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UConn Men’s Basketball Falls Short Against No. 11 Florida State

The Huskies fell behind big and could never make it back.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The UConn Huskies nearly came back from a 17-point deficit, but their comeback effort could not make up for the early disadvantage, losing to Florida State 79-71 on Saturday night.

The neutral-site game, played at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., perhaps will be best remembered for unremarkable play by both teams and copious touch fouls. The teams combined for 41 turnovers and 55 fouls—in a 40 minute game. The hook and hold flagrant rule, a new institution this season, got plenty of play this game, sparking flagrant fouls on both teams and pausing the game for review several times.

Alterique Gilbert scored a game-high 21 points and recorded five steals, Jalen Adams added 18 points, and Tarin Smith led the Huskies’ bench with a dozen. In one of the team’s worst shooting performances of the year, UConn shot only .377 from the floor and .333 from three.

The game began sloppily for both teams, with two reviews in the first three minutes, and both Josh Carlton and Christian Vital picking up their second foul before the first timeout. Nonetheless, the Huskies opened the game with seven unanswered as they started with a 10-3 advantage, but Florida State gained its composure and the Seminoles took their first lead midway through the first half.

As has been the Seminoles’ way all season, their bench provided them with better play than their opponents’, with David Nichols knocking down his first three attempts from beyond the arc. In fact, the Florida State bench outscored the starters 31-8 at the break.

The Seminoles led 39-33 at the half, with Carlton and Eric Cobb sitting due to foul trouble during the back end of the first period. A deep Florida State team was able to take advantage of the UConn bench, the Seminoles playing at their best when the duo of centers—and Gilbert—were off the court.

In fact, the Huskies struggled on offense whenever Gilbert wasn’t in the game; his ballhandling, rather than the Huskies’ passing, was the best weapon for breaking down Leonard Hamilton’s defense.

With the Florida State lead growing to 15 points, the Huskies needed production with Carlton, Polley, and Christian Vital stuck to the bench due to fouls. The Huskies earned—not deserved—six fouls in the first five minutes after halftime, though the Seminoles already had five of their own in this overly tightly-officiated contest.

The Huskies began to whittle their way back into the game, with Adams and Gilbert hitting some big shots, but turnovers, sloppy play, and just plain bad luck continued to plague the team. With under seven minutes left in the game, the Huskies to get within single digits, but they didn’t have enough to make the comeback.

With three minutes to go, a Gilbert three put the Huskies only seven points behind, and with just over a minute left, his layup cut the game to five. That was as close as the game would get, however, and the Huskies’ comeback effort fell short. Dan Hurley received a technical foul after a missed Jalen Adams layup to seal the deal.

Florida State (8-1) was led by Terance Mann with 20 points, and got important contributions from Nichols and Mfiondu Kabengele, both of whom got hot at various points in the game. The Seminoles have a week off before hosting Southeast Missouri next Monday.

UConn (7-3) plays host to Manhattan at Gampel Pavilion next Saturday.

Dan Hurley, Jalen Adams, Christian Vital postgame interview