Thursday’s heartbreaking loss to Michigan State wasn’t the outcome the UConn men’s basketball team hoped for in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. But the Huskies will have to have a short-term memory and quickly switch gears to ending their trip to the Bahamas on a high note.
UConn will take on Virginia Commonwealth (3-3) in the third-place game Friday at 1:30 p.m.
“We’ve got to be ready to go,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said after Thursday’s loss. “We’ve got to take care of business. Coming out here, obviously we’re not going to get exactly what we want, but we better leave here 2-1. We’re all disappointed, but we’re going to have to turn the page.”
VCU (No. 94 per KenPom) beat Syracuse 67-55 Wednesday to advance to the winners’ side of the bracket, before falling to defending national champ Baylor, 69-61. Previously, the Rams beat Saint Peter’s (57-54) and Vanderbilt (48-37) before dropping home games to Wagner (44-58) and Chattanooga (54-56).
Here’s what else you need to know about the matchup.
Site: Atlantis, Paradise Island, The Bahamas
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Series: UConn leads, 1-0
Last meeting: UConn 72, VCU 61, March 25, 1988, in Storrs, Conn. (NIT Tournament quarterfinals)
TV: ESPN or ESPN2 (Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes)
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network on 97.9 ESPN (Wayne Norman, Mike Crispino)
Elsewhere in the bracket: On Thursday, No. 19 Auburn beat Loyola-Chicago 62-53. Syracuse-Arizona State play at 7:30 p.m.
Friday’s championship game between Michigan State and No. 6 Baylor tips at 11 a.m., Auburn and the Syracuse-Arizona State winner square off at 4:30 p.m., and Loyola-Chicago takes on the other team at 7 p.m.
VCU probable starters, sixth man
Vince Williams, F, 6-6, Sr.; KeShawn Curry, G, 6-4, Sr.; Hason Ward, F, 6-9, Jr.; Levi Stockard III, F, 6-8, Gr.; Jayden Nunn, G, 6-4, Fr.; Marcus Tsohonis, G, 6-3, Jr.
UConn probable starters, sixth man
Isaiah Whaley, F, 6-9, Gr.; Tyrese Martin, G, 6-6, Sr.; Adama Sanogo, F, 6-9, So.; Andre Jackson, G, 6-6, So.; R.J. Cole, G, 6-1, Gr.; Tyler Polley, F, 6-9, Gr.
UConn’s offense: Thursday it was Sanogo and Martin who stepped up with 18 and 16 points respectively, but the team fell flat from 3 (2-16) after catching fire from there against Auburn.
UConn’s defense: Still its calling card. Against Michigan State, the Huskies’ defense kept them in the game when their offense hit a wall — and that was with Whaley, one of the unit’s integral pieces, out.
VCU’s offense: No. 242 in the country in offensive efficiency per KenPom. Williams is their leading scorer and is coming off of a 17-point game against Baylor. No other player averages double figures, and the team’s 67 points versus Syracuse were a season-high.
VCU’s defense: No. 9 in defensive efficiency per KenPom, their scoring defense one of the best in the nation. The Rams held Baylor to a season-low 69 points on 40% shooting, while also forcing 18 turnovers.
UConn keys: Avoid another slow start. Offensive execution, avoid turnovers against a tough defense. More bench productivity. Improved 3-point shooting. Better late-game execution, if it comes down to it.
Player to watch: Does Whaley play? Can Cole, Polley get back into a groove?
About VCU’s coach: Mike Rhoades took the helm at VCU in 2017 following stints at Randolph–Macon and Rice. The Rams have fallen in the first round of the NCAA Tournament twice under his tenure and won the A-10 once.
VCU’s mascot: Rodney the Ram
Famous alumni: Late actor Stephen Furst, comedian Jay Pharoah, actor/model Boris Kodjoe
Alexa Philippou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org