Despite another impressive defensive performance by an undermanned UConn team, the Huskies came out ice cold in the second half and then lost Jalen Adams to injury. They came back late to force overtime but ultimately floundered, losing 70-67 in front of a good-sized crowd at the XL Center.
For the fifth straight game, UConn held its opponent under 35% shooting as Auburn hit just 33% of its shots. Unfortunately, the Huskies shot an abysmal 4-of-28 from deep and 35% from the field. In a disturbing trend, they once against struggled at the line, making just 68% of their freebies.
“We have to follow the game plan,” Kevin Ollie said. “We can’t shoot 28 threes.” After the North Florida game, he mentioned how pleased he was with the emphasis on the two-pointer, but today his team failed to follow suit.
While the game was tight throughout, Auburn adjusted its defense in the second half to pack the paint. UConn started settling for contested jump shots and lost the rebounding battle, 29-17, over the second half and overtime.
Already down three scholarship players, UConn was further hampered by an injury to Jalen Adams in the second half. At the 13:13 mark, Adams and Auburn’s Danjel Purifoy collided, resulting in a cut on his head and a concussion. He was eventually ruled out for the rest of the game, leaving the backcourt duties to Rodney Purvis and Christian Vital.
Ollie said Adams will go through the concussion protocol, leaving his status in doubt for Wednesday’s conference opener vs Houston.
The frontcourt was again a force in the paint and on the glass. Coming off a great performance against North Florida, hitting a career-high in points, Kentan Facey was again the best player on the floor Saturday. The senior scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds while also blocking four shots.
Sophomore Steve Enoch continues to show improvement, notching eight points and six rebounds. He held strong in the paint and showed great touch with his hook shot.
When it appeared Auburn was about to pull away, up 60-54, Rodney Purvis stole the ball from Jared Harper and was fouled hard at the rim by T.J. Dunans, leading to a flagrant one foul and a four-point possession. Purvis did a great job with his free throws, especially late, as he hit 9-of-10 from the line on his way to 20 points and seven rebounds.
Off an Auburn miss, Amida Brimah nailed a short jumper to tie it up at 60 and eventually send the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, UConn jumped out to an early lead after a Vance Jackson three and four made free throws. Auburn would have the final say, however, as Purifoy’s corner three tied the game and Harper hit the winning bank shot over the outstretched Brimah.
The Huskies had two chances to tie the game or take the lead but took two contested three-point attempts which missed. They had a third chance with 1.4 seconds left but that one didn’t have much of a chance.
Overall, UConn put up a good fight. But poor offensive strategy late and another injury was too much for the Huskies to overcome.
UConn is off on holiday break and returns to the floor Wednesday against Houston in its conference opener.