Win the assist battle
Ball movement played a key role in UConn’s 2022-23 title run. When Dan Hurley and the Huskies lifted the NCAA Championship Trophy, his team ranked second in the nation in assists.
Flash forward to a new season with new personnel, and the program is once again a force in moving the basketball.
UConn is currently 14th in the country in assists per game (17.9) with Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer and Stephon Castle all averaging over three helpers a piece. Newton leads the way for the Huskies in this category. His 5.7 assists rank second-best in the Big East, only trailing Marquette’s Tyler Kolek.
But a Red Storm guard is right on his heels.
Daniss Jenkins followed his coach from Iona University to start his senior season at St. John’s. Rick Pitino needed someone to help guide this roster through their first season as a group. He praised Jenkins as being a leader on and off the court from their time together with the Gaels.
Once the season began, the Big East began to see why.
The Dallas native took the reigns of St. John’s completely revamped backcourt and has not looked back. Heading into Saturday’s matchup, Jenkins only trails Newton by ⅒ of an assist, averaging 5.6 per game.
The last time these two teams met back in December, UConn managed to limit their opponents to nine assists all night en route to their 69-65 win. Tristen Newton contributed six of his own to add to the Huskies’ team total of 15.
On the defensive end, Dan Hurley will need his group to be disruptive in the passing lanes, with a high focus on Jenkins. Gaudy assist numbers aside, Jenkins’ Achilles heel is turning the ball over. Currently, the senior ranks seventh-worst in the Big East with 2.5 turnovers per game.
Look for the guard trio of Newton, Spencer and Castle to set the tone. If the Huskies can contain Jenkins and limit his passing game, Rick Pitino’s squad will be force to look elsewhere on offence.