HARTFORD – The final scoreboard displayed a positive outcome as fans filed out of the XL Center Saturday afternoon into the frigid Connecticut air. UConn won, 70-65. The Huskies snapped a four-game slide and had some moments and performances to inspire optimism from the home crowd.
‘A win is a win’ is a common phrase used by athletes, coaches and fans to stay positive after an uninspiring victory, often one that comes against a weaker opponent. UConn personnel used variations of that line after Saturday’s win.
“It wasn’t our best basketball, but we got the win,” UConn forward Terry Larrier said.
“I’m not going to apologize for a victory, any day,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “We got to move on and just get better.”
But at some point, uninspiring wins do pile up. They can become a trend.
UConn barely beat Stony Brook Nov. 14 at the XL Center. They needed overtime to escape both Columbia and Monmouth in Connecticut a few weeks later. In the ugliest game of all, the Huskies scraped by weakling Coppin State (347th of 351 Division I teams in the KenPom college basketball rating system) 72-59 at Gampel Pavilion Dec. 9.
East Carolina defeated Coppin State 76-50 on Nov. 12.
UConn is currently 8-7, with a 1-2 record in American Athletic Conference play. They have two more double-digit wins to go with their victory over Coppin State – 70-58 over Colgate and 85-66 over Boston University – and both of those games featured lengthy stretches of sickly play that brought unenthused sighs from UConn fans in attendance.
The Huskies have lost five games by double digits, including a 35-point drubbing against Arkansas at PK80 and a 25-point beatdown in Auburn.
But let’s go back to the victory at hand, in which UConn slipped by East Carolina (No. 313 in KenPom) by five points in front of a crowd of 6,717 in Hartford. The Huskies turned the ball over 16 times while handing out just seven assists. They entered Saturday averaging just 9.9 assists per game, good for 349th out of 351 Division I teams.
Point guard Jalen Adams had seven of those turnovers, although he did lead the team with 18 points. Christian Vital and Terry Larrier each added 16 points, while Isaiah Whaley contributed seven points and seven rebounds. There were no other individual performances of note.
UConn led by six points with the ball with 36 seconds remaining, but Larrier missed the front end of a one-and-one situation at the line. Antwoine Anderson fouled ECU’s Shawn Williams on a 3-point attempt, and Williams made all three to slice the lead in half.
Again, Larrier missed the front end of a one-and-one, allowing the Pirates to take a timeout, and after an Anderson foul on the floor prompted another timeout, B.J. Tyson (21 points) found himself wide open for a game-tying three.
Tyson missed, unlike Tulsa’s Corey Henderson Jr. in a similar situation three days ago, and the Huskies escaped.
“[Tyson] got a clean look. I’m glad God – he’s always on our side – but I’m glad he blew the ball a little bit further, and he missed it,” Ollie said.
Instead of a home loss to East Carolina, a five-game losing streak and a record under .500 in December for this storied program, it’s a win. Winning cures everything, they say, and boosts confidence going forward.
“This time, we were able to finish it. I’m proud of my guys,” Vital said of the final sequence.
UConn hosts UCF Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion.