The Huskies shot well and kept turnovers to a minimum but struggled to stay disciplined as they fell to Tulsa on the road 89-83 on Wednesday night in a game that featured a bizarre double-ejection of both head coaches.
A slump that spanned the late first half and early second half sank the Huskies, as they couldn’t recover from a lengthy Golden Hurricane run. The UConn offense performed well overall despite a low 3-point percentage, but failed to make things difficult for the Tulsa offense, as Jeriah Horne scored a career-high 27 points off the bench.
Jalen Adams led the Huskies (10-8, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) with 27 points, as UConn fell to 0-5 all-time when playing Tulsa on the road. Christian Vital and Alterique Gilbert each finished with double figures, but neither guard’s shooting was good enough to propel the offense.
The Huskies came out hot, connecting on their first four shots of the game, but Tulsa’s offense was equally effective, preventing UConn from taking advantage of an early run. As a couple off-ball turnovers and fouls put Josh Carlton on the bench early, Horne knocked down two-straight 3-pointers to give the Golden Hurricane their first two-possession lead only five minutes into the game.
The Huskies got the lead back halfway through the opening period as Brendan Adams—who did not play in the previous game and saw only a minute in the game prior—converted a baseline layup. The Golden Hurricane had gone ice cold following their quick start, displaying their relative lack of depth as the Huskies’ bench unit outpaced its counterpart.
Carlton, Gilbert and Jalen Adams all picked up two fouls early in the first half, shrinking Dan Hurley’s rotation while Frank Haith was still able to take advantage of a full roster. Tulsa’s starters outplayed a lineup that featured only 40 percent of UConn’s, which gave the Golden Hurricane a five-point halftime lead that was as high as eight in the half’s waning minutes.
With the starters back in after the break, the Huskies needed an offensive boost to tighten the gap, but it took them over two minutes to score. Meanwhile, Tulsa exploited its opponent’s slump to take the first double-digit lead of the game in the half’s early minutes.
UConn had a brief moment where the switch flipped, connecting on two-straight tough shots, but the wheels came out immediately after, allowing Tulsa to nearly double its lead in the span of mere minutes. Whereas previous breakdowns have seen only one unit fall apart, the offense and defense both failed in the early second half, rushing poorly-conceived shots and allowing Tulsa easy opportunities to score on the opposite end.
A confusing incident involving an argument between Hurley and Haith led to both coaches getting two matching technicals and leaving the game, although each coach’s second technical appeared to be given as the coaches tried to make amends, leaving the two leaders stunned in their respective locker rooms.
Perhaps Hurley’s ejection and the lengthy rest that ensued was the impetus for the Huskies to go on a quick 7-0 run, but Adams’ fourth foul a moment later halted the team’s progress, as the Golden Hurricane continued to score through free throws. UConn was able to whittle down the lead over the next several minutes, but wasn’t able to get within single digits until five minutes were left on the clock.
Adams’ return to the floor picked up the offense with two big shots to keep the Huskies in the game, but ill-timed fouls and shot selections hindered any attempt to make the scoring margin smaller.
The Huskies got within two possessions with 1:16 left, cutting the Golden Hurricane’s lead down to six on Adams’ driving layup. However, that was as close as they would get, as Tulsa put away their intentionally-granted free throws to keep them ahead.
Tulsa (12-6, 2-3 AAC) got 14 points from DaQuan Jeffries and a baker’s dozen from Martins Igbanu, both of whom gave matchup issues to the Huskies when Horne didn’t have the ball in his hands. The Golden Hurricane visit UCF Saturday afternoon.
UConn led in offensive rebounds by a margin of fourteen to five, but made only two more field goals than Tulsa despite shooting 20 extra attempts. The Huskies host Tulane on Saturday night.