Starters: Adams, Anderson, Vital, Polley, Carlton
20:00 - Basketball on
15:42 - SMU up 8-0. Things are going great. Shake Milton has hit two threes.
10:47 - Credit to the Huskies, as they shake off their rough start by hitting four straight shots. Jalen Adams hit three of those shots, two threes and has 8 points as UConn takes a 13-12 lead.
7:34 - UConn ahead 20-17. Vital and Anderson in the mix with 5 points each.
3:30 - Huskies holding on thanks to a good shooting performance, especially from behind the arc as they lead, 26-24. Adams and Vital are combined for 19 points and five of UConn’s six made threes. Rebounding is going quite poorly, however, as SMU has a 21-7 advantage on the boards and 10 offensive rebounds which have led to 9 second-chance points.
0:00 - Huskies lead 27-24 at the half. Vital leads UConn with 11 points and Adams is next with 9.
20:00 - Second half is under way
14:33 - SMU tied it up early and grabbed the lead but UConn is back on top, 32-30, after Tyler Polley got his first bucket.
7:49 - UConn leads 44-40 after an emphatic dunk by Isaiah Whaley on a nice assist from Christian Vital.
6:19 - Huskies have the biggest lead of the night, 46-40. Adams and Vital have 16 and 14 points, respectively. UConn is also doing a much better job on the boards, with a 16-8 advantage in the second half.
3:18 - UConn keeps building the lead, taking advantage of UConn turnovers and two straight Christian Vital threes to open up a 54-44 lead.
1:13 - Jalen Adams layup on a breakaway followed by a dunk by Josh Carlton has UConn on top, 59-48.
0:00 - UConn wins, 63-52! A lot to be encouraged by here, as the Huskies moved the ball better offensively, with 13 assists, kept turnovers relatively in check, and rebounded much better in the second half after being dominated in the first. Nice win for the Huskies given Terry Larrier was out.
UConn hasn’t had the easiest go of it lately. Only a few days after suffering a blowout loss to Memphis without Terry Larrier, they had to face No. 1 Villanova, and suffered another blowout loss.
They’ll try to end the losing streak tonight against Southern Methodist at Gampel Pavilion, but the Mustangs are a tough team that Kevin Ollie’s Huskies could struggle with.
SMU enters tonight’s contest with a 14-6 record that might be a bit misleading; all but two of their losses are close, and the two that weren’t came on the road against top-25 teams. They’ve beaten Arizona, USC and Boise State at home and picked up a road win against Wichita State. This is a good team that has played a bunch of talented teams and beaten a good amount of them.
The Mustangs have a pretty balanced squad, but their offense is their bread and butter. They play a very slow pace, limiting opponents’ chances to go on a quick run, but supplement that strategy with an offense that places a premium on points per possession. The reason it’s so effective is their .412 3-point percentage, a number that hasn’t gotten much worse since they entered conference play.
Southern Methodist is led by Shake Milton, a do-it-all type leading his team with 18.4 points per game. Milton leads in assists because of his ball-dominant ways, but the Mustangs’ best passer may be Jimmy Whitt, one of Tim Jankovich’s few players without much shooting range. It doesn’t hurt him much, as he’s still one of six Mustangs who’s averaged double figures. Ben Emelogu is their deadeye shooter, converting well over half of his 3-point attempts so far. Jahmal McMurray has been an X-factor for the team after becoming eligible in December following his transfer from South Florida.
Jankovich uses all of these players—plus top freshman Ethan Chargois and defensive role player Akoy Agau—well. Their rotation has shrunk recently, however, as they recently lost two key players for the season. Second-leading scorer Jarrey Foster is done for the year, as is Everett Ray, a promising role player. With players coming in and out of the rotation in the past month, Jankovich has had to deal with on-court chemistry issues, but the team seems as if they’ll get through these problems.
In the meantime, they’ll have a rotation that’s been suddenly shrunk to eight players, and the two deepest bench players don’t contribute much. UConn can combat that by attacking the basket to get the Mustangs into foul trouble, forcing them to go to less-desired players as early and as often as possible. The Huskies should use their depth to their advantage, playing physically at all ventures, and exploiting the Mustangs’ short bench and poor free-throw shooting.
The Mustangs aren’t tall and aren’t terribly skilled at rebounding, which bolsters the call for physical play against them and shows the necessity of crashing the offensive boards. Josh Carlton and Mamadou Diarra have both shown a knack at grabbing their teammates’ missed shots, and as if it wasn’t time for Diarra to get more minutes anyway, this seems like a perfect opportunity for him to put his high-motor style to good use. A few extra first-half looks for Christian Vital couldn’t hurt either; he’s a tough player capable of playing through contact, gets fouled often and scores at the rim. Antwoine Anderson’s jumpshot has gone ice-cold, but he’s much better from inside and has a knack for getting to the line.
Southern Methodist has a tough team, regardless of their current injury situation, but recent developments have left them vulnerable to the right team and the right game plan. The Huskies match up with them well in terms of team skills and weaknesses, but it will not be an easy game regardless of circumstances.
PREDICTION: Southern Methodist 68, UConn 62