The UConn Huskies dropped their third game of this young season on Monday night, falling to Oklahoma State, 98-90, in the quarterfinals of the Maui Invitational.
UConn looked outmatched and outclassed early on, looking like the wheels were coming off as the Cowboys took a commanding 18-3 lead. A spectacular second-half performance—with Jalen Adams leading the way—got the Huskies within striking distance in the closing minutes, giving Kevin Ollie and the Huskies something to potentially build on.
Adams couldn’t handle Oklahoma State’s ball pressure at the beginning, committing nine, that’s right, NINE first-half turnovers, including what seemed like four in a row to start the game. The team as a whole struggled, starting off 8-of-26 (30%) shooting.
To make matters worse, Terry Larrier went down with what is initially being reported as a, “sprained knee.” It appeared worse than that, but I’m no doctor. (After the game, Ollie had an exchange with OSU head coach Brad Underwood which may give us an answer if there are any lip readers in the crowd)
For over 10 minutes it looked like the Huskies belonged in Division II with host school Chaminade. To their credit, it became a much more respectable contest, which is impressive considering UConn was without Gilbert to start the game and Larrier for most of it.
Adams made up for it and then some in the second half, where he dropped 30 of his team-high 34 points. The sophomore guard was aggressive, slashing through the lane, hitting the Cowboys with a barrage of floaters, pull-up jumpers, and acrobatic, contested layups. He knocked down 4-of-5 from long distance to go along with six rebounds, six assists, and only one second-half turnover.
Oklahoma led by as many as 20 but the Huskies cut it to seven 1:49 to play. Unfortunately, UConn couldn’t string together enough stops to get any closer. A Rodney Purvis three cut the lead to 93-87 with 0:36 left but the Cowboys were true from the line down the stretch, keeping the Huskies at bay. Still, it is promising for UConn that what should have been a runaway OSU victory was instead contested into the final minute.
Cowboy guard Jawun Evans led all scorers with 35 points, adding six assists, while his backcourt mate, Phil Forte, dropped 18 on 4-of-8 shooting. Both hit three, three-pointers as did Jeffrey Carroll, who also finished with 18 points, going 7-of-9 from the field.
Purvis also stepped his game up with a season-high 20 points. The much-maligned senior experienced a brutal three-game stretch to start the season. But on Monday night Purv came back to life, going 5-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three. He attacked the rim in transition, got himself to the free-throw line, and was shooting from the outside with confidence.
Freshman Vance Jackson took the bulk of Larrier’s minutes, putting on his best overall display of his young career. The freshman was 3-of-6 from the outside, totaling 13 points and three boards.
The Huskies will look for a better start tomorrow when it plays the winner of North Carolina and Chaminade. They will also still have a chance to meet a quality opponent on Wednesday on their side of the bracket. Tip-off tomorrow will be at 3:30 p.m.