The UConn men’s basketball team let another one slip away late, this time at No. 25 Houston on Senior Night, dropping their last regular season game 71-61.
Jalen Adams continued his hot shooting with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting and six assists and Terry Larrier fared well without the mask, scoring 19 points and going 4-for-8 from 3-point range with seven rebounds.
Led by 30 points from senior Rob Gray, the Cougars got off to a hot start in their home away from home, H&PE Arena. Four 3-pointers helped Houston jump out to an early 22-9 lead, what would be their largest lead of the game.
With a little over 12 minutes to go in the first half, a Larrier 3-pointer started a 19-9 UConn run to get them back within three. The Huskies scored 10 points in the final three minutes and capped off the half with an Adams 3-pointer to give the Huskies a 38-37 lead.
Their halftime lead was only the second one they’ve had on the road, the only other one coming against Tulane on Jan. 13 in a 67-57 win. It was their first time holding a lead against a Top-25 team since having a 3-2 lead over Cincinnati on Feb. 22 with 18:37 to go in the first half.
The Huskies carried that positive momentum into the second half. Houston held UConn scoreless for four minutes to retake the lead, but another Larrier 3-pointer turned the tables back in UConn’s favor. They maintained their advantage, leading by as much as five for the next six minutes.
The two teams went back and forth until the 3:40 mark, where the game devolved into a glorified free throw contest. Houston took a 74-69 lead at 1:46 to go after two Gray free throws, and the Huskies had a chance to move the game back within a possession with Adams at the line. But he missed both of his free throws, allowing the Cougars to widen their lead to seven points with 1:13 to go.
Neither team scored a field goal for the final three minutes, but the Cougars outscored UConn at the line 11-3 to propel themselves to victory. The Huskies missed four shots, including two 3-pointers, down the stretch.
Despite the loss, since the seeds are all but locked in for the American Athletic Conference tournament, it was an encouraging sight to see the Huskies hang in with a Top-25 team days before the tournament begins this Thursday. UConn’s chances are slim, but the only way for them to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row is to win in Orlando this weekend.