It’s too early to hit the panic button, but it’s time to worry.
The UConn men’s basketball team’s 67-58 loss to Northeast Conference opponent Wagner on Friday night at Gampel Pavilion wasn’t a devastating one. It’s certainly an upset, yes, but Wagner entered Friday a far more experienced team than the Huskies, and walked away with a well-deserved victory.
But for a UConn team that lugged in a No. 18 ranking in the preseason AP poll into opening night, this is definitely a tough loss to stomach. The Seahawks comprehensively outplayed the Huskies for most of the night, as UConn fell in their Gampel home opener for the first time in the building’s 28-year history.
“We definitely know it’s going to take time, and that we got a very young team, but we’re definitely better than how we played today. Even with the young guys, and how inexperienced they are,” UConn point guard Jalen Adams said after the game. “We just got to take that as a learning experience and not let it happen again.”
UConn hit just 35.7 percent of its shots, as they struggled to create open looks against a fairly stout Wagner zone defense. Terry Larrier and Alterique Gilbert were the only Huskies to hit shots with any consistency, finishing with 19 points and 14 points, respectively.
“We got to find somebody that can make some shots. I think we had a span where we stopped them nine times in the second half but couldn’t make shots,” Ollie said.
The Huskies received very little from their seniors on a night where they really could have used it, as their five freshmen played in their first college games. Senior guard Rodney Purvis hit just two of his seven shot attempts, including a 1-for-5 mark from three-point range, while turning the ball over a game-high four times.
Senior center Amida Brimah was dominated early and often on the boards by Wagner forward Mike Aaman, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds (five offensive).
“You can’t shoot 35 percent and give us 11 offensive rebounds and expect to win against a good team,” Ollie said.
Wagner slowed the pace, and did not let UConn enter transition enough for the Huskies to shift the tempo of their game their way. UConn did record 13 fast break points, but very few came easy. The Seahawks hit open shots when they found them, controlled the glass and executed down the stretch to seal the deal.
For Wagner coach Bashir Mason, who was named the Jim Phelan Northeast Conference Coach of the Year last season after winning the regular season conference title, it was a result to remember.
“Tonight, we were able to pull off probably one of the greatest victories in our school’s history,” Mason said.
The attitude on the other side was more somber. Certainly optimistic, but somber.
“We just got to step back up, go back to the drawing board and we just got to figure it out,” Ollie said. “This is a dark time right now, but it’s going to be a period that we say, after this, we going to get better from it. I’m going to keep pushing these guys to do that.”
Tyler Keating is associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering football and men’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @tylerskeating.