their national billing they need other players to step up. Boatright was another effective scorer out of the backcourt for the Huskies last year but he did not have a strong game against Maryland, with just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, although he did have six assists. Daniels, thought to be a candidate to really improve the Huskies up front, did no such thing against Maryland as he had just eight points and a pair of rebounds in 32 minutes of work. Getting more from those two will be critical going forward. UConn did get some flashes of strong play from Omar Calhoun (10 points) and Niels Giffey (13 points) in the win.