Men’s Basketball: Huskies close out the regular season with senior night

Men’s Basketball Senior Night vs. University of Houston. The Men’s Basketball Team celebrated their Senior Night where Seniors Christian Vital (1), Alterique Gilbert (3), Temi Aiyegbusi (45), and Mamadou Diarra (Student Assistant Coach) made their last home appearance as a Husky. The final home game against University of Houston is win with a final score of 77-71, with Vital making 8 free throws in a row within the last minute of gameplay to keep the team up. Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus.

UConn has one more game left of the regular season, set to take on Georgetown on Saturday at Gampel Pavillion. It’ll be senior night for the Huskies, and UConn will honor seniors Isaiah Whaley, Tyler Polley and Josh Carlton. 

Whaley has seen his usage explode over the past two seasons, becoming UConn’s regular starting center and transforming into a pillar of their defense under Dan Hurley. He’s had a standout 2020-21 season, averaging 7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and a conference-leading 2.79 blocks per game. His 53 total blocks are tied for No. 19 in the country. Since UConn has played fewer games than the average team, he jumps to No. 9 on the country on a per-game basis. 

“Just being able to play this year is a blessing because we were all kind of scared and kind of shook,” Whaley said. “We didn’t really know if we were gonna even have a season, so just for us to even be in this position to have a senior night is a blessing.” 

Polley was a starter more often than not at the beginning of his UConn career, starting about a third of UConn’s games his freshman year and every game he played his sophomore year. He had started the first 15 games of the season in his junior year before suffering an ACL injury that knocked him out for the rest of the season. Now, in his senior year, Polley has largely taken a back seat, starting just three games and filling the role of 3-point threat off the bench. In his 18 games, Polley has averaged 7.4 points while shooting 36.1% from 3, with about two-thirds of his shots coming from deep. 

“There’s been major changes from freshman year to now. Just to how we approach every day in practice, how we get after it, how we’re so much more together as a team,” Polley said. We’re like a real family now, and I think that’s what Coach Hurley harped on when he got here … Everybody brings something to the table, and that’s how you become successful.” 

Carlton, like Whaley, was often a starter for much of his UConn career, playing in every single one of UConn’s 96 games over the past three seasons and starting in 81 of them. Carlton won American Athletic Conference most improved player in his sophomore season when he averaged nine points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, while shooting over 60% from the field. This season, like Polley, he has largely been used in a bench role, starting just one of the 15 games he’s appeared in and averaging just over 12 minutes a game. In his time on the court, Carlton has 3.6 points and 4.0 boards. 

“Coming into UConn at a time when the program was kind of in a downfall, just being able to be here and see the change in the program,” Carlton said. “Seeing the talent we have, seeing us play these games in the Big East and seeing how much it’s changed since I first got here, it was just really good to be a part of.” 

If UConn (13-6, 10-6 Big East) starts all three seniors vs. Georgetown, which is customary for senior night, the Huskies will come out with a lineup containing three players standing at 6-foot-9 or taller — though it likely won’t last for long. 

The Hoyas (9-11, 7-8 Big East) are currently riding a two-game win streak and have won four of their last five, beating the likes of Xavier, Butler, DePaul and Seton Hall. Their only loss? UConn. 

The last time the Huskies and Hoyas faced off UConn took home a 70-57 win backed by a 20-point scoring night from James Bouknight and a 17-point scoring night from R.J. Cole. 

Center Qudus Wahab gave UConn a lot of trouble, picking up an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 8-of-12 shooting from the line. The Huskies will need to count on seniors Whaley and Carlton to shut him down. 

Tip-off is scheduled for noon on Saturday, and the game can be watched on CBS. 

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