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UConn Men’s Basketball Defeats Coppin State, 72-59

The Huskies played a sloppy game against a weak opponent but at least come out with the win.

Jalen Adams led the Huskies with 15 points.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The UConn Huskies make it to the finals break with a 7-3 record after taking care of Coppin State, 72-59, at Gampel Pavilion. Despite the victory, it was another lackluster performance which leaves Husky fans questioning the path forward.

The Huskies committed 11 turnovers in the first half of a matchup where they trailed 8-0 to start and stayed behind for a majority of the first 10 minutes. With the game tied at 20 and 7:54 left, UConn finally pulled ahead for good with a 12-0 run, though the lead was only at five at the half.

Jalen Adams and Terry Larrier got going to start off the second half as the Huskies finally built up a double-digit lead that would last the rest of the way. Adams finished with 15 points and eight assists, both team highs, along with five rebounds, but he had a poor shooting effort, going just 5-18 and 1-6 from behind the arc. Larrier was inefficient as well, finishing with 14 points on 5-12 shooting, though he did hit 4-8 three-point attempts.

Christian Vital overcame a rocky start to score nine of the Huskies’ final 11 points and become the team’s third and final double-digit scorer with 13 points to go along with seven rebounds. Like many of his teammates, Vital took a lot of ill-advised shots and led the team in turnovers with four.

UConn’s big men were once again mostly quiet, as nobody in the group of Josh Carlton, Eric Cobb, Mamadou Diarra and David Onuorah played more than 13 minutes. When they were on the court, the Huskies didn’t really seem to know how to use them properly in the offense. Diarra and Cobb were scoreless while Onuorah had three points and Carlton had five. Perhaps it was a matchup issue against a smaller team, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to dissuade Ollie critics who believe he doesn’t use the best possible lineups.

The Huskies did win the rebounding battle convincingly, 50-26, giving them a 21-7 advantage in second-chance points, so at least that was something good. But overall offensively they looked sloppy, lost and their poor shot selection continued. Defensively, UConn allowed Coppin State to beat its season average for 3-point percentage and get many open looks at the basket, two disturbing trends that have been developing over the course of this season.

VIDEO: Kevin Ollie and Players Post-Game

This kind of game would have been okay against Columbia or Monmouth, but not against one of the bottom-five teams in Division 1. The Coppin State Eagles (0-10) are ranked 346th out of 351 teams in the country by KenPom and UConn let them score their third-highest point total on the season. Navy (177th in KenPom) and Cleveland State (288th) were able to hold them to fewer points while Ohio (161st) held them to just 37 in the entire game. This performance knocked the Huskies down 10 spots in the rankings to 98th.

If UConn keeps playing like this, we might be looking at a repeat of last year’s 16-17 record but without the injury excuses. The next three games are against Arizona, Auburn and Wichita State, and the way UConn played today should have Husky fans worried about astronomical losses in those games. They should also be wondering if games against the AAC’s bottom half are going to be challenging.

Kevin Ollie and his staff have a lot to clean up in a short amount of time, with little reason to have hope for improvement going forward. This was a hideous game against an opponent that should have at the very least given us some positive mojo heading into a 12-day break.

UConn returns to action on Thursday, Dec. 21st when it visits an Arizona team that is 6-3 and receiving votes in the AP and Coaches’ Poll. The game takes place at 9 p.m. ET in the McKale Center and will be televised on ESPN2.