John F. Silver
There was no Shabazz Napier, no Niels Giffey and for the third straight game, no victory.
UConn, an injury riddled team with little depth, gave into the grind of the season as it shot 35.2 percent from the floor in an ugly 65-51 loss to South Florida in Tampa, Fla. on Wednesday night.
Martino Buck scored 18 points and Victor Rudd added 17 for South Florida, which one its second straight Big East game to improve to 3-14 on the season in conference.
The Bulls led 28-26 at the half, but trailed early in the second half with the Huskies beginning on a 6-0 run to trail 32-28. From there, the Bulls took over going on a 25-6 run to take a 53-38 lead with just under nine minutes to go in the game.
The Huskies got 23 points and 11 rebounds from DeAndre Daniels, but little help from anywhere else. Ryan Boatright didn’t make up for Napier’s absence and shot 3 of 13 for 11 points. The other player expected to step up, Omar Calhoun, had a nightmarish outing shooting 1 of 14 from the floor including 1 of 11 from 3-point range. Calhoun is playing with an injured right wrist that is wrapped. It’s bothering his shooting stroke, but he continued to fire away on Wednesday at many times missing badly.
Coach Kevin Ollie had nowhere to go to pull Calhoun or anyone else for that matter. Senior guard R.J. Evans had 10 points and five rebounds for the Huskies (19-10, 9-8 Big East).
Ollie played little-used guard Brendan Allen to give the starters rest and also brought in forward Leon Tolksdorf, who also has played scant minutes this season.
Tyler Olander had two points and five rebounds with three shots and continues to be a non-factor offensively for the Huskies.
UConn resorted to the 3-point shot too much against the Bulls shooting 3 of 20 from long range. Many of the misses in the second half led to breakout opportunities for South Florida. This was only the second loss by double digits by the Huskies this year. No. 1 Louisville defeated UConn by 15 in January.
UConn was aiming for its 20th win for the the third straight game.
The season finale will be on Saturday when the Huskies host Providence at Gampel Pavilion. At this point, having enough players to field a team would be a moral victory for the Huskies.