HARTFORD -- The UConn menâ€™s basketball team continues to fall flat in conference openers.
The Huskies lost for the 15th time in their last 18 such games Saturday night as Providence beat No. 20 UConn 57-53 before a sellout crowd of 15,564 at the XL Center.
UConn trimmed a 16-point deficit down to two in the final minute but couldnâ€™t complete a comeback.
â€śGetting down 16 in a game like this is where we lost the game,â€ť UConn coach Dan Hurley said.
In what was UConnâ€™s first Big East game with fans in attendance since 2013, R.J. Cole led the Huskies (9-3) with 16 points and eight assists. Tyrese Martin added 15 points and Isaiah Whaley 10. Andre Jackson had eight points and 14 rebounds in the loss.
A.J. Reeves led Providence (11-1) with 16 points.
The Huskies trailed by seven with just over two minutes to play when Providenceâ€™s Al Durham was called for a Flagrant 1 foul. Martin hit a pair of free throws and Tyler Polley added a 3-pointer seconds later to make it 55-53.
But the UConn offense could muster no more points in the gameâ€™s final 1:46.
In what was the 75th meeting between the neighbors and longtime rivals, the Huskies connected on a mere 27 percent of their shots in the opening half and trailed by nine at the break.
A trio of baskets inside by Watson to start the second half the Friars went quickly 15. Hurley called timeout with 17:52 to play and his team trailing 37-22.
â€śWhat a crowd here, wow. It was actually exciting to coach in a game like this, to see so many people who were cheering against you. That kind of gives you a little energy,â€ť Providence coach Ed Cooley said.
The hosts staged a brief rally but still found themselves down by 15 with 10 minutes to play.
Playing their biggest home game in years, the Huskies produced one of the worst first halves they could have. UConn scored just 22 points in the opening half, its lowest output in any half this season.
Providence, thanks to 12 points on four 3-pointers from Reeves, led by nine at the break.
Martin returned to the lineup after missing the previous four games with a wrist injury.
UConn center Adama Sanogo, however, remained sidelined with an abdominal injury that has now forced him out of four straight games. The sophomore did warm up before the game, though, is likely to return to action in the next week.
The Huskies, fueled by a fired-up crowd, took an early 9-5 lead. The advantage evaporated quickly, however, after the Friars scored eight straight points to take a four-point lead of their own.
UConn went nine minutes without a field goal at one point in the half, missing nine straight shots. The Huskies pulled briefly ahead 21-20 after consecutive Whaley baskets, but were outscored by the Friars 11-1 to end the first half.
UConn made eight of its 29 attempts from 3-point range.
â€śAndre, who is not a shooter, went 2-for-2. The rest of the team went 6-for-27. In games we shoot that poorly from three, weâ€™re going to struggle to win,â€ť Hurley said. â€śEspecially when we donâ€™t have the big fella (Sanogo) to throw it in to.â€ť