The UConn men’s basketball team fought back valiantly Monday night against Oklahoma State in the first round of the Maui Invitational, with guard Jalen Adams taking over offensively, but in the end they were buried by early sloppiness. Led by star guard Jawun Evans, who scored 35 points, the Cowboys outlasted the Huskies for a 98-90 win in Hawaii.
For the second straight game, the Huskies saw one of their key players exit with an injury as forward Terry Larrier left with a non-contact knee injury. Guard Alterique Gilbert, who dislocated his shoulder last Thursday in a win over Loyola Maryland, did not play Monday.
Out of the gate, the Huskies were simply overwhelmed by the defensive aggression of Oklahoma State under first-year head coach Brad Underwood. The Cowboys moved with plenty of energy and terrorized the passing lanes, forcing Adams into eight turnovers within the game’s first eight minutes. That defensive effort, combined with UConn’s inability to defend the three-point line, helped OSU jump out to an 18-3 lead nearly six minutes into the game.
About midway through the first half, Larrier fell to the floor with a non-contact knee injury to his left leg after attempting to drive down the lane. He was helped off the floor, and eventually returned to the bench with ice on his left knee.
The Huskies somewhat found their footing after a rough start, tightening the gap to 24-19 with 7:26 left in the half, but the Cowboys finished strong and carried a 40-26 lead into halftime. UConn really struggled to hit shots near the end of the half, failing to hit a field goal after Christian Vital’s layup with 5:08 left.
Oklahoma State came out hot in the second half, hitting four three-pointers early to help open up a 58-40 lead with 12:54 left in the game. The Huskies saw most of their scoring come from the free throw line, although they finished with only a 69 percent mark from the line after hitting 29 of 42 tries. The Cowboys finished 30-for-42 from the line, as the referees were quick on the whistle Monday night.
The Cowboys built a 71-52 lead with 9:17 left, but UConn, and more specifically Adams, refused to quit. Adams scored 20 points over the game’s final nine minutes, as part of a 30-point second half, as he hit a variety of shots from different locations on the floor.
Adams’ effort wasn’t enough, as Evans made huge shots of his own for Oklahoma State to help keep the Huskies from trimming the lead down to two possessions in the waning moments. Evans scored 35 points on just 10-for-26 shooting, but he finished 12-for-17 from the free throw line.
For the Huskies, Adams finished with 34 points on 12-for-18 shooting, including six rebounds, six assists and 10 turnovers. Rodney Purvis finished with 20 points, while Vance Jackson added 13 points.
Up next, UConn will continue Maui Tournament play by matching up against Chaminade, who fell to No. 4 North Carolina 104-61. The Huskies and Silver Swords will tip off at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2.