In its final road game of the season, UConn Men’s Basketball lost to East Carolina for the first time as members of the AAC, 66-62.
With the loss, UConn likely loses a first-round bye in the AAC Tournament, meaning the Huskies would need to win four games in four days to earn an automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
Before the game, injuries continued to pile up. Christian Vital suffered a concussion in practice on Monday and was ruled out. Meanwhile, Rodney Purvis dislocated his finger during the pre-game shootaround, though he still managed to play.
UConn did get Jalen Adams back just four days after his departure in the loss to SMU. Despite the injuries, both Adams and Purvis played all 40 minutes.
UConn was in control for most of the half. At one point, the Huskies held a 10-point lead. But East Carolina used a late push to get it down to four going into the break.
Despite the promising opening half, the wheels started to come off for UConn in the second half. The two teams went back-and-forth early on as the Huskies held on to a small lead.
Then East Carolina exploded for a 17-3 run and UConn’s lead quickly turned into a nine-point deficit. The Huskies failed to hit a field goal for nearly six minutes.
Kevin Ollie’s squad wouldn’t go down quietly, however. It fought back and went on a 6-0 run to re-take the lead after a four-point play from Rodney Purvis.
But the Pirates quickly responded with a 9-0 run and once again the Huskies failed to hit a field goal for over four minutes.
Even after falling down by eight with under five minutes to go, UConn continued to fight back. With 1:38 remaining, Rodney Purvis hit a three to tie the game in front of his fan section.
Purvis, from nearby Raleigh, North Carolina, had 115 friends and family who filled an entire section of Minges Coliseum. The senior finished with 12 points, but struggled from the field, hitting just 3-of-15 shots.
East Carolina took a one-point lead with just 23 seconds left, giving UConn a chance to win the game with the shot clock off. Coming out of a timeout, Jalen Adams tried to hit Kentan Facey, but the two weren’t on the same page and the ball sailed out of bounds.
The Pirates struggled to make their free throws, giving UConn still had a chance to tie the game on the final possession.
Unfortunately, once again, the Huskies struggled to get a clean look. Rodney Purvis forced a prayer that never came close.
Caleb White and Kentrell Barkley killed UConn. The two combined to score 46 of the Pirates’ 56 points and hit 10-of-17 from three. Only one other player had more than four points for the home squad.
On the other side of court, Jalen Adams, Kentan Facey, and Rodney Purvis each finished with 12 points. It was a rough night shooting for everyone, with the Huskies shooting 34% for the game and a dreadful 23% in the second half.
UConn (14-15) falls below .500 yet again on the season and is now in serious danger of finishing the season with a losing record, which would be the first time since 1986.
The loss also makes the path to a first-round bye in the conference tournament more difficult. The Huskies will need to beat Cincinnati and hope SMU can beat Memphis and Tulsa, or have both Tulane and SMU win out against Memphis and Tulsa.
The Huskies close out the season against conference-leading Cincinnati at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday at noon.