Despite an ugly first half filled with offensive miscues and turnovers, the UConn men’s basketball team went on a 19-2 run in the final five minutes to complete the comeback against Stony Brook, winning 72-64 at their XL opener in Hartford.
With five minutes to go in the second half, a crowd of 5,431 at the XL Center watched as Stony Brook’s Tyrell Sturdivant hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Seawolves a 62-53 lead. The way UConn was playing—taking “crazy” shots and trying to force 3-pointers—it didn’t seem like they had a chance.
“We were just missing a lot of jump shots in the first half,” said Jalen Adams, who scored 19 points in the second half in his season debut. “We knew we just had to work it inside out. Once we started getting to the basket and they were converging in on us, we were driving to kick out to open shots.”
Adams scored nine of his 19 points in the final five minutes, including the go-ahead basket, to propel the Huskies to victory. When UConn was down, Adams credited Terry Larrier with keeping them in the game.
“He was just like, ‘Relax. We’re only down nine, there’s five minutes left, we’re in good hands,’” Adams said. “He told us, ‘Just stay poised. We got five minutes left. We can still come back.’ It’s nothing crazy. He’s seen crazier things happen. Everybody just took that in with him being the older guy on the team, and we just rallied behind him.”
Larrier was hindered by foul trouble throughout the game. He committed two early fouls that forced head coach Kevin Ollie to bench him for the rest of the half. He finished with 12 points.
“Our bench was phenomenal,” Ollie said. “Terry was in foul trouble, but he was talking to our guys.”
Alterique Gilbert looked much more comfortable from the floor, using quick feet and agility to weave through defenders in the paint and drive to the basket. He led all scorers with seven points at the end of the first half and finished the game with 14.
He only hit one shot from the floor in the second half, but he was able to draw fouls through aggressive play in the paint. He drew two crucial fouls at the nine-minute mark to bring the Huskies back within a basket.
“I’m just having so much fun watching him,” Adams said of Gilbert, whom he only played three games with last year. “He gets into lanes I don’t even see out there, he’s so crafty. He’s so good at finishing.”
Gilbert credited his teammates, especially David Onuorah, for helping to set up better scoring opportunities for him. Onuorah made his UConn debut tonight after missing the home opener with a hip injury.
“He gets me open, and he gets himself open by setting these great screens,” said Gilbert. “We were just trying to create plays. My play is coming along. Step-by-step, game-by-game, I’m getting better. My teammates definitely put me in better positions.”
While Onuorah played just 13 minutes and fouled out by game’s end, he grabbed seven rebounds and set screens that helped Gilbert flourish on offense.
“I think it’s a simple thing to do—just set a good screen and get your teammate open,” Onuorah said. “It works to get myself open, too.”
Stony Brook was hot from 3-point range, going four for their first six to turn a two-point deficit into a 17-11 lead with 10 minutes to go in the first half. They finished the game 11-for-30 from beyond the arc, but shot just 39.7 percent (23-for-58) from the floor overall.
After letting the Seawolves take control, UConn was able to get back within two points with some tough defense, but the offense crumbled in the last 1:30 of the first half and gave up two fouls to allow Stony Brook to expand their lead to 31-25.
UConn came out fighting in the second half and kept themselves within two possessions. When the last five minutes hit, Ollie praised the pressure the defense put on Stony Brook to allow the Huskies to retake the lead.
“We had just phenomenal ball pressure,” Ollie said. “I thought our ball pressure was great. Got 10 steals, that’s where I want it to be at. We had 19 turnovers, but we made them turn it over 18 times, so our pressure was phenomenal in the final five minutes of the game. And that’s what we’ve been working toward—conditioning. Might not get them in the first part of the game, but we’ll eventually get them if we stay with it, and I thought our guys stayed with it tonight.”