Menu

College Sports

UConn reeling again after win over Texas

It was almost comical, watching Marquette's 6-foot-1 guard Darius Johnson-Odom giving up eight inches in an attempt to defend arguably the nation's most athletic player, Stanley Robinson.

Then, glancing a few feet over, there was 6-foot-5 Lazar Hayward attempting to check UConn's hulking freshman big man Alex Oriakhi.

David Cubillan and Maurice Acker, considered a pair of mid-major guards, were given the unenviable task of having to defend UConn's high-powered backcourt of Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker.

At virtually every position, UConn was bigger, stronger, more athletic and excessively more talented.

"There's no doubt about it," Hayward admitted.

"It's a no-brainer," added his Marquette teammate, Jimmy Butler.

Yet it was the Golden Eagles who left the court and Hartford with a 70-68 victory while a Jim Calhoun-less UConn team traveled the 30 or so minutes back to campus in Storrs wondering what's gone awry since knocking off then-No. 1 Texas a week ago.

UConn finally earned that "resume" win exactly seven days prior, the one that the Huskies desperately needed for validity.

But the victory has become a distant memory after a road loss at Providence earlier in the week and now a home setback to a Marquette team, that like the Friars, was expected to finish towards the bottom of the Big East.

The Huskies lost plenty from last season's team -- starters Hasheem Thabeet, A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien -- but they have typically just reloaded in the Calhoun Era.

Unlike in 2005, when it was Adrien and a bunch of young kids, this UConn group has experience.

Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards are seniors. Starting point guard Kemba Walker has a year under his belt.

Leadership is questionable, and the bench is virtually non-existent.

The Huskies could learn plenty, though, from watching a hard-nosed Marquette team that has lost its five Big East games by a grand total of 11 points.

The only legitimate returnee with any significant experience is Hayward, and it's not as if Buzz Williams brought in a heralded recruiting class loaded with McDonald's All-Americans.

In fact, the most highly regarded of his five newcomers, Junior Cadougan, has logged just 15 minutes the entire season after he returned early from a ruptured Achilles tendon that was thought to end his freshman season before it ever began.

Hayward fouled out with a couple minutes left, and it appeared UConn would hand Marquette yet another nailbiting loss.

But this time, the Golden Eagles, after a huge basket from Butler in the waning seconds, came out on the other end.

"It's been tough as hell," Hayward said of the flurry of one-possession losses. "It's one of the most difficult things I've ever been through."

"But I can't let the young guys see me down at all. They feed off everything I do."

So Hayward is always positive. Smiling.

He was once an unheralded recruit who was better-known for being Paul Harris' sidekick in the summers and at Notre Dame Prep. Now, he has become the star of perhaps the most overachieving team in the country.

Marquette sits at 13-8 overall and 4-5 in league play with a three-game stretch upcoming against DePaul, Providence and South Florida.

"We've got to be tougher than everyone to win games," Butler said.

UConn is 3-5 in Big East play.

The only teams that look up at the Huskies in the standings are St. John's, DePaul and Rutgers.

"We need to get this together, but we'll be OK," UConn freshman Ater Majok said after the loss to Marquette.

That's still debatable.

Now, the Huskies will travel to Louisville for a matchup with another underachieving Big East power.

The only question isn't if and when Calhoun will return to the sidelines, but also if UConn will even make the NCAA tournament.

Majok has been slow to come around, the Huskies have difficulty scoring when not in transition and perimeter shooting has been questionable.

The length and athleticism is nice and can be visually intimidating -- at least in the pre-game warm-ups.