The UConn men’s basketball team used a second-half surge to defeat American Athletic Conference rival South Florida 81-60 Wednesday night in Tampa, Florida. With the win, UConn improved to .500 in conference play.
Jalen Adams powered the Huskies (9-11, 4-4 The American) with 20 points and 12 assists, while Christian Vital added 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including an impressive 5-for-7 mark from three-point range. Five of UConn’s six rotation players scored in the double digits.
The Huskies started the game out hot, grabbing a 7-0 lead in just over 90 seconds. For the second-straight game, UConn played without big men Juwan Durham and Steven Enoch, who continue to deal with injuries.
South Florida (6-13, 0-8 The American) steadied itself shortly afterwards in search of their first conference win of the season. After falling behind 14-4, the Bulls began to hit shots from long range, with Michael Bibby, Malik Fitts and Troy Holston all finding the bottom of the net. Bibby was especially hot, hitting three 3-pointers in the first half.
UConn kept pace, holding the lead for the entire first half. Their lead was trimmed as small as 28-27 with 6:25 left in the half, and they brought a 35-33 lead into the halftime break.
With a couple of buckets early in the second half, the Bulls took a 44-43 lead with 15:43 left. That was their first lead of the game, but the Huskies dominated from there. UConn immediately responded with an 8-0 run, capped by senior Rodney Purvis’ first two baskets of the game.
Multiple UConn players saw success from behind the arc in the second half, as Adams, Vital, Purvis and freshman Vance Jackson all hit 3-pointers. Jackson, who has won two consecutive American Rookie of the Week awards, finished with 12 points on 3-for-6 shooting.
South Florida was able to trim UConn’s lead down to 57-53 with 8:11 left before the Huskies used both a 9-0 run and a 12-0 run to put the game away down the stretch. Despite playing with just six rotation players, UConn turned up the defensive energy while Adams controlled the pace on the offensive end.
The Huskies were extremely efficient in the second half, shooting 8-for-12 from three-point range and 12-for-13 from the free throw line to secure an 81-60 win.
UConn shot 60 percent from three-point range and 81 percent from the free throw line for the game. The Huskies outrebounded the Bulls 32-26, with big men Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah combining for 13 rebounds.
Vital had one of the best games of his young career, scoring 17 points on just eight shots while adding five steals. Purvis added 14 points on just seven shots.
Up next, the Huskies return home to face Tulane this weekend at Gampel Pavilion. Tip-off between UConn and Tulane is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday.