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UConn men’s basketball takes down Monmouth in overtime, 84-81

The Huskies needed overtime for the second night in a row and got the win thanks to a big game from Jalen Adams.

UConn's Jalen Adams (4) reacts after a dunk during the Monmouth Hawks vs UConn Huskies men's college basketball game at the XL Center in Hartford, CT on December 2, 2017.
UConn's Jalen Adams (4) reacts after a dunk during the Monmouth Hawks vs UConn Huskies men's college basketball game at the XL Center in Hartford, CT on December 2, 2017.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

After a lackluster start led to the UConn Huskies scraping by Columbia in overtime earlier this week, Kevin Ollie’s team brought the energy to start against Monmouth at the XL Center. Even with the hot start, UConn had multiple lapses as it traded leads with Monmouth multiple times, needing a small comeback to force overtime before pulling away for an 84-81 win at the XL Center.

Facing overtime for the second game in a row, the Huskies fell behind 80-76 in extra time before an old-fashioned 3-point play by Christian Vital made it 80-79. Then, once again, it was Jalen Adams’ time to takeover and help UConn pull away.

Adams sliced and diced his way through the Monmouth defense one more time, hitting a floater in the lane to put the Huskies up 81-80 with 30 seconds left that put UConn up for good. After that, Vital would hit three of four free throws down the stretch to give the Huskies their sixth win of the season.

Throughout the game, UConn relied on Adams and time after time the junior guard delivered, scoring a game-high 31 points on 13-22 shooting while adding four assists and two steals. Adams’ 31 points were the most he has scored since dropping 34 on Oklahoma State in last season’s Maui Invitational.

For arguably the first time this season, UConn played with energy from the opening tip, but the Hawks still managed to hang around until Huskies pulled away with a 9-0 lead to make it 29-20 with 7:52 left in the opening half.

From there, Monmouth dominated the remainder of the half, going on a 21-4 run, with guard Micah Seaborn scoring 14 of his 27 points during the stretch as the Hawks took a 42-33 lead before Jalen Adams drilled a deep 3-pointer before the buzzer to cut it to 42-36 at the break.

Despite the deficit, UConn came out strong again to open up the second half, starting it with a 13-2 run highlighted by an emphatic dunk from Adams to give the Huskies a 49-44 lead less than five minutes into the second half.

But the Hawks once again clawed back, tying things up after a 3-pointer from Louie Pillari made it 59-59 with 8:26 to play. Monmouth would lead by four two separate times in the final eight minutes of regulation and led 70-67 with 2:17 left, but five points from Adams and two free throws from Vital in crunch time tied it at 74 to force overtime.

After a 30-point outburst against Columbia, Vital put together another solid performance in the absence of Alterique Gilbert, who missed his second-straight game with shoulder pain. Vital scored 19 points and shot 11-13 from the free throw line to help secure the win, and freshman Mamadou Diarra had another solid outing, scoring three points and adding seven rebounds in 22 minutes.

While it’s not ideal to need overtime to squeak out wins against teams in the mid-to-bottom 100s in the most recent KenPom rankings, it’s still two games that last year’s team likely would not have won. Even if it is just a very small step in the right direction, these wins are crucial to building momentum heading into some tough non-conference matchups later on this season.

UConn will need to build off these wins and put together a stronger performance to try in their next matchup as they try and beat Syracuse for the second season in a row. The Huskies and the Orange tip off at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 9 p.m.

POSTGAME VIDEO: Kevin Ollie, Jalen Adams, Christian Vital, and more