HARTFORD – Christian Vital scored a career-high 30 points to lead the UConn men’s basketball team to an 85-66 win over Boston University at the XL Center Sunday evening to stay unbeaten.
“I’ll take 3-0,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after the game. “CV really played a great game. I know he got 30 points, but out of 14 deflections, he got seven of them. He was all over the place and I think that led to him having a good game. Took it to the basket, did things that he wasn’t doing in the first game and the second game.”
Vital went 4-for-10 from 3-point range and 8-for-11 from the free throw line to power the offense, while adding five rebounds to keep UConn perfect before they ship off to Portland to participate in the PK80 Invitational this week.
“I made one and then I missed the next couple, so then I was like, let me get to the basket, because I felt like I had an advantage on my guy,” Vital said. “Then after I saw the ball going in, I said alright, I feel back in my groove, I feel like myself again, and then I was able to finish the game out.”
UConn got off to a ghastly shooting start reminiscent of last year’s 51-49 clunker between these two teams in Hartford. The Huskies missed their first nine shots to fall behind 8-1, with Alterique Gilbert missing his first three free throws as well.
Vital, Terry Larrier and Jalen Adams carried the Huskies back on a 15-5 run to take the lead but BU stayed in the game by hitting 3-pointers and taking advantage of UConn’s defensive miscues. The Terriers led as late as 15 minutes into the game before the Huskies steadily took control with Vital leading the way.
The sophomore guard also received help off the bench from Antwoine Anderson, the graduate transfer who played another solid game as a veteran leader off the bench. Anderson scored 11 points and had success attacking the rim.
“Yeah, I don’t know if I could have had 47 points off the bench last year. I think I had two players off the bench last year,” Ollie said.
Anderson hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to send the Huskies into the break up 39-31, and they came out firing in the second. A couple of tip-in buckets from Tyler Polley helped to assert UConn in the paint, where they held a 52-32 rebounding advantage with help coming from unlikely places.
“I think we did it by committee. Christian had five, Alterique had six, I think Jalen had five,” Ollie said of the team’s rebounding. “I thought our guards did a good job crashing back in, but once again CV led that with effort. The only thing I want these guys to do is play with effort.”
UConn never led by less than double digits in the second half, and their lead reached as large as 21 points as they put away BU in a way they were unable to do last year. Vital reached the 30-point mark with a pull-up 3-pointer in the final two minutes, raising a large cheer from the XL Center and putting an exclamation mark on the Huskies’ 3-0 record. Ollie’s team was 1-2 last year when they shipped off to Maui for their usual November tournament.
The Huskies’ first of three games at the PK80 will be against Oregon Thursday at 9 p.m.
“We just saw on ESPN that the [second PK80] matchup is gonna be Michigan State against Oregon,” Anderson said, insinuating that ESPN is expecting Oregon to beat UConn. “We want to go out there and compete and play at a high level.”