UConn’s issues with fouling and turnovers hampered them in a big way on Wednesday night, as the Huskies fell 70-61 to Central Florida.
Once again, the Huskies finished with more turnovers than assists—a recurring problem for the team all season—and were called for 25 fouls, a mark that led to UCF picking up 21 extra points from the free throw line.
Terry Larrier scored a team-high 15 points for UConn (11-11, 4-5 AAC) on an inefficient 6-16 shooting, one of a few Huskies starters who wasn’t shooting very well, along with Christian Vital (2-8) and Jalen Adams (3-9). Antwoine Anderson was a sparkplug off the bench, and his ten points made him the only other Connecticut player to finish in double figures.
The game started about as slowly as possible, with both teams going scoreless for over three minutes until Larrier banked in a three. The turnover problem exposed itself early, as UConn turned the ball over in several possessions near the start of the game, and Central Florida used the Huskies’ mistakes to their advantage, going on an 11-0 run over the next seven minutes.
UConn’s foul trouble in the first half created some issues, as both Josh Carlton and Isaiah Whaley headed to the bench with two fouls, but some well-timed buckets from Adams and Anderson (in addition to an opportune technical foul on Djordjije Mumin) kept the Huskies in the game.
After battling back from sizable but not double-digit deficits, UConn was behind by only two points at halftime, with the Knights carrying a 31-29 lead into the break. The slow pace combined with a tightened offense meant the Huskies were never too far away from the lead, although they only tied the game once after UCF’s first surged ahead.
The Knights started off the second half on another run that threatened to put the game out of reach, but some nice defense from UConn got the Huskies right back in it. The score remained close throughout the second frame, and the Huskies tied the game with six minutes to go on a three-point play from Vital, who did not score in the first half.
The Knights responded quickly, and led by five points with three minutes to go. Carlton got an easy bucket on a nice assist from Larrier, but UCF answered it, maintaining the two-possession lead. After two big UConn misses, both on contested shots, the Knights made only two of four free throw attempts, giving the Huskies another opportunity. However, a series of mistakes led to Central Florida only extending their lead down the stretch. UConn’s last chance after a missed field goal was passed out of bounds right after grabbing the rebound.
Vital was the game’s leading rebounder, finishing with nine boards, and the Huskies’ starting frontcourt of Carlton and Whaley combined for 12 points on 6-10 shooting with three steals and three blocks.
UCF (14-7, 5-4 AAC) was led by B.J. Taylor with 20 points while defensive standout Chad Brown added 10 points and eight rebounds. Dayon Griffin, who made only one of his ten shots in UConn’s win over UCF a few weeks ago, contributed a dozen points off the bench.
With the win, Central Florida took sole possession of sixth place in the American Athletic Conference, pushing UConn down to seventh. The Knights host Houston on Saturday.
UConn’s next game is Saturday at noon at Gampel Pavilion against No. 8 Cincinnati, who held this UCF team to 38 points in a matchup just a few weeks ago.