STORRS—The Gampel Pavilion faithful aren’t accustomed to seeing the Huskies lose, especially not in a season opener. But for the first time since 1999 the Huskies dropped their first game of the season, losing a home opener at Gampel for the first time ever on Friday night.
UConn was out muscled in the paint, stagnant on offense and led for only 30 seconds in a 67-58 loss to Wagner University in front of 9,523.
With the much more talented roster, this wasn’t a game the Huskies were supposed to lose. UConn was 5-0 all-time against Wagner and yet allowed the Seahawks to pull off what head coach Bashir Mason called “one of the greatest victories in program history.”
After a competitive first half, Wagner opened the second half on an 11-2 run before UConn found a spark. The defensive intensity turned up and the Huskies clawed back thanks in large part to a 12-0 run, tying the game at 49 with 6:46 to play. The Seahawks kept coming up with answers, closing things out on an 18-9 run, sending the fans at Gampel to the exits with more than a minute remaining.
The Huskies’ (0-1) mainstays Jalen Adams and Rodney Purvis struggled to find their shots, Amida Brimah was pushed around by Mike Aaman (15 points, 9 rebounds) and Wagner controlled the pace, not allowing the speedy Huskies to get out in transition, held to just 13 fast-break points.
Head coach Kevin Ollie has preached all preseason the importance of rebounding but against the smaller Seahawks, UConn was outmatched. Wagner had a 37-33 advantage on the boards grabbing five more offensive rebounds (26-21) than the Huskies.
UConn big men Kentan Facey, Steven Enoch, and Brimah combined for a pitiful seven rebounds in 47 minutes. After the game, Ollie talked about the Huskies needing to do a better job sharing the ball, finishing with nine assists on 63 possessions on their way to .921 points per possession.
Purvis had nearly as many points (5) as turnovers (4) in 26 minutes. Adams played a team-high 37 minutes but shot 4-of-15 from the floor, scoring just nine points to go along with five assists. The Huskies were limited to 23 points in the second half, connecting on just eight field goals and shooting 35.7 percent for the game.
Redshirt sophomore Terry Larrier was once again a bright spot, scoring a team-high 19 points to go with a team-best seven rebounds. Freshman guard Alterique Gilbert was impressive as well in his collegiate debut, dropping 14 points and coming up with a pair of steals.
UConn is back in action on Monday, Nov. 14 when it hosts Northeastern University at Gampel Pavilion.