The UConn Huskies fell just short in their hard-fought contest against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday night. After trailing by as many as nine points in the second half, the Huskies climbed back in the game with their three-point shooting. UConn’s effort level was commendable as the team showed toughness and resilience to overcome a hostile environment and go toe-to-toe with a hard-nosed Cincinnati squad.
Here are some takeaways from Saturday night’s game:
Josh Carlton’s strong play
For the second straight game against a formidable opponent, Josh Carlton made major contributions for the Huskies’ front court. Carlton logged 35 minutes, scored ten points and pulled down nine boards in the team’s loss. The sophomore big man played confidently and banged around with Cincy’s physical front court as he took another step toward proving that he can be relied upon when competition ramps up.
Cincinnati was crashing the offensive glass hard down the stretch. On two occasions, the Bearcats secured an offensive rebound and Carlton stepped up for UConn by contesting the put-back and ripping down the defensive board. His contributions to the team in the last two games are a significant boost from what the team was receiving from its front court in its first two games of AAC play.
Six of UConn’s last eight field goals came from behind the arc as the team battled its way into overtime. Overall, the Huskies shot 40.7 percent on 27 attempts. Christian Vital led the way shooting 4-8 and Jalen Adams tacked on three of his own on six attempts.
Recognizing that Cincinnati’s defense is strong on the interior, UConn got creative with ways of freeing up shooters. During a stretch in the second half, the team used its transition offense to find open shooters before the Bearcats had the opportunity to locate their defenders. The Huskies also took advantage of Cincy’s switches on defense to create mismatches and find open looks.
Jalen Adams steps up
Jalen Adams shined for UConn with 16 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds before fouling out with 2:26 in regulation. It was clear Adams was the difference-maker for the Huskies as the offense went cold when he left the game after picking up his fourth foul. He showed the tenacity and leadership that Husky fans were hoping to more consistently from him this season.
Adams has been up and down for UConn over the last month, but, like Carlton, Saturday marks his second straight strong performance. Adams told head coach Dan Hurley that he was locked in prior to Thursday’s matchup with SMU and he brought that same energy with him out to Cincinnati.
Mental toughness & good coaching
Despite their star player being in foul trouble and ultimately fouling out down the stretch, UConn showed grit and toughness to make plays in the face of adversity. Alterique Gilbert, Christian Vital and Tarin Smith played (mostly) under control in crunch time and delivered when the team needed it. The team did not make a single live ball turnover in the last five minutes of regulation despite heavy ball pressure and needing to make plays to keep themselves in the game. Dan Hurley deserves credit for having his team prepared down the stretch. There was no elaborate play draw-up or specific highlight, but the team played mistake-free basketball down the stretch and gave themselves a chance to win on the road against a tough opponent.