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Final: UConn Men’s Basketball Outpaces Central Florida, 62-53

Needing a win to reverse their fortune, the Huskies got an important victory over the Knights

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Less than a week after ending a four-game losing streak, UConn began a better streak on Wednesday, getting their second straight victory by beating Central Florida 62-53.

Christian Vital led the Huskies with an efficient 18 points and four steals, Jalen Adams added 13 points and five assists, and the Huskies held star Knights center Tacko Fall to 11 points and minimized his defensive impact.

The Huskies’ hot start (well, as hot a start as can happen in a game between these two teams) was quickly stopped by a minor injury to freshman Isaiah Whaley, leading to an already thin frontcourt rotation getting even thinner. Due to the forward shortage caused by foul trouble and Whaley’s flaring-up ankle, Kevin Ollie had to rely on unusual forward combinations, including the less-than-successful Kwintin Williams/David Onuorah duo.

Whaley would return, and Tyler Polley played well in limited minutes, as Fall struggled to get the ball from his teammates, and played only sporadically down the stretch. Whaley finished with four points, six rebounds, and five blocks, making big plays all over the court in the second half.

The Huskies found themselves up for most of the first half, as they managed to consistently answer back when the Knights closed in. UConn took a nine-point lead into halftime thanks to good early play from Vital and Adams. They led by as much as 14 early in the second frame, but Central Florida responded with a 10-0 run to put themselves right back in the game. UConn’s lead fluctuated the rest of the way, but UCF never again made it a one-possession game.

Still without B.J. Taylor (foot injury), Central Florida’s leading scorer from last season, the Knights had to look for offense from different sources. Ceasar DeJesus scored 13 points on 5-12 shooting and Terrell Allen dropped a dozen, but the team shot only 37 percent from the floor.

Johnny Dawkins already employs a relatively shallow lineup, and Dayon Griffin’s foul issues (three in the first half, including a flagrant foul on Vital) and inefficiency (1-10 shooting) made a team without a powerful bench unit have to rely on their starters even more.

Despite their opponent’s stalwart interior defense, the Huskies didn’t attempt a three-pointer until the midpoint of the first half, and didn’t make one until 1:45 was left in the frame. The early passiveness from deep didn’t pay off, as the Huskies often struggled to score from inside the arc, but shot well from outside—40% if you don’t count desperation heaves at the end of the shot clock. They were once again low on the assist count, with just eight, and committed 14 turnovers, so the offensive performance definitely still had room for improvement. Luckily, UCF committed 15 turnovers of its own.

UConn’s win improves their record to 9-7 (2-2 American) while Central Florida falls to 12-5 (3-2). The Huskies next play at Tulane on Saturday afternoon.

UConn head coach Kevin Ollie, Christian Vital, Jalen Adams, Isaiah Whaley postgame video