Men’s Basketball: Huskies rock USF for fifth straight home win

UConn takes on the South Florida Bulls Wednesday evening at Gampel Pavilion.  The Huskies crushed the Bulls in their 97-51. (Tyler Benton/ The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s basketball team rolled to victory in Connecticut once again Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion, as they beat American Athletic Conference foe USF 97-51 for their fifth straight home victory.

Senior Rodney Purvis powered the Huskies (11-12, 6-5 The American) past the conference-worst Bulls (6-17, 0-12 The American) in his penultimate Gampel Pavilion showing with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting, while UConn broke the program record for 3-pointers in a game (set in 1997 against Hartford) by hitting 16-for-24 shots from long range.

“It was a complete game,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after the game. “Our guys really shared the basketball, and we had 35 made field goals, and 28 of them were assisted. That’s some real good offensive execution, and we played some real good defense, so I’m just proud of the guys.”

UConn raced out to a fast start in front of a relatively small crowd, featuring a below-average showing from the UConn students. The Huskies led 9-1 after the first media timeout 4:36 into the game, attacking USF’s zone defense with the steady hand of American assists leader Jalen Adams, who entered Wednesday averaging 6.6 helpers per game.

The Huskies built that lead to 17-1 with more efficient offense while stifling the Bulls on the defensive end. USF didn’t make a field goal for the first seven minutes before Troy Holston finally got a 3-pointer to drop.

“One of our keys was starting the game off with tempo, and hitting early, and I think we did that,” Ollie said.

The Bulls shot miserably for much of the first half, hitting three of their first 16 shots as UConn built a 24-4 edge 11 minutes into the period. Purvis helped lead the charge offensively by hitting his first three shots, including two from downtown. The senior guard entered Wednesday shooting 52 percent from the field over his last four games.

USF withstood UConn’s opening flurry of punches, and struck back, chipping the lead down to as few as six points with 1:59 left in the first half. Leading scorer Geno Thorpe hit 6-of-6 free throws during this stretch as the Bulls did some damage from the charity tripe.

The Huskies went a 4:46 stretch without a field goal late in the half, nearly matching the Bulls’ futility to begin the half. Purvis did bury a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to put UConn up 40-30 at the halftime break.

“We were getting pretty much everything we want. We got careless, and we got nine turnovers, and that’s how they got confidence, getting back into the game,” Ollie said.

And then UConn began rolling again, scoring the first 17 points of the second half on their way to building a 30-point lead. Purvis continued to light it up from behind the arc, tying his career-high for long-distance makes with his fifth 3-pointer early in the half. He finished 6-for-9 from deep.

As a team, the Huskies rained 3-pointers to begin the half, hitting nine of their first 10 tries. With 12:03 remaining in the game, they had already surpassed their season-high for 3-point field goals. Even Adams, who averaged just one 3-point make per game coming in, got in on the fun by hitting four bombs from downtown in the second half.

“[The 3-pointers] was all off of good penetration. We was unselfish,” Ollie said of the barrage from behind the arc. “I was proud of Rodney, stepping up, and playing the basketball I know he’s capable of doing. He looked real comfortable out there shooting the basketball, which pretty much all our guards did.”

It all added up to a 38-5 run over the second half’s first 12 minutes, an avalanche of UConn scoring that also featured the Bulls going 10:28 before their first field goal. Up 43 points, freshman Vance Jackson dived into the courtside seats to retrieve a loose ball.

With about six minutes left, walk-on guard Mike Noyes made his first appearance, relieving Adams, who had tallied up a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists. Noyes’ jumper with 2:53 remaining drew perhaps the loudest cheer of the night.

It was a monstrous second half for the Huskies, who shot 21-for-29 (10-for-12 on 3-pointers) in the period on their way to recording their largest margin-of-victory of the season. Freshman Christian Vital was the other major contributor to UConn’s 3-point explosion, hitting 4-of-6 attempts from deep.

“When we share the ball, work it inside-out, it’s just so much easier to play,” Adams said. “Everybody’s having fun. I don’t know why, it just always works for us. When we share the ball, get great ball movement, the shots always fall.”


Tyler Keating is associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering and men’s basketball. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu. He tweets @tylerskeating.