Just forget that one ever happened.
Was it the post-finals week rust? The fact that UConn hasn’t played in a week? Whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t just UConn. Both the Huskies and Manhattan combined for 41 turnovers and shot under 40 percent from the floor in UConn’s 61-46 win.
The Huskies had another tough night from beyond the arc, hitting just four of their 23 attempts. They turned the ball over 17 times and only out-rebounded the Jaspers 40-37. Christian Vital led the Huskies with 13 points, eight rebounds and seven steals, with Alterique Gilbert not far behind with 12 points and four assists. Jalen Adams only recorded two points on four shot attempts in one of the worst performances of his career.
“The offensive end was just incredibly frustrating,” head coach Dan Hurley said. “It seemed like a night of those types of frustrating moments. I don’t know how many transition two-on-ones we screwed up and turned into fiascos.”
Tyler Polley kicked off the game with a corner three, and it seemed like UConn (8-3) was destined to beat down on the inferior Jaspers (2-8). But it wouldn’t shake out like that.
That Polley 3-pointer would end up being UConn’s only field goal for the first nine minutes of the game. The Huskies went through a horrid stretch where they shot 0-for-10 from the field, including 1-for-7 from beyond the arc, and committed three turnovers. The Jaspers went on an 8-0 run to take a three-point lead.
“It was a sloppy performance,” Gilbert said. “Lot of turnovers, not really a good flow for us.”
The drought finally broke when Sidney Wilson elevated and slammed one home on a one-handed putback, bringing the score to a dismal 8-7 Manhattan lead with 11:20 left. The Jaspers committed five turnovers in five minutes as UConn began to get more aggressive on both sides of the ball, generating turnovers and driving into the lane to get their lead back to 15-11 with 7:55 to go.
Despite the short burst of energy, both teams continued to play poorly on both ends, turning the ball over at an incredible pace. UConn committed four straight turnovers after Manhattan committed six in less than six minutes. The Huskies were able to hit a few free throws to rack up some points, and a Christian Vital 3-pointer not only broke the Huskies’ 0-for-9 spell from beyond the arc, but it gave them a 20-15 lead with 3:58 to go.
“We have too many guys shooting in the mid-to-low-30s from three. After tonight, we may not have anyone in the 40s from three,” Hurley said. “If we’re going to be a guard-oriented attack, we have to shoot much better from the 3-point line. In order for us to do that, guys are going to have to live in the gym and shoot more.”
UConn closed the half on a 10-0 run, capped off by a Josh Carlton second-chance bucket at the buzzer, to boost their lead to 25-10. But as the score suggests, it was nothing to brag about. The Huskies shot 27.6 percent from the field and 13.3 percent from 3-point range, and turned the ball over eight times. The leading point scorer at the half was Vital with seven.
The second half didn’t start out too much better. Manhattan scored on their opening possession and the Huskies failed to do so on theirs, but they got a steal and Alterique Gilbert hit a 3-pointer to start UConn’s second half scoring. Jalen Adams, donning a white headband, didn’t get on the board until 23 minutes into the game to put the Huskies up 15.
“I don’t know,” Hurley said when asked about Adams, whose worst performance came in 2016 as a freshman when he was held scoreless against SMU. “[His performance] was so far away from his talent level, it’s scary.”
The Huskies began to capitalize off Manhattan mistakes. Vital laid one in after a steal to bring UConn’s lead to 17, and Gilbert completed a four-point play after drawing a foul on a 3-point bucket. While the Jaspers finally got shots to start falling—they scored 13 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half after scoring 15 in the entire first half. But the Huskies got it going, too, with Gilbert leading the charge.
“I thought [Gilbert] showed some growth in the second half, though, by just playing better,” Hurley said. “Mentally putting that first half behind him and I think he gave us a much higher level of performance.”
Tempers flared in the back end of the half, when Sidney Wilson and Manhattan’s Pauly Paulicap, who was animated all game, were issued technical fouls after exchanging words during a timeout. But UConn still came out with a win, albeit a painful one.
“We’re just being too lackadaisical in practice,” Josh Carlton, who scored 11 points with five rebounds, said. “I think we just gotta rally as a team and just kind of respond to what coach said by gaining intensity in practice, not being lackadaisical, working on turnovers and things like that.”
The Huskies will take on Drexel on Tuesday before facing Villanova at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 22.