No. 14 UConn men’s basketball opens final week of regular season with last home game against DePaul Wednesday: Everything you should know

For all but one month, the season has come and gone at lightspeed for the UConn men’s basketball team.

The Huskies cruised through the first two months on a joyride before New Year’s Eve brought them back to Earth, serving as a precursor to the January that seemed like it might erase all the built-up equity. The ship was righted in February when the team went 5-1, its only loss coming by three in a hostile environment at Creighton.

“This starts for us in June, we’ve been at it for nine months preparing,” head coach Dan Hurley said Tuesday. “It does fly by. I mean, it’s surprising it’s gotten here so quick.”

Welcoming DePaul to the XL Center on Wednesday marks the last home game of the season for the Huskies, who’ve won 14 of their 16 games between each home court.

The Huskies enter Wednesday’s game averaging 83 points per game at home, more than 10 higher than the 72.5-point average on the road. They have shot the ball at a 47.4% clip from the field and 36.4% from beyond the arc in their home arenas, compared to 42.9% and 33.2% on the road.

Since he took the reins as head coach ahead of the 2018-19 season, Hurley is 62-15 in home games and UConn hasn’t lost more than three home games in a season since his first year.

“It’s great to be able to play at home and play in front of the fans that give that love and support regardless. When you’re going through ups and downs of seasons it’s always good to get back to your fans and feel that energy again,” co-captain Andre Jackson said. “This is the last one, so definitely appreciate it and can’t wait for it.”

As far as Big East Tournament seeding, the Huskies are mathematically locked in to be at least the No. 5 with potential to move up to the No. 4 or even No. 3, though the latter would require the Huskies to win out and madness to take over the rest of the league.

“The biggest thing right now is focusing on this game that we got against DePaul and making sure we get that win and then after that we’re headed to Villanova to go get that win,” Jackson said. “Definitely just locked in on those two before we head out to go play in the Big East Tournament, which is my favorite event I’ve ever played in in my life.”

This time of year it’s normal for coaches to shorten practices in order to conserve energy as the postseason approaches. Hurley said Tuesday that the program has been shaving down time spent in live drills.

“Maybe beginning of the year, November, day before a game you may do an hour of live play. This time of year you may be doing a half an hour of live play and more dummy or defense on air, fundamentals, a lot more shooting,” Hurley said. “It’s a long season.”

10 in a row: DePaul hasn’t won a game since Jan. 18, when it pulled off a one-point upset of Xavier at home. The Blue Demons are 2-11 on the road with wins coming over Minnesota and Loyola Chicago and they are 0-9 on the road in conference play. The 10-game losing streak is tied with Georgetown for the longest of any Big East team this season. All of DePaul’s losses during the streak came in conference play, while Georgetown’s skid began with a 19-point loss to Syracuse Dec. 10.

Lineup change: Since the last time UConn played DePaul, 6-foot-11 Blue Demons center Nick Ongenda has returned from wrist surgery that kept him out of the first matchup. In the four games since his return Ongenda has averaged 9.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.8 blocks.

In his first game action this year, a double-overtime loss against St. John’s Feb. 14, Ongenda blocked eight shots.

“Yeah, we’ve matched up with him. Adama [Sanogo] has seen him and knows how talented he is and how good he is in the ball-screen game,” Hurley said. “They shoot the ball very well, it’s a different type of opponent to Seton Hall, St. John’s, who were more dribble drives and trying to get to the rim. (DePaul)’s guards really, really shoot the ball. [Umoja] Gibson is a tremendous shooter and one of the best scoring guards in the league, [Javan] Johnson really hurt us in the first one and then their fours and fives are all athletic and tough.

“This league is really hard, that’s why their record is what it is, but they have a lot of talented players.”

Yor Anei, who started in the frontcourt for DePaul when they hosted UConn on Jan. 31, suffered a hamstring injury and missed the Blue Demons’ last three games. His status is unclear for Wednesday.

What to know

Site: XL Center, Hartford

Time: 7 p.m.

Series: UConn leads, 16-1

Last meeting: Jan. 31, 2023 – UConn 90, DePaul 76 at Wintrust Arena

Last DePaul win: Jan. 31, 2007 – DePaul 66, UConn 58 at Allstate Arena

TV: CBS Sports, Andrew Catalon and Steve Lappas

Radio: UConn Sports Network on 97.9 ESPN, Mike Crispino and Wayne Norman