Two alarming early losses have UConn searching for answers

Kevin Ollie's team has lost its first two games (AP)
Kevin Ollie’s team has lost its first two games. (AP)

Three days after dropping its season opener against lightly regarded Wagner, UConn suffered another alarming loss.

The Huskies fell 64-61 to Northeastern on Monday to sink to 0-2 for the first time since 1968.

It’s difficult to assess which loss was more embarrassing for a UConn team that began the year 18th in the AP Top 25.

Wagner won 23 games last season and is expected to contend for the Northeast Conference title this year, but the Seahawks followed their win over UConn with an 11-point setback against mighty UMass Lowell. Northeastern plays in a stronger conference than Wagner does, but the Huskies went .500 in the Colonial Athletic Association last season and were projected seventh last month in the league’s preseason poll.

The common thread between the two losses is that UConn isn’t very efficient on offense when it can’t get out and run.

The Huskies shot just 37.8 percent from the field against Wagner, hit only 6 of 19 threes and dished out just nine assists, too often resorting to hurried jump shots in their quest to cut into the deficit. They fared no better against Northeastern’s seemingly impenetrable two-three zone, shooting only 39.1 percent from the field and 5-for-21 from behind the arc.

It doesn’t help UConn generate transition opportunities that the Huskies are struggling to grab rebounds at both ends of the floor. They’ve been out-rebounded in both games and they gave up 17 offensive boards on Monday night.

Northeastern point guard T.J. Williams led all scorers with 20 points and Florida transfer Alex Murphy added nine points and 15 rebounds. Guard Jalen Adams and swingman Terry Larrier combined for 32 points for UConn, but none of their teammates even managed double figures.

Larrier had two chances to tie the game with 3-pointers in the waning seconds, however, twice he misfired. When Murphy’s inbound pass was stolen by Alterique Gilbert with eight seconds left, the UConn freshman lofted one last desperation 3-pointer, an off-balance attempt at the buzzer that fittingly did not fall.

The good news for UConn is that its non-league schedule plenty of chances for redemption. The Huskies still have matchups remaining against Syracuse, Ohio State, Georgetown and Auburn in addition to next week’s loaded Maui Invitational.

The bad news for UConn is that there’s no proof the Huskies are good enough to handle such a difficult schedule. If UConn doesn’t improve in a hurry, more losses are going to pile up.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!