Four isn’t just the number Jalen Adams wears on the back of his jersey. It’s the number of years he’s been at UConn—which isn’t all that interesting, except for the fact that he’s never played basketball at the same school for four years straight. He’s never had a true senior night.
But Adams won’t be playing tonight against Temple for his final game at Gampel. He’s been progressing well in rehab, but he’s just not ready to get back out on the court. He doesn’t even know if he’ll get to play in his final conference tournament.
“I’ll just take it all in,” Adams said. “Not too many people come out onto this UConn court with all this history behind it… just being able to be a part of this and grown and just see the next generation come behind, it’s just special.”
Despite the team’s performance over the last few seasons, Adams has cemented himself in UConn history not only with his famous 3/4-court shot in the 2016 conference tournament, but he’s 12th on the all-time scoring list with 1,659 points and he’s 18 points away from breaking the conference record for most points. He’s averaged 16.5 points over the past three seasons in addition to leading the team in scoring.
“He’s had a lot of great moments here. I’m sure he’s learned so much about himself here,” head coach Dan Hurley said of his star guard. “He’s so talented—super talented player. Very incredible, likeable guy. Very, very smart. He’s got so much more ahead of him in life that he can accomplish in his career as a basketball player.”
Hurley praised Adams for his recent display of leadership while watching from the sidelines. When many thought Adams would leave for the NBA when Hurley took the helm, he stayed through the coaching change because he believed in the future of UConn and wanted to keep being a part of it.
“The record obviously doesn’t show it, but I think it’s been a huge year for just UConn in total,” Adams said. “The program’s gonna take off very, very soon. I think the growth that’s been developing between players, between the relationships with the coaching staff, I think it’s all been a positive thing. There’s definitely going to be a lot more light shining on UConn soon.”
Besides Adams, Eric Cobb and grad transfers Tarin Smith and Kassoum Yakwe will be honored in the Senior Night festivities. Cobb has improved greatly since last season, avoiding discipline and shedding over 20 pounds in the offseason. He averages 4.1 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game, which is third on the team.
Cobb won over fans early on, dropping 13 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in UConn’s highlight win over Syracuse in November. He had another double-double against Arizona in December.
“[Cobb has had] some incredible highs, some great moments that I think he’ll remember, we’ll remember,” Hurley said. “He’s been a good guy, too. He’s struggled at times with the defensive end of the court, but offensively he’s had some great games and some really good moments.”
In their last outing against Temple (21-8, 11-5 The American), the Owls hit 10 of their first 11 shots and never looked back, handing UConn (14-15, 5-11 The American) one of their worst losses of the season at 81-63. That was also the game Adams sustained his injury.
“The last time we played them it definitely wasn’t the outcome we wanted,” Smith said. “We didn’t display something that we felt like we could even leave the gym showing our faces, so we’re definitely ready for this game.”
The Huskies have a chance to go undefeated in Gampel for the first time in 10 years. It’s not only been significant giving the fans something in Storrs, but winning out the season puts UConn that much closer to a .500 season, something it hasn’t had since 2015-16. The Huskies would have to win their remaining two games and at least one tournament game to finish with a winning record, which could potentially set them up for an NIT bid.
“It means a lot to me, I know it means a lot to these guys with the way we’ve practiced and competed and stayed committed,” Hurley said. “[We want to] really try to finish the season as best we can to honor the older players the right way and build some momentum for the returners.”
Beating Temple won’t be an easy task. The Owls boast the second-best scoring guard in the conference with Shizz Alston, who averages 19.1 points per game, and Quinton Rose, who averages 16.6 points per game. Temple averages the most steals per game with 8.9, and for a UConn team with turnover problems, that’s the biggest roadblock.
“We can’t turn the ball over,” Hurley said. “They have a couple, like, two or three of the best guys in the conference for taking the ball and getting those free points. We gave up a number of free points on that off turnovers.”
“Our identity has changed since then,” Hurley added. “We’ve gotta be gritty, we’ve gotta be tough. We gotta try to out-tough them. We’ve gotta try and get stops. We’re gonna have to win a game in the 60s.”
The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.