The UConn men’s basketball team returns to action Saturday afternoon when it will face MAAC opponent Monmouth at the XL Center in Hartford.
The Huskies (5-2) are coming off a 77-73 overtime win over Columbia Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion, a much more trying result than UConn would like against a mediocre opponent. The Lions led by as much as 15 points before the Huskies awoke defensively and grinded out a tight win, led by 30 points from Christian Vital.
Coming off a 35-point loss to Arkansas to close play at the PK80 Invitational, UConn came out with a lethargic effort in the first half in front of a paltry Gampel crowd of just 3,808.
“I think that we just need to wake up and have more fight in us from the beginning of the game,” UConn guard Antwoine Anderson said after the game. “Starting off slow like that will catch up to us and we can’t afford that.”
Vital, Jalen Adams and Mamadou Diarra were the most important players in the comeback as the Huskies avoided a disastrous loss.
Eric Cobb, Isaiah Whaley and Alterique Gilbert sat out Wednesday with various ailments. UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after the game that Gilbert’s injury was day-to-day. The Huskies sorely missed the redshirt freshman’s ability to drive to the rim for a large portion of the game before Adams came alive late to finish with seven assists.
Diarra was the other big story Wednesday, dropping the Huskies’ first double-double of the season in just 20 minutes of action.
“Coach always tells me, ‘Just stay ready. Your time will come.’ I just took that with a grain of salt and kept working and just waited for my moment,” Diarra said after the game. “I just used my energy to help the team today. I definitely feel like that’s my role.”
Monmouth rolls into Connecticut with a 3-4 record, losing at Seton Hall and Virginia by double digits. Their last time out was Monday, an 81-73 win over Albany at home.
The Hawks’ leading scorer is Mitch Seaborn, who averages 13.4 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting, with a 45 percent mark from downtown. Austin Tilghman is the best playmaker, leading the team with 4.4 assists per game, adding 9.1 points and 4.3 rebounds.
UConn and Monmouth are scheduled to tip-off at 4 p.m. Saturday at the XL Center.
Tyler Keating is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering men’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @tylerskeating.