Jalen Adams has been groomed as the heir apparent. He’s a point guard from Roxbury, Massachusetts, just like someone else we know.
On Friday afternoon, Adams took his biggest leap into being remembered in the same breath as Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier and the rest of the elite UConn guards.
He finished with a career-high 22 points in UConn’s 104-97 quadruple overtime victory over Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship.
His performance will mostly be remembered for one legendary moment.
Late in the third OT, Cincinnati guard Kevin Johnson hit a three-pointer to give the Bearcats an 88-85 lead. All hope was lost. Just 0.8 seconds remained on the clock and UConn’s postseason hopes hung by the thinnest of threads.
Confusion after the shot had Adams and Daniel Hamilton glancing at each other, wondering who should in bound the ball. Thankfully, Hamilton did.
His pass found a wide open Adams.
He turned. Took a step. And heaved a shot from 70 feet away.
Bank. Tie game. 88 all, overtime number four on the way.
“That shot – I don’t know. I think it was past half-court. I don’t think he was over half court. That’s legendary stuff to make that shot at that time and just keep performing,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said.
Adams’ miracle shot stunned the Bearcats (22-10, 12-6 The American) as the fourth overtime approached. Sitting next to their bench, I could see and feel their energy leave. Meanwhile, the Huskies (22-10, 11-7 The American) exploded.
“I seen them make a three, I was upset about it, but the least I could do was to get a shot up. Daniel passed me the ball, and nobody was in front of me, so I shot the ball as quick as I could and I watch it go in. And that was just amazing,” Adams said.
There were still five minutes left to play. Adams sealed the game with eight points in the final overtime, including finishing a layup through contact and a jumper right in the face of a Cincinnati defender. He knocked down four free throws to ice the win.
“Jalen made plays,” Ollie said. “That’s what it’s all about. I just love these guys. We just willed it. That’s what it comes down to when it’s one and go home. We lose and we go home. But the guys just played. We came back, and one thing in our program we always talk about is recovery. And we recovered.”
Adams was so good this afternoon, his previous game tying layup will largely be forgotten. Troy Caupain hit a tough running layup with 14 seconds to play in the second overtime. The Huskies in bounded and pushed the pace to get Adams a transition layup that sent the game into yet another five minute long extra period.
“We never give up on each other. We never give up on ourselves,” Adams said. “Just keep playing.”
Adams scored 15 of his 22 points in the four overtimes. That sort of ability late in games was the difference. It may have just been enough to punch UConn’s ticket to the NCAA tournament.
“Everybody’s talking about our conference. That’s two NCAA tournament teams right there, battling, battling…Hopefully (the selection committee) sees that. How we battled and how we fought and it’s not just this game, it’s throughout the whole season,” Ollie said.
UConn is a program built on clutch moments. Every coach, player, manager, fan and reporter can rattle them off like the days in a week.
The Kemba step back.
Shabazz’s from the elbow.
Ray Allen down the middle against Georgetown.
Tate George’s miracle.
Boat versus the world against Cincy last year.
Well, on a gorgeous Friday in Orlando, Jalen Adams submitted his 70-foot bomb for the all-time UConn clutch shot montage.
It’s March. UConn is still alive. The Huskies take on No. 1 seeded Temple in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship tomorrow afternoon.