Men's Basketball: Huskies head to Tulsa for NYE showdown

UConn guard Christian Vital holds the ball during a 62-46 loss to Houston on Dec. 28 at the XL Center in Hartford. (Tyler Benton, Staff Photographer/The Daily Campus)

UConn guard Christian Vital holds the ball during a 62-46 loss to Houston on Dec. 28 at the XL Center in Hartford. (Tyler Benton, Staff Photographer/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s basketball team will play their first American Athletic Conference road game of the 2016-17 season on New Year’s Eve as they travel to Oklahoma to face off with Tulsa. The Huskies (5-7, 0-1 The American) are looking to rebound from a 62-46 loss to Houston on Wednesday in their conference opener in Hartford.

With point guard Jalen Adams sitting out Wednesday with a concussion, UConn had a very difficult time producing points against Houston, scoring just 12 of them in the first half as the Cougars left with a relatively handy victory.

That 12-point first half was UConn’s second-fewest total for points in a half since 1980, as the Huskies shot 3-for-21 from the field and turned the ball over nine times. The Huskies also drew head coach Kevin Ollie’s ire after the game for their lack of defensive effort as things spiraled out of control on the offensive end.

As for Adams’ status heading forward, Ollie said the team would make an evaluation going forward after Thursday’s practice. He currently leads the team with 16.6 points and 5.5 assists per game.

Despite the game’s horrible result, the Huskies did see Christian Vital and Vance Jackson, two freshmen that have thrust into heavy minutes in the wake of various injuries, deliver encouraging performances against Houston. Vital led the team with 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting, while Jackson re-discovered his stroke from downtown, hitting 3-for-6 shots from 3-point range.

In search of their first conference win, UConn will meet Tulsa, who entered this year with an even larger group of newcomers than the Huskies. 10 Tulsa players have made their career debuts this season, with Sterling Tapling and Pat Birt remaining the only players on the roster who played in games for the Golden Hurricane last season.

Last year, Tulsa’s suite of veterans led them to a 20-12 record and a hotly-debated NCAA tournament berth, but this season their tremendous roster turnover has led to an inconsistent start. The Golden Hurricane are 6-6 this season, having yet to play a conference game. They are riding a two-game losing streak entering Saturday’s game.

Junior guard Jaleel Wheeler leads Tulsa with 12.4 points per game, while junior forward Junior Etou averages 12.0 points per game. Etou also leads the team with 6.7 boards per game. The inexperience of Tulsa has showed on the offensive end, where the team is turning the ball over 16.8 times per game.

Following the meeting with Tulsa, American Athletic Conference play rolls on for the Huskies. They will travel to Memphis on Jan. 5, before returning home on Jan. 8 to meet UCF at the XL Center.

UConn and Tulsa will play Saturday, New Year’s Eve, at the Reynolds Center in Tulsa. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.


Tyler Keating is associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering football and men’s basketball. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu. He tweets @tylerskeating.