Connecticut doesn't have a lot of size up front, but solid defense has helped it get off to an undefeated start.
To stay that way, the 23rd-ranked Huskies will have to slow down a Wake Forest team that opened its season with one of the top shooting performances in program history.
These teams will meet for the first time in 21 years on Friday night in the opening round of the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Huskies (2-0) don't have the most imposing starting front line in the nation in 6-foot-8 DeAndre Daniels and 6-9 Tyler Olander, but rookie coach Kevin Ollie has them playing at a high level on the defensive end, holding opponents to 55.5 points per game on 34.2 percent shooting.
After limiting then-No. 14 Michigan State to 37.5 percent from the floor in last Friday's 66-62 victory at Ramstein Air Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany, Connecticut held Vermont to 15 field goals and no fastbreak points in Tuesday's 67-48 home-opening victory.
"We stress defense a lot because we're not so big,' said freshman guard Omar Calhoun, who finished with 12 points and four steals. "We've got to play defense, and team defense wins games.'
While Daniels (5.5 rebounds per game) and Olander (7.5 boards and 4.0 blocks per game) have held their own so far, Wake Forest's deep frontcourt could present a challenge. Forwards Devin Thomas, Travis McKie, Tyler Cavanaugh, and Arnaud Williams Adala Moto combined for 37 points and 25 boards in last Friday's 79-67 season-opening win against Radford.
Led by senior guard C.J. Harris' 19 points, six Demon Deacons reached double-digit scoring and Wake Forest hit 63.6 percent (28 for 44) from the field. It was the team's best effort since 2007 and the 14th-best in program history.
"To shoot the percentage that we did, to have six players in double digits, to have some really good efforts from some of our younger players was good," coach Jeff Bzdelik told the school's official website. "We will build on that and move forward."
The Demon Deacons, losers of eight straight to ranked teams, will likely need to cut down on turnovers if they're going to come out on top in their first game in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Wake Forest's 18 turnovers in the opener led to 22 points.
"(Bzdelik) doesn't mind if we have good turnovers, in the sense that they don't get a run out," said Harris, who had a team-worst five turnovers. "But some of our turnovers today - I know myself had a few of them that (were) just careless (and) led to fastbreaks for them. So those are the bad turnovers that are unacceptable."
Connecticut has 20 steals through two games.
Sophomore guard Ryan Boatright, the team leader with five steals, is averaging 11.0 points and 5.5 assists.
Junior guard Shabazz Napier paces the Huskies with 19.0 points per game.
Connecticut, the Paradise Jam champion in 2008, last faced Wake Forest in an 84-75 victory on Dec. 2, 1991, in the ACC/Big East Challenge. Ollie, then a freshman, had six points to help the Huskies even this all-time series at a game apiece.
The winner of this matchup will play Sunday against the winner of Friday's contest between Quinnipiac and Iona.
The Associated Press News Service
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