The UConn men’s basketball team started their 2017-18 season with a Gampel Pavilion win as they failed to do a season ago. The Huskies, playing without star point guard Jalen Adams, suspended by the team following a misdemeanor summons charge Thursday, held off pesky Colgate for a 70-58 win in their opener.
Terry Larrier carried the UConn offense in Adams’ absence, scoring 27 points on 11-for-18 shooting to stabilize the Huskies. He made a few clutch shots down the stretch to put Colgate away for good.
“I think Terry tonight knew exactly where his spots were, where he could make shots, and he got there, he took it with poise and he was confident, and he looked pretty good doing it. And I was very proud of him, not really playing for two years, to come out and have this performance when we really need it when [Adams] was out,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after the game.
“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, and just do what I had to do to get the win,” Larrier said. “I got some easy baskets early, and I just continued to keep scoring.”
After Colgate scored the first four points to quiet Gampel Pavilion, the Huskies settled in as Larrier had success with his jump shot. UConn ripped off a 20-3 run to go up 13 points eight minutes into the game.
Colgate stayed in the game with the 3-point ball. They shot just 6-for-19 from deep in the half, but made them at crucial times to remain close, and the threat of the deep shot opened up space for easy buckets underneath against a shaky UConn defense.
UConn led by just one point at the half, but they came out with a more focused effort defensively after the break, as Colgate shot 2-for-10 behind the arc in the second half.
“That was an emphasis for us,” Ollie said. “They were driving and kicking, so we tried to play a little bit better man-to-man defense and keep them in front of us, and I think we did a good job. Just try to run ‘em off the 3-point line, and that’s what we did in the second half.”
UConn also improved on the board, as Eric Cobb led the way with eight rebounds, with Larrier and Alterique Gilbert recording six apiece.
“We rebounded the ball very well. I think they had one offensive rebound in the second half [after five in the first half],” Ollie said.
UConn rode their improved defensive effort to an 18-6 extended run to start the second half, capped by another impressive putback dunk from freshman Isaiah Whaley to bring the home crowd to their feet. Colgate struggled immensely from the field, making just two field goals over the half’s first 10 minutes.
Also struggling from the field: UConn guard Alterique Gilbert, who went just 2-for-13 from the field as he attempted to replace some of Adams’ lost production. Gilbert was stifled at the rim and even airballed a pair of 3-pointers, although he did have a nice defensive effort.
“[Gilbert] just needs to work on finishing. I think he was trying to make too many plays in traffic,” Ollie said. “It’s his first game, he got down on himself a little bit. I just want him to pick his head up. He’s definitely a better shooter than he showed.”
Colgate wouldn’t go away. With thoughts of last year’s Wagner debacle running through Gampel Pavilion, they cut UConn’s lead to just five points with 3:20 left after a pair of 3-pointers. However, Antwoine Anderson, the Huskies’ graduate transfer from Cornell who was called upon to play heavy minutes in Adams’ absence, hit a huge jumper to quell the momentum.
“I like having the ball in those situations. I’ve strived for those moments ever since I was a kid,” Anderson said.
Anderson finished with 12 points, six assists, two rebounds, two steals and a block, lending a veteran presence to a young team Friday night.
“The fact that I’ve had four different teams, and this is like my fourth completely different team, it’s easy for me to come in say, ‘Alright, I understand what it takes, I understand what we need to do, and we have to come together in order to win and accomplish our goals,’” Anderson said.
Larrier put Colgate away with seven straight points, capped by a heat check 3-pointer to finish with a career-high 27 points. His scoring presence helped UConn overcome the absence of Adams, whose status is unknown going forward. The Huskies play Stony Brook Tuesday at the XL Center.
“I take full responsibility, but I’d rather take no comment on that,” Adams said when asked about the suspension. “[Ollie and I] see eye-to-eye, but we’re putting that behind us. I know I got to learn from my mistakes, and we’re moving forward from here.”