The defending national champion Huskies have opened up the season with wins in six of their first seven games. The lone loss came in a 68-63 upset at the hands of UCF as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas last week. UConn however, was able close out play in the event, winning third place with a thrilling 78-76 overtime decision against Florida State.
The Razorbacks also have just one loss on the year. The fast start is due in part to a six-game homestand to begin the campaign. Arkansas' suffered that loss to Houston (87-78), but has since won three straight games, including a 97-64 blasting of Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday.
This is just the third time that these two teams have met on the hardwood. UConn has won both prior matchups, with the last one coming in 2005 in the Maui Invitational.
The Razorbacks have performed well this year despite the loss of Marshawn Powell early on. The talented forward was injured in practice (knee) in mid- NOvember and is expected to miss the season. In his two games, he was averaging 19.5 ppg, so it is certainly a significant loss. Still, the team has plugged along to the tune of 83.7 ppg, while shooting a healthy .474 from the field. B.J. Young has been a galvanizing force off the bench, averaging 13.3 ppg. Julysses Nobles and Mardracus Wade are providing 12.2 and 10.8 ppg, respectively. Wade was superb in the win over MVSU this week, as he erupted for 20 points, including a 4-of-6 mark from behind the arc. Nobles poured in 17 points, followed by Devonta Abron (13 pts), Rickey Scott (11 pts) and Young (11 pts). Arkansas got a lot of uncontested looks at the basket, converting a scorching 59.3 percent from the floor against the Delta Devils.
The defending champs are fueled by the potent backcourt tandem of Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. An All-American candidate this year, Lamb has certainly not disappointed, shooting just over 50 percent from the field and averaging 21.1 ppg. Napier has proved to be both an explosive scorer (17.9 ppg) and deft distributor (6.0 apg). The two have combined for 37 of the team's 47 three- pointers to date. Jim Calhoun is also extremely excited about the potential of freshman center Andre Drummond. The 6-10 youngster is averaging 8.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, but is just scratching the surface of his talent thus far. In the overtime win against Florida State it was Napier leading the offensive charge. He hit six three-pointers en route to a game-high 26 points. Lamb poured in 19, Ryan Boatright added 14 off the bench and Drummond finished with double-double of 12 points and 10 boards.