Head coach Dan Hurley was brought in to turn around the UConn men’s basketball team. That’s hard to do from the locker room.
The Huskies were defeated by Tulsa on Wednesday night, 89-83, in Tulsa. The team is now just 1-6 away from home, 1-4 in conference play, and has dropped five of their last six. Hurley and Tulsa head coach Frank Haith were both ejected in the loss.
“Listen, some things need to be done from the league office on this one,” Hurley said. “When I’m wrong, I’ll take it, I’ll take my technicals, I’ll take my ejection at the Garden, I was wrong then. But [tonight] was a complete overreaction, and then escalation.”
With 11 minutes remaining, Hurley and Haith got into it on the sideline, shouting at each other from their respective benches, exchanging what Haith later described as “competitive banter.” Both coaches were promptly assessed a technical foul, and then when Hurley stepped towards Haith to extend a hand of apology, a second technical was called on both coaches, and they were ejected from the game.
“When coaches don’t do their job well, we know what happens to them,” Hurley said. “Players that don’t play well and underperform, we know what happens to them. They find the bench, coaches get fired, careers end for players and coaches. Officials, we need accountability across the board because all three have an impact on the game.”
It was a stunning development in an otherwise not-so-stunning defeat for UConn (10-8). The Huskies have still never won a game at the Reynolds Center in Tulsa, having lost all five since 2015.
Senior Jalen Adams dropped a season-high 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting, but many of those came once the game was essentially out of reach. Junior Christian Vital added 15 points and seven rebounds before fouling out, and it was another no-show for the UConn frontcourt, as starters Josh Carlton and Tyler Polley combined for just 10 points on 4-of-14 from the field.
“Tulsa kicked our butt,” Hurley said. “They were better prepared, they were better coached, their players played better, they were tougher.”
In the last two games, the Huskies have taken 31 total free throws. Their opponents have taken 74.
“Obviously, the free-throw discrepancy in our games against really physical teams has been an issue for us,” Hurley said. “At least in the last couple, the discrepancies are pretty large.”
After a back-and-forth first half, a recurring problem for UConn once again reared its ugly head: coming out flat in the second half. Trailing by just five at the break, Tulsa (12-6, 2-3 The American) shot 54% in the second, and soon led by as many as 17 halfway through the period.
“I think it was our defense. It might have started with me letting guys who aren’t their main focal points get to the rim and get going,” Adams said. “And then it kind of trickled down to other guys doing that.”
As they often do, the Huskies came alive at the end of regulation, trimming the lead to six with under two minutes to play. But the Golden Hurricanes hit their free throws down the stretch to put it away.
UConn’s previous game against Cincinnati goes down as a loss, but an encouraging one at that. This one seemed to erase that momentum in a hurry.
Next up for the Huskies is a matchup with last-place Tulane at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday. The Green Wave are the only winless (0-4) team in conference play in the AAC, and it certainly feels like a must-win for UConn.