Men’s Basketball: Huskies bounce back, rout Lafayette at XL

Christian Vital attempts a 3-pointer. The Huskies demolished Lafayette 90-63 in the XL Center to improve to 7-2. Photo by Eric Wang, Staff Photographer/The Daily Campus

HARTFORD-In a significantly quieter XL Center this time around, the UConn men’s basketball team rebounded from a tough loss to Arizona on Sunday with another assertive victory. Behind 21 points from Jalen Adams, the Huskies routed Lafayette on Wednesday night, 90-63.

It wasn’t quite the frenetic atmosphere of Sunday, but UConn (7-2) certainly didn’t lack any energy. Hurley’s group put together perhaps their most complete performance to date, drilling a season-high 12 3-pointers and holding Lafayette (2-6) to just 37 percent from the field.

“It was good to bounce back,” Hurley said after the game. “Disappointing loss on Sunday, and I thought we responded by playing really hard today.”

Here’s a sentence you’ve probably gotten used to reading this season: it was a balanced attack for the Huskies. Five different players scored in double figures, and Alterique Gilbert set a new career-high with 11 assists and zero turnovers.

“Al was great today, he was an incredible playmaker,” Hurley said after the game. “He made guys look good offensively, we made a good percentage of threes because he was hitting the paint. He was the difference for us.”

Here’s a sentence you probably didn’t expect to read this season: Tyler Polley and Josh Carlton were the stars of the first half.

Polley, who has quietly emerged as one of the most reliable sharpshooters on the team, let it fly from 3-point land in this one. He had 13 at the half, including 3-of-5 from deep, and went on a 10-0 individual run to spark UConn pulling away. He hit one more from beyond the arc in the second, finishing with 16 points.

“Coach made a point that we get up and bury the hatchet,” Polley said about the team’s rebound from a demoralizing defeat. “He wanted us to come back in here after a big loss like that and try to make us never feel that way again.”

Carlton had it going on both ends, putting up nine points, five rebounds and a pair of emphatic blocks in the first. He finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and three swats in just 19 minutes of play.

The Leopards hung around for awhile, trailing by just four points midway through the first half. From there on, it was all Huskies. After a 14-2 run from UConn, they had the Leopards doubled up at 32-16 with 6:26 remaining in the first. The lead never dipped below double digits the rest of the way.

Gilbert had seven assists at the break and ended with a career-high 11 dishes. Despite all that playmaking, he didn’t turn the ball over once.

“Once he gets all the rust off, he’s going to be scary,” Polley said on Gilbert.

Gilbert once again searched for his shot, going just 1-of-4 from the field, but he has clearly learned how to contribute in other ways when the shot isn’t falling.

“Whenever he has a bad shooting night, I’m always the first one to tell him to just stay aggressive,” Jalen Adams said. “He’s really known as a score-first guard but he’s really evolved as a player.”

Things didn’t get any closer in the second, allowing Hurley to give his starters some rest and some minutes for his younger players. Freshman Brendan Adams, who has struggled with his shot as of late, got some extended playing time and was impressive. Redshirt freshman Sidney Wilson played 12 minutes but made just a single bucket, and had more than a couple breakdowns on the defensive end.

“Sid struggled a little bit out there today just understanding where to be,” Hurley said. “Basketball is a lot more sophisticated than people think, it’s not just, ‘Hey, put your most talented athletes on the court.’ You have to know where to be at both ends.”

With another dominant win in the books, the Huskies now look ahead to one of the biggest challenges of the season, taking on No. 11 Florida State on Saturday. Like Arizona, it’s a chance for the Huskies to enter the national conversation.

“Games like today, you’re trying to avoid disaster, it’s much harder to sleep the night before,” Hurley said. “Florida State, Arizona, Syracuse, these are the games that you can’t wait to get to the arena just because of the opportunity for us. Incredible challenge for us…but it’s nothing but opportunity for us.”


Andrew Morrison is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at andrew.morrison@uconn.edu. He tweets at @asmor24