It’s been a rough start to the season for the UConn men’s basketball team. They barely scraped by Colgate and Stony Brook before riding a strong second half to take down Boston University. The Oregon Ducks, however, are fresh off a Final Four appearance and, although they lost most of the core contributors from that team, they have an exciting, young team that have won their first four games.
When the two teams met up for the Quarterfinals of the PK80 Tournament in Oregon on Thanksgiving night, it seemed as though the odds were in the Ducks’ favor.
It was not meant to be.
After losing a nine-point halftime lead, the Huskies rode a strong performance on the boards down the stretch to grind out a signature 71-63 win to improve the retooling Huskies’ record to 4-0.
UConn came out fighting in the first half. The Ducks, much like the Huskies, are still trying to find the right combination of players that work well together on the floor. Though it wasn’t what head coach Kevin Ollie started with, a four-guard lineup of Antwoine Anderson, Christian Vital, Alterique Gilbert and Jalen Adams along with Terry Larrier closed out the game, and it worked.
Gilbert stole the show in the first half for UConn, scoring 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor and 2-for-3 shooting from 3-point range. He only finished with 16, but Adams and Larrier picked up the slack in the second half and dropped eight and nine points, respectively. Larrier led all Husky scorers with 18 points.
UConn played aggressive throughout the whole game, but they had only one assist through 33 minutes of play, relying heavily on finding lanes and driving to the basket. It worked in the first half when Oregon was thrown off by how well UConn’s offense was executing.
But in the second half, the Huskies failed to adapt to Oregon’s more cohesive defense. UConn scored 18 of their 38 first-half points in the paint, but had only 10 through 12 minutes in the second half. They finished with 34 total points there.
UConn stuck to their offensive plan in the final 20 minutes, attempting to find open lanes, but had virtually no ball movement. After shooting 52 percent from the floor in the first half, UConn stalled out and shot just 27.3 from the floor in the second half.
The two teams played an even game for the first 15 minutes, with no team leading by more than four points at any given time. UConn utilized aggressive play and sloppy fouling from Oregon to get to the line four times during a scoring drought from the floor to take a three-point lead with four minutes left in the first half.
After two made free throws from Oregon, UConn finished the half on an 8-2 run to bolster their lead to 38-31 after 20 minutes of play.
But the Ducks came out fighting in the second half, outscoring UConn 16-4 in the first eight minutes of the second half to take a 47-44 lead. The Huskies went 3-for-13 from the floor, turned the ball over five times and committed eight fouls during that stretch.
Oregon never led by more than five points in the second half, shutting down UConn on the defensive side but shooting just 40 percent from the floor. The Huskies managed to stay in long enough to find their offense again—five straight points from Terry Larrier off assists from Adams and Vital suddenly put UConn back into the game, and a three-point play from Gilbert gave UConn their first lead since 44-43 at 13:58.
The two teams exchanged the lead 13 times in the second half, but the Huskies pulled away, scoring nine of their last 11 points from the free throw line, where they finished 24-for-34 overall.
Stephanie Sheehan is the managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @steph_sheehan.