Winter break has come to an end, and students have made the trek back to Storrs just in time for the spring semester to start up. The time off from class may have gone by quick with a blizzard of friends, family and the holiday season, but break was definitely longer for some students than others. UConn athletics were in full swing during the time off as the men’s and women’s basketball and hockey teams all competed on the road and right here at home. Let’s take a look at some of the action you may have missed.
Since the conclusion of fall semester finals, the men’s basketball team has played eight games, winning just three of them. After a win at home over Drexel on Dec. 18, the Huskies played their third game at Madison Square Garden this season when they faced Villanova in a Saturday matinee. The defending national champions proved to be too much for Dan Hurley’s bunch before they opened up conference play with USF. A blown halftime lead in Orlando left the Huskies mentally and physically defeated. The locker room following the loss was full of hung heads and zero contact between anyone.
Although the outcome remained the same, the Huskies had a better showing when UCF traveled to the XL Center. Hurley commended senior Jalen Adams on his preparation and the difference he made following the USF loss, even though Adams shot just 2-of-10. UConn would bounce back from three straight losses when they beat a tough SMU team at Gampel.
In their fourth-consecutive conference game, the Huskies fought Cincinnati through an overtime to lose 74-72. Alterique Gilbert lead the way with 18 points, including an acrobatic floater to send the game to overtime, but fell just short of leading his team to a win. UConn traveled to take on Tulsa, which ended in a loss for UConn, who lost their head coach along the way. Hurley was ejected in the second half following his second technical. Head coaches for both sides were assessed fouls for some minor shouting, but in an effort to shake hands and move on, both Frank Haith and Hurley were given their second technicals and were ejected from the game.
The Huskies rounded out the break with a much-needed win over Tulane. The 16-point home victory saw Jalen Adams score a season-high 31 points while junior Christian Vital joined elite company when he scored his 1,000th career point in a UConn uniform.
Like the men’s team, the women’s basketball team played eight games over winter break and won all of them with the exception of a loss to No. 8 Baylor on the road. In what was the team’s first regular season loss since 2014, the Huskies lost 68-57, their lowest scoring total of the season. Only leading the Bears once (when Crystal Dangerfield scored the first points of the day), the Huskies were outscored 52-10 in the paint while shooting just 29 percent from the field.
The final score against USF was on-par for a UConn women’s basketball game, 63-46, but the start was a little off. Down just 6-4 early on, something seemed off to head coach Geno Auriemma, so he did what only Geno would do and benched his entire starting lineup. The lifeless bunch of starters were usurped by the second unit, starring Molly Bent and Batouly Camara. The group that more often than not observes instead of participating proved to be just what the Huskies needed before the starters made their way back to the floor in the second quarter.
The women beat Oklahoma, Houston, Cincinnati, USF, Tulane and Temple and handed No. 14 Cal their first loss of the season, all during the winter break. What may have gotten lost in all those games was Katie Lou Samuelson’s 2000th career point. A simple layup for the sharpshooting senior was all it took to score points 2,000 and 2,001 in the team’s win over USF. Lou is the 10th women’s basketball player in school history to reach the mark, joining the likes of Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart and Rebecca Lobo.
Although the winter break saw the men’s hockey team knock off Yale for the first time in school history, the young group won two of their five games. Just before 2019 began, the Huskies went down to New Haven to face the Bulldogs. Goals from Alexander Payusov, Ben Freeman and Brian Rigali lead the Huskies to a 3-1 defeat of Yale, the first time in 13 matchups. The win also brought the end to a seven-game losing streak and saw junior goaltender Adam Huska stop 39 pucks.
UConn’s other victory came on a cross-country trip to Las Vegas where the team participated in the Ice Vegas Invitational. Despite a loss to 17th-ranked Western Michigan in their first game, the Huskies bounced back with a 6-3 win over Saint Lawrence. A four-goal first period gave UConn a lead to work with and they never gave it up as six different Huskies found the back of the net.
Back-to-back losses to Merrimack and Rensselaer ended winter break for the men’s hockey team, both by a score of 5-2. The Huskies look forward to their remaining schedule as they prepare to make a push for the postseason. UConn has 12 remaining games that include 11 games against conference opponents and nine games on home ice.
In seven games during winter break, the women’s hockey team skated away with five victories. The Huskies, like their male counterpart, ended 2018 with a win. A 4-1 victory over Dartmouth on Dec. 30 saw Natalie Snodgrass score twice, leaving the Huskies hungry for more in 2019. Dartmouth outshot UConn 28-22, but a 28-21 advantage in face-offs proved to be a difference-maker for the Huskies.
The Huskies started 2019 with a home-and-home series sweep over Holy Cross. With wins of 4-3 and 6-3, UConn re-opened conference play in a big way. Snodgrass lead the way, scoring four goals in the two games, including a hat trick on the road.
With their winning streak, now at four, dating back to Dec. 1, the women extended it to six games after they swept UNH. In a Friday/Saturday series in Storrs, the Huskies scored six goals to UNH’s one. Molly Fisher recorded 32 saves in game one, her first shutout on the season. Game two came down to a barrage of third period goals. Entering the period tied at one each, Morgan Wabick, Catherine Crawley and Snodgrass all scored goals to win 4-1 and complete the sweep.
Sweeps seem to be a big trend for 2019 women’s hockey. After sweeping each of their opening two series of the calendar year, the women’s hockey team got a taste of their own medicine against Northeastern. Riding a six-game winning streak, the Huskies put up just three goals in two games. A 5-2 loss in game one and a 4-1 loss in game two at home ended a great winter break for the women’s hockey team, who carries a 13-11-1 overall record.
Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.