There are bad shooting nights, and then there are nights like SMU had Thursday against UConn at Gampel Pavilion.
The Mustangs came in shooting 47 percent from the field. On Thursday, they shot 28 percent. UConn ran away late with a 21-6 run, fueled by Christian Vital, to secure their best home win of the season.
“We just went completely cold. I mean, we were cold the whole night, I mean, come on, we missed a lot of shots,” SMU head coach Tim Jankovich said after the game. “Tonight, it was pretty simple. We rebounded well enough to win, we turned the ball over few enough times to win, we shot enough free throws to win, we made enough plays to win, and we shot beyond horribly.”
Shake Milton and company started the night well, jumping out 8-0, including a pair of 3-pointers from Milton. That would be as coherent a stretch of offensive basketball as SMU would put together all night, as the Huskies responded with an 11-0 run and honed in on Milton defensively.
“(Milton) got it going for a little bit, but we really wanted to keep the ball out of his hands, make (Jahmal) McMurray score all the points, make (Ben) Emelogu score all the points,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said.
McMurray: 1-for-11, 1-for-6 from downtown. Emelogu: 2-for-12, 1-for-6 from downtown, although he left the game for a couple of minutes with a leg injury that may have affected him.
“Instead of Shake getting going, and making people better, we allowed other guys to make plays, and they couldn’t do it for 40 minutes,” Ollie said.
Milton didn’t fare much better. He finished with 18 points, in line with the 18.4 points per game he entered averaging, but on 5-for-16 shooting.
“We were just missing and missing and missing, and that broke the game open, and that gave (UConn) confidence when they figured out, ‘I think these guys are going to go five minutes and not make a shot’,” Jankovich said.
It was Vital (20 points on 5-for-12 from 3-point land) and, to a lesser extent, Jalen Adams (18 points), who took advantage. Freshman forward Josh Carlton also had a strong night, posting a career-high 12 rebounds to help put UConn over the top.
SMU missing every shot helped.
“I mean, look at the numbers. I don’t think we’ve shot this poorly in two, three, four years, I can’t even remember that,” Jankovich said. “But you always have to give the other team credit.”
NCAA denies Sidney Wilson’s appeal
UConn received a ruling from the NCAA Thursday that freshman transfer Sidney Wilson had been denied an appeal of the decision not to grant an immediate eligibility waiver.
Wilson will continue to practice with the team for the remainder of the season but will not be allowed to play. He will have four years of eligibility beginning next season.
Wilson enrolled in 2017 summer classes at St John’s, but decided to transfer from the school in late August, picking UConn just a few days later. The Wilson family quickly applied for a waiver to play immediately, but the NCAA denied the application in August, leading to UConn’s appeal.