Coming off the 20-point thrashing at the hands of SMU and the second-half collapse to Georgetown, UConn earned a much-needed win over East Carolina Sunday. The Huskies led most of the way in spite of having just six scholarship players available.
Steven Enoch and Juwan Durham missed the game due to foot injuries, leaving Amida Brimah and Kentan Facey as UConn’s only active big men. The seniors responded by combining for 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocks. More importantly both stayed out of foul trouble, playing more than 30 minutes each.
The Huskies sit at 3-4 in conference play and have winnable games coming up at South Florida on Wednesday and Tulane Saturday at Gampel. Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s win.
A major factor behind the Huskies’ recent turnaround has been an improved offense. In the last five games, they shot a combined 47%. They have also appeared to fix the free throw issues, shooting 77% from the line in that span.
The Huskies were right up to par Sunday, shooting 54% from the floor and 15-20 from the line. Jalen Adams led the way with 19 points (8-11 FG), 5 boards, and 5 assists. Rodney Purvis added 16 points (6-12 FG) and limited bad shots. These two will have to play at this level for UConn to position themselves for a conference tournament run.
Out on the Break
The crisp transition offense was a welcome development Sunday. A lethal fast break attack has been UConn’s bread and butter since Jim Calhoun built the program but has been noticeably absent this season. Injuries are mostly to blame, but the Huskies have not run the floor as effectively this season as Kevin Ollie would like.
While UConn only scored 10 fastbreak points, the Huskies were much more aggressive pushing the ball up the floor. It wasn’t just Jalen Adams leading the charge. Rodney Purvis, Christian Vital, and even Vance Jackson each ran the break and gave UConn easy looks at the hoop.
Losing two impact players and a backup big man to season-ending injuries left UConn in a precarious position. It forced them to play short-handed, the offense took a hit, and left the remaining Huskies playing heavy minutes every night. Rodney Purvis and Jalen Adams rank 9th and 12th in the NCAA respectively in minutes per game.
At some point those minutes start to take a physical toll. UConn has been competitive in most of its games this season, but many of the 11 losses were decided late in the second half.
East Carolina could only cut the deficit to seven on Sunday, but the Pirates hit seven three’s and out-rebounded the Huskies 22-15 after the break. They certainly could have made this a closer game. UConn will need to be as healthy as possible and find ways for its top players to get rest if they’re going to last all season.
UConn will certainly take the win, but late-game fatigue is something to keep an eye on as they get deeper into conference play.