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What To Watch For: USF At UConn

When South Florida takes on UConn at Gampel Pavilion tonight, it will be a homecoming for Terrence Samuel.

Samuel played 30 games for the Huskies and, as a freshman, helped UConn to a national championship in the 2013-14 season. After his sophomore season Samuel transferred to Penn State. Upon graduating from Penn State Samuel transferred to USF as a graduate student, looking to play a bigger role and to help put the Bulls men’s basketball program on a different path.

Tonight is the only time USF and UConn will meet this season and both teams are attempting to snap three game losing streaks.

UConn guards Christian Vital (1) and guard Jalen Adams (4)
UConn guards Christian Vital (1) and guard Jalen Adams (4) (Photo by: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

RunningTheBulls.com has your quick facts and what to watch for against Connecticut:

Quick Facts

Matchup: USF (8-16, 1-10) at UConn (11-12, 4-6)

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 7

Time: 7 p.m. ET

Location: Storrs, Conn. | Gampel Pavilion

Watch: ESPNU (Kevin Negandhi, Malcom Huckaby)

Radio: AM 820 | USF Bulls Unlimited (Jim Lighthall)

History: This will be the 22nd meeting between the Huskies and the Bulls. UConn leads the series 19-2 and has won nine straight against USF. The last time USF defeated UConn was March 5, 2013 in Tampa.

Opponent: Inexperience and injuries have been the theme of the Huskies this season. UConn has seven new scholarship players but zero scholarship seniors on its roster. UConn faced the daunting task of replacing over 62 percent of its points, over 66 percent of its rebounds and 66 percent of its minutes played.

Junior Jalen Adams and redshirt junior Terry Larrier have been looked to for leadership. Adams and sophomore guard Christian Vital combine to average 33.2 points per game, which is second in the American Athletic Conference to Memphis duo of Jeremiah Martin and Kyvon Davenport by just one tenth of a point.

Scouting UConn was a challenge because of their injuries and player suspension. Currently the team appears to be at its healthiest, but redshirt freshman Alterique Gilbert is out due to season ending shoulder surgery and Eric Cobb was been suspended from the program early last month for “conduct deemed detrimental to the team.”

As usual UConn is long, athletic and plays with a lot of pride. They have a young front line that does not score many points and, as a team, they lack a go-to veteran so the Huskies rely heavily on Larrier, Adam and Vital.

Defensively UConn gives different looks in the half court going back and forth from man to 2-3 matchup zone and a 1-3-1 zone. They will press full court off of made baskets, but in the games we scouted it is usually token pressure, then they will fall back into their 2-3 zone. UConn has used zone just under 20 percent of the time this season and has held opponents to 37.7 percent shooting with their zone defenses. UConn’s zone makes it difficult to get points in the paint. Although they lost to Cincinnati they held the Bearcats to just 14 points in the paint.

In man defense one of UConn's weaknesses this season is defending dribble penetration. Teams have been getting into the paint much easier this season than in previous seasons. In their 2-3 Zone the high post is the weak spot. USF needs to establish somebody, Nikola Scekic or Isaiah Manderson, in the high post.

Despite the scoring abilities of Adams, Larrier and Vital, the Huskies can struggle to score at times. Against Cincinnati UConn didn’t score until just before the U12 timeout. At UCF the Huskies had just three points after five minutes of action.

Larrier is the Huskies best three-point shooter at 37.9 percent. He is their only player shooting better than 33 percent on the season. As a team UConn ranks No. 328 in the Nation in three-point percentage (31.1 percent) and is slightly better than USF at two-point field goals, connecting at a 45 percent rate. UConn is a good free throw shooting team, making 76 percent this season.

Outlook: The Huskies are 5-1 in Gampel Pavilion this season, their only loss is to Cincinnati. To win USF must contain UConn in transition, Adams and Vital can be lethal. The Bulls need to control tempo, avoid a track meet, take care of the ball -- particularly against UConn's full court pressure -- and be close on the rebound total with UConn.

Prediction: UConn 72 USF 59