In a season marked by multiple big losses to average teams, UConn suffered another bad one Sunday night, falling 85-57 on the road against Temple.
The Husky offense was sloppy, both in precision (poor shooting, stilted movement) and execution (16 turnovers, .392 shooting percentage). Kevin Ollie’s squad looked alternately lost and docile, or some combination of the two, as the bigger, but not more gifted, Owls lineup dominated on both ends of the court.
The Huskies (11-10, 4-4 AAC) were led in scoring by Christian Vital with 15 points and Antwoine Anderson with 11, but Vital shot only 3-14 from the floor, and Jalen Adams added only seven on 2-10 shooting. The team finished with only nine assists and had a hard time finding easy baskets despite good offensive rebounding nights by Isaiah Whaley and Josh Carlton. Those two combined for 7-11 shooting and 15 points, providing some of UConn’s few good defensive plays of the night.
Mamadou Diarra also was a positive contributor, getting an unexpectedly high number of minutes due to quality play. The redshirt freshman center made all four of his attempts, becoming the only non-Whaley bench player to record a field goal in the last two games.
Temple (11-10, 3-6 AAC) struck first, starting off on a 7-0 run after two early UConn turnovers. The Huskies fought back quickly behind two Vital threes, and took their first lead of the game only six and a half minutes in. The teams traded the lead for most of the half, until Temple went on another run to take another seven-point lead, prompting another early timeout from Kevin Ollie.
Christian Vital picked up his third foul with five minutes to go before the break, and the team suffered in his absence, falling behind 38-24 by halftime. The team had been shooting pretty well, but turnovers made the biggest difference, as the Huskies had given up the ball 10 times, taking it away from the Owls only twice. The passing was poor (as was the player movement in general) leading to a combination of problems: the turnovers, of course, but also poor passing (two assists in the first half) and an inability to draw fouls (two free throw attempts, continuing a recent trend of low-contact first halves).
The second half started well, as Vital came back in and Diarra provided a nice spark, but Temple was able to keep the lead by exploiting matchups on offense and using its height to take (and make) guarded but uncontested threes. The Huskies’ trouble finding inside looks continued, as Temple’s perimeter defense gave the UConn guards fits, both with the ball and without. The Owls got their first 20-point lead with 15 minutes left to play, going on an early 10-0 run in the second half.
The score didn’t vary much from there; Temple rested on a lead of about twenty for most of the game. The final margin of 28 was the Owls’ largest of the game.
The Owls were led by Shizz Alston, Jr. with 18 points and four assists, Quinton Rose with 17 tallies, and Ernest Aflakpui with 13. Obi Enechionyia grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, and Nate Pierre-Louis added a dozen points off the bench.
The Owls are ranked tenth in the American Athletic Conference standings but have been steadily improving as a team. They host No. 17 Wichita State on Thursday.
UConn’s next contest is another road matchup, as the Huskies travel to Orlando to face Central Florida Wednesday night.