HARTFORD – After a slow start to the first half, strong performances from both returning and new players lifted the UConn men’s basketball team over the University of New Haven 83-68 on Sunday.
Four players finished with 10 or more points, including redshirt sophomore Terry Larrier, who played his first game in a Husky uniform this afternoon and scored 12 points. Also playing as a Husky for the first time, freshman Vance Jackson put together a strong second half performance, netting a team-best 15 points, with eight of them coming on 3-pointers.
“We were kind of disappointed as a team that the other team was a little too close, so we had that fire. We just wanted to come out and break the lead some more,” Jackson said.
From the onset, UConn’s defense was relatively sloppy and could not completely cover the court. UNH went 10-for-30 from the 3-point line and wreaked havoc in the paint, poking holes in the changing UConn lineup and finishing drives.
While the defense tightened up a bit in the second half, they had no answer for junior transfer Danny Upchurch, who stole the show with 33 points.
“I thought he dictated the whole game offensively,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said of Upchruch’s performance. “We got to sure-up our defense, because he was really penetrating, shooting threes, he was doing pretty much anything he wanted to.”
Ollie emphasized the need for guards Jalen Adams and Alterique Gilbert to tighten up on defense. While they were not the only ones to struggle defensively, Ollie was still very pleased with the way the team picked itself back up in the second half and believes that there are a lot of good, coachable aspects to come out of the game.
“It’s really going to give me an opportunity this week to coach these guys up,” Ollie said. “All-in-all, I thought it was a good game, you know, first game to get these guys under the lights and see how they perform. We have a lot of teachable things we can correct in this next week.”
On the offensive side, senior Kentan Facey and Larrier kept the Huskies afloat in the first half. Facey notched 13 points in 17 minutes and went 5-for-5 from the floor to keep UConn in the lead during a slow first half. Larrier impressed in his first game, draining 13 points of his own while also grabbing a team-best seven rebounds.
“I felt really good,” Larrier said. “I just really wanted to go out and play hard and of course win. I think as the season goes on, I think I want to try to be the best defensive player I can be for my team.”
UConn found themselves only up by one at the half. Facey and sophomore Jalen Adams led the team with eight points, and Larrier was not far behind with six points and five rebounds. At that point, Jackson had only scored one point off a free throw, and the defense had allowed Upchurch to score 13 points and the rest of the UNH offense go to 7-for-19 behind the arc.
It took about five minutes into the second half for the Huskies to catch fire. While they never once lost the lead, they only led by a score of 46-45 before a 13-point run put them up 59-45. After Adams forced a turnover, he lobbed the ball to Larrier down the court, who drained the bucket and was able to draw the foul to complete the three-point play.
From there, Gilbert helped power the run by notching two steals and three assists in two minutes. Jackson scored five before the Chargers finally got back on the board. He hit two more threes to put the score out of reach at 69-51 with just under eight minutes to go.
“It felt good to see the first one go in. It’s like a confidence builder,” Jackson said. “Every time we step on the court, we just have to be ready to play.”
The Chargers made a run for it in the final minutes, but the Huskies would ultimately come out on top with a score of 83-68. UConn will get a full week of practice before hitting the court once again on Saturday, Nov. 5 at Gampel Pavilion. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.