It was a tale of two Jalens in Central Florida Thursday night.
In the first half, Adams shot 1-for-8 with four turnovers. He finished 9-for-22 from the field and 5-for-10 from three with 27 points as UConn mounted their comeback, overcoming a 12-point halftime deficit to inch within three with five minutes to play.
But they couldn’t get it done against the Knights, dropping a 73-67 contest and losing the season series to the conference preseason favorites. The Huskies went to Central Florida in the hopes of bringing their great gameplay as of late to the preseason conference favorites. Instead, without Alterique Gilbert to help and a poor performance by any guard not named Jalen Adams, the Huskies’ offense failed to get anything done against the Knights.
“We dug too deep a hole for ourselves,” head coach Dan Hurley said postgame. (https://twitter.com/NeillOstrout/status/1091190241476644864)
The rest of the team did not provide any support to Adams’ monster second half. UConn’s bench, an important part of head coach Dan Hurley’s rotation, scored only four points as opposed to UCF’s 23. Christian Vital shot 5-for-9 for 13 points and Tarin Smith contributed 11, but the rest of the team simply didn’t chuck up enough shots to get close to the Knights.
B.J. Taylor stole the show for UCF, scoring 21 points on 5-for-12 shooting and hitting nine of his 10 free throw shots. Collin Smith and Caesar DeJesus both scored 11.
One of the biggest challenges heading into the night was containing Tacko Fall, who scored the first five points of the game. While he didn’t completely dominate, he finished 4-for-4 from the field with nine points and seven rebounds.
Josh Carlton, who has been putting up double-digit performances over the last few games, was stifled by Fall on the offensive end—he went 2-for-5 with four points in 33 minutes—but his defense continued to stay strong with 11 rebounds.
But his defensive performance wasn’t enough, especially in the first half, which was largely forgettable. The Huskies shot 8-for-24 from the field and 3-for-10 from 3-point range and turned the ball over 10 times. No player scored more than six points, and the two forwards that UConn desperately need to step up, Tyler Polley and Sid Wilson, scored a combined two points.
The Huskies started to get some momentum in the second half, after a Polley 3-pointer and a Vital fastbreak dunk cut the deficit down to eight with 14:09 to go. Adams kept scoring and scoring, netting 18 points in 16 minutes, including four 3-pointers.
An Adams layup, which would end up being his last points of the game, came with 2:07 to go. The shot cut UCF’s lead down to just two points. But on the very next possession, UCF’s Aubrey Dawkins hit a trey, sinking UConn’s spirits almost immediately.
Carlton missed two layups on the next possession and committed a foul, and UConn watched as Collin Smith netted both his free throws, bringing UCF’s score back up to seven with 1:11 to go. Though Vital completed a three-point play, the Huskies couldn’t hit big shots in the final minute.