In what turned out to be a fairly dominant performance Wednesday night, the UConn men’s basketball team defeated the Temple Owls 73-59, trailing for only 34 seconds and playing their game right from the opening tip on their way to a second consecutive victory.
“It was a good ‘us’ win, I think the guys did a good job of setting the tone early,” head coach Kevin Ollie said. “They played great defense and I just thought we executed on the offensive end, 18 assists on 28 made buckets. Once again, we outrebounded a team which is a major key for us and we got to the free-throw line. Very proud that our guys are getting better and that’s what I like to see.”
The UConn offense started out with a bang. On the Huskies’ very first possession, the team got a bucket on a signature Jalen Adams-to-Amida Brimah alley-oop. A few possessions later, freshman wing Vance Jackson drilled an open three after a nice feed from Adams. However, Shizz Alston Jr.’s second three of the game tied it 8-8 heading into the first TV timeout.
Senior Rodney Purvis would answer with a three of his own following the break before Brimah put in a baby hook over a Temple defender. A string of great possessions, culminating with a Kentan Facey elbow fadeaway, really got the momentum going for the Huskies as they exploded for a 14-1 run and took a 22-9 lead, forcing Temple to call a timeout.
Even when UConn’s offense wasn’t rolling, the defense was solid throughout the first half. The Owls were held to a mere 11-for-34 shooting (32.4 percent) in the first and the play of Brimah was a big reason for that. The senior big man amassed six blocks in the first half alone, including three in the span of one minute. His huge wingspan forced a lot of bad shots from the Owls, even on those he couldn’t block.
"Brimah obviously put his mark on the game in that first half and we kept trying to go at him for some strange reason,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. “A couple of blocks were out of nowhere, but we need to drive and kick a whole lot more than we did.”
Brimah’s big plays on defense fuel his energy and the whole team seems to build off that energy as well, Adams said. He suggested that his enthusiasm on the court was a huge factor in leading the team to a win and having him anchoring the defense is huge.
“When [Brimah] gets hyped up, everybody gets hyped up,” Adams said. “You know he’s got your back every time somebody beats you.”
With about five minutes remaining in the first half, UConn drew up yet another alley-oop play, this time from Adams to Facey. Just seconds later, a big block from Jackson set up Purvis for a huge tomahawk slam on the fastbreak to give the Huskies a 37-23 lead with less than a minute remaining in the half. However, Temple would cut into the deficit making an alley-oop of their own along with a buzzer-beating three to end the half 39-28.
The second half started just like the first, an alley-oop from Adams to Brimah. Adams would follow that up with a mid-range jumper over the defense before feeding Facey to give UConn a 45-28 lead. Adams would finish with 11 points, a career-best 12 assists and seven rebounds.
"It’s great for us whenever [Adams] can get out there and run the team the way he did tonight,” Facey said. “That’s always going to be good for us because you get a lot of guys involved and get guys going, that’s really good.”
Adams, on the other hand, said his improved play from the point could be attributed to the play of his teammates who are getting into open spaces and giving the young guard the space to make plays.
“The bigs, I feel like, are setting great screens for me to get open,” Adams said. “And the wings, [Christian Vital], Rodney [Purvis], Vance [Jackson], they’re all just making open shots or creating better shots so I feel like that’s helped me a lot personally.”
Although the Owls would cut the deficit to seven on a 16-6 run in the couple minutes after the first TV timeout of the second half, UConn’s unrelenting defense made sure they wouldn’t come any closer. On the offensive end, the likes of Adams and Facey closed out the game as the Huskies earned their second consecutive win. Facey finished with a career-high and game-high 23 points to go with 10 rebounds for the fourth double-double of his career and the second of the season.
“I thought Facey was really good tonight,” Dunphy said. “He was very, very good for them tonight. I think he’s really started to play very, very well and on a night like tonight he gets 23 points on 11 shots. That efficiency is terrific.”
Next up, the Huskies will take a trip down to Washington D.C. Saturday afternoon to take on former Big East rivals Georgetown in hopes of winning three straight games for the first time this year.