Down two of its best players, UConn Men’s Basketball struggled out of the gates on its way to a 79-69 loss to No. 13 Oregon (4-2) in the fifth-place game at the Maui Invitational.
The Ducks started with 10 unanswered points on their way to an 18-3 start—a feat achieved by Monday’s opponent Oklahoma State as well. UConn (2-4) fought hard to close the lead to 10 at the half and cut it to within single-digits in the second but couldn’t get within striking distance for the comeback.
Chris Boucher, the 6-foot-10 forward from Montreal, was a matchup nightmare. He finished with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-7 from three, to go along with five rebounds. Guard Tyler Dorsey dropped 19 points while grabbing five boards.
UConn struggled mightily in a lot of areas, including the old favorites perimeter defense and half-court offense. Nobody did a very good job shooting from long range—the team finished 6-of-23 (26.1%)—besides Jalen Adams who went 1-for-2. The sophomore point guard was the Huskies’ best player by far, finishing with 27 points and five assists. His early departure from the game due to picking up two fouls put Kevin Ollie’s already depleted rotation in a bind.
Without Terry Larrier or Alterique Gilbert, and given the performance of this team even when they were on the court, this result shouldn’t be too surprising. UConn battled back into contention admirably after giving up the lead but made too many mental errors, some of which are a byproduct of youth, and others which are on the coaching staff and veterans.
But it’s November, and this team is replacing a lot of production with freshmen instead of graduate transfers like last year’s team. The upcoming Syracuse and Ohio State games may not go great but the American Athletic Conference slate shouldn’t be too challenging and at this point the hope is this experience benefits guys like Adams, Christian Vital, and Vance Jackson down the road for what will be much better teams in the future. Expecting them to all become immediate impact players was a bit unreasonable.
And hey, there’s always the conference tournament in Hartford in case UConn wants to make a run to postseason play.
At the very least, Rodney Purvis seems to have turned a corner after a really rough start. He still is shooting too many threes, but he’s getting on the board and being assertive with opportunities.
Kevin Ollie’s squad will be in action next against Boston University on November 30 at 7 p.m. in the XL Center. If the Huskies lose that one we can get mad online again, but this loss, while frustrating, isn’t a major indictment of the coaching or personnel.