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UConn Men’s Basketball opens Hurley Era with 80-70 victory over Morehead State

Josh Carlton’s career game propelled UConn to victory, welcoming Dan Hurley as new head coach.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Josh Carlton scored a career-high 17 points to lead the UConn Huskies to an 80-70 win over Morehead State in Dan Hurley’s first game as UConn’s head coach, a sellout in Gampel Pavilion.

Jalen Adams finished with 16 points and Alterique Gilbert added 15 as part of a new UConn system that featured many differences from previous seasons. The Huskies scored 46 points in the paint and had 21 on the fastbreak, indicative of a new style Hurley is looking to implement.

The game got off to a quick start, as the Huskies forced a turnover on a tie-up, then earned their first points only 12 seconds into the game on a Carlton layup off a nice interior pass from Gilbert. The up-tempo pace was immediately apparent: fast breaks, outlet passes, and dribble drives were part of Hurley’s gameplan right from tip-off.

Although UConn got into foul trouble early, with six in the first six minutes, the improved depth made an impact, as Hurley was able to substitute players out at will; it took twelve minutes for any individual player to pick up his second foul, a long time in a tightly-officiated contest.

Isaiah Whaley provided an instant boost to the defense, recording two blocks before the midway point of the second half, but went down with an injury ten minutes into the game. He returned for a brief spell before halftime, but was ruled out for the rest of the game.

The Huskies took their first double-digit lead of the game with seven minutes left in the first half thanks to an energizing dunk by Tarin Smith and two Gilbert threes. They went on a scoring drought for several minutes after that, and took only a 37-33 lead into the locker room at the half.

UConn had early foul trouble again in the second half, picking up five before the first officials’ timeout, with Jalen Adams notching his third only minutes into the second frame. Tyler Polley, otherwise having a solid game, was also relegated to the bench early in the second half with a trio of fouls of his own.

The Huskies continued to be aggressive on offense, an adjustment from last season they didn’t always seem comfortable with. It paid off most, though, in a stretch midway through the half where they hit two threes and went to the line twice, pushing the UConn lead to 13.

The crowd erupted late in the half when Carlton chased a missed rebound over a row of photographers and the first member of the Huskies to get over to him was a sprinting Hurley, exemplifying the attitude he’s trying to impart on the team.

Morehead State hung around late in this one. Gilbert was charged with his fourth foul with three minutes left, as the Eagles shrunk the Huskies’ lead to nine after a four-point play.

Polley’s fourth foul sent Jordan Walker to the line with just over a minute left, but he only converted one of his free throws, maintaining a ten-point lead for UConn. Polley fouled out on the next Morehead State possession, but with only 32 seconds on the clock, the Eagles could do little even after Walker sank both resulting free throws. Morehead intentionally fouled for the rest of the game.

Lamontray Harris led the Eagles with 16 points and Malek Green added 14. Morehead State (1-1) visits Syracuse on Saturday.

For UConn, there was some excitement from Tarin Smith, Christian Vital had an up-and-down performance with eight points and eight rebounds. It was great to see Carlton emerge the way he has, especially with the other big men having a quiet night. Jalen Adams, Gilbert, Smith and Vital offer a lot of promise for the playmaking ability of this team, which will only improve with the return of Sid Wilson.

The Huskies (1-0) host University of Missouri - Kansas City on Sunday at Gampel Pavilion.

UConn Men’s Basketball Postgame video (Danny Hurley, Josh Carlton, Jalen Adams, Alterique Gilbert)