Men’s Basketball: Huskies look to enter finals break strong against Coppin State

Antoine Anderson defends the perimeter against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s basketball team is back in action Saturday afternoon at Gampel Pavilion as the Huskies take on Coppin State in their final game before an 11-day finals week break.

Saturday’s game is also UConn’s final nonconference home game of the season at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies will travel to Arizona and Auburn later in the month, and host Villanova at the XL Center on Jan. 20.

UConn faltered on a big stage their last time out, losing 72-63 to Syracuse at Madison Square Garden Tuesday after a very sloppy first half in which the team turned the ball over 13 times. The Huskies trailed by as many as 17 points, and although they cut the lead to nine points with a second-half run, more mistakes foiled their comeback hopes.

Despite the disappointing loss coming at the hands of a hated rival, UConn took some positives away from the game. Jalen Adams scored 22 points on a tidy 8-for-13 shooting, although he had just two assists compared to three turnovers. Christian Vital added 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Adams and Vital combined to play 77 minutes Tuesday, while fellow guard Antwoine Anderson played 38 minutes. The Huskies are sorely missing redshirt freshman guard Alterique Gilbert, who sat out the past three games rehabbing a shoulder injury.

UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after Tuesday’s game that Gilbert is continuing to explore all his options, including surgery. If the Huskies lose him for an extended period, that will put even more burden on Adams, Vital and Anderson.

In the frontcourt, Ollie continues to search for consistency. Mamadou DIarra received the start against Syracuse after a pair of nice games last week, but he contributed just one point (1-for-6 free throw shooting) and five rebounds in 17 minutes before fouling out.

Eric Cobb played more than 10 minutes for the first time since Nov. 14 against Stony Brook and flashed some offensive skill, finishing twice at the rim and handing out some nice passes. His night also ended on the bench, as he fouled out after 17 minutes.

Coppin State may be the perfect pick-me-up for the Huskies’ woes. The Eagles are 0-9 this season, and their margin of defeat has been less than 16 points just once, a 74-71 loss to Central Connecticut State on Nov. 21. They are losing by an average margin of 28 points per game.

The Eagles have already run into two of UConn’s AAC rivals, recording a 76-50 loss to East Carolina on Nov. 12 and a 97-54 loss to Cincinnati four days later.

Dejuan Clayton is the only Coppin State player averaging double digits in scoring at 10.2 points per game. The team shoots 26 percent from 3-point range.

UConn and Coppin State tip off Saturday at 2 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. The game will be broadcast on ESPNEWS.


Tyler Keating is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu. He tweets @tylerskeating.