UConn capped off its home schedule with a hard-fought win in a defensive battle, beating Temple 72-66 at Gampel Pavilion on Thursday night.
Both offenses struggled over the course of the game, with neither shooting above 37 percent from the floor. The Owls made only six of their 31 attempts from beyond the arc, which was likely the biggest factor in the Huskies’ victory.
Jalen Adams led UConn with 25 points and eight assists and Terry Larrier, who recently announced that he will be forgoing his final year of college eligibility with his upcoming graduation, scored 13 points in his final home game as a Husky.
Ollie started three departing players on Senior Night, putting Larrier, Antwoine Anderson, and David Onuorah on the floor for tip-off. The nice gesture didn’t totally work out, as UConn missed five of its first six shots and gave up two offensive rebounds before the first substitution, and the Huskies trailed by five points at the first commercial break.
Temple has either deemphasized or struggled to get to the free throw line this season, and the lack of physical play was a bonus for UConn in multiple ways. Not only did this allow the Husky defense to play closer to its strengths than the players have been accustomed to, but perhaps even more importantly, it kept them out of foul trouble for the first time in a long while. Kevin Ollie must have been thrilled to see his rotation relatively unburdened by accumulating fouls.
Meanwhile, UConn disrupted the Temple game plan early on with solid play in transition and quick jumpers that were released as soon as certain players saw an open look. Adams flourished in the quick pace, making four of his first five attempts and distributing the ball perhaps better than he has all season.
The Huskies were winning the turnover battle early, being careful with passes and ballhandling, but committed a few unforced violations that took away their own offensive chances later in the half. Temple led 34-32 at halftime, as the frantic early pace settled into a more typical speed for both teams.
The second half began with a quick 10-0 run in UConn’s favor, and the Huskies managed to hang on to the lead for a while, despite a scoring drought right after the streak ended.
Temple slowly whittled down the UConn advantage, going on a series of mini-runs to gradually make the game closer. The Owls went back ahead with just under five minutes left to play, giving themselves the lead for the first time since halftime, and setting up a back-and-forth final few minutes.
Tyler Polley hit his first shot of the game—a three—to put the Huskies up four with 1:25 to go, but a quick Temple basket halved the lead. Later Adams found a cutting Christian Vital for an easy basket on the next UConn possession, and the Huskies got the ball back after good defense forced a Temple turnover. After Adams hit a layup, the Owls had several opportunities to make it a single-possession game, but missed a barrage of three-point attempts, sealing the victory for the Huskies.
Anderson added 10 points while Vital struggled with seven points on 2-12 shooting but led all players in rebounding with 12. Mamadou Diarra scored six points off the bench and blocked three shots, playing solid defense in his limited minutes.
Obi Enechionyia led the Owls with 15 points, Shizz Alston scored 13, and Quinton Rose added 11 tallies. Temple (16-13, 8-9 AAC) falls to seventh place in the American Athletic Conference with the loss. The Owls visit Tulsa in their regular season finale on Sunday.
UConn (14-16, 7-10 AAC) rises to eighth in the conference standings with the win, pending the result of SMU’s game against Houston. The Huskies could finish as high as sixth if they gain an unlikely tiebreaker advantage over Central Florida, or as low as ninth.
The Huskies conclude their regular season with a trip to Houston on Sunday afternoon. They do not control their own destiny with regards to seeding in the AAC Tournament, as a win would only guarantee a top-eight placement in the bracket; Central Florida and Temple will both have to lose the remainder of their games to give UConn a chance to move up further than eighth place.