Tarin Smith scored a game-high 22 points in just 19 minutes to lead UConn to a comfortable 94-66 victory over the Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos on Sunday evening.
Jalen Adams added 20 points of his own, as the two point guards shot a combined 17-22 from the floor. Tyler Polley and Alterique Gilbert added an efficient 12 points apiece, contributing to an impressive .538/.444/.667 shooting line for the Huskies.
The two teams traded threes early, both scoring at a high rate to begin. Polley had a three and an and-one in his first run on the court, and Adams scored five in the first five minutes, but the Kangaroos came out of the locker room hot, and kept the scoring margin close.
Defensive pressure helped the Huskies force turnovers and low-percentage shots, which they used to their advantage on the other end, going on fast breaks and creating confusion in transition, then going on a quick run midway through the first period to take a double-digit lead.
UMKC continued to struggle with UConn’s level of intensity, going nearly four minutes without a field goal while Dan Hurley’s squad continued to score in bunches. The Huskies took a 20-point lead with eight minutes to go in the half. The margin stabilized for the rest of the first half, as the Huskies played lineups heavy on bench players, and UConn took a 17-point lead into halftime, Smith scoring 15 of the Huskies’ 50 points.
The pace slowed early in the second half as the Huskies settled in, playing more methodically than the speed-based game they showed in the first half. UConn looked far less comfortable in this style, getting out of offensive rhythm and forcing more way shots than they did before the break, but strong defensive rotations helped the Huskies maintain their big lead.
The Huskies resumed their fast-paced ways midway through the second half, pressing the ball down low and creating opportunities early in possessions, which resulted in transition points and several opportunities from the free throw line. Polley and Josh Carlton, fresh off a career-high scoring game in Thursday’s win over Morehead State, led the team with five free throw attempts each.
Jalen so damn good pic.twitter.com/AWKXVQ9MzI— tcf15 (@tcf_15) November 11, 2018
The UConn lead would get to as high as 31 as UMKC struggled to adjust to anything the Huskies threw at them. Even as the game got sloppy—there was a brief period when both teams swapped turnovers—and as UConn’s second-half foul trouble put UMKC in the bonus early, the Kangaroos could not consistently stop the Huskies or score with regularity on the opposite end.
Christian Vital struggled with his shot, converting only two of his 13 attempts, but led all players in rebounds with 10 and tied for the team lead in assists with Gilbert. Kassoum Yakwe filled in for an injured Isaiah Whaley and played well on defense, plus combining with fellow backup center Eric Cobb to make all of their shots.
The Kangaroos were led by center Danny Dixon with 15 points, but Brandon McKissic was his only teammate who also finished with double figures. UMKC (0-3) plays Morehead State on Friday.
The Huskies (2-0) face Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on Thursday in their first big test of the season.