UConn couldn’t keep up with South Florida’s physical play, falling on the road to USF 76-68 on Wednesday night.
The Bulls controlled the tempo all night, as the Huskies were unable to play in transition. Just as South Florida wanted, the game quickly became ugly and slow, with an eye-popping 58 fouls called in the game’s 40 minutes.
Jalen Adams led the Huskies with 25 points on 9-18 shooting, but had six turnovers. Christian Vital scored an efficient 16, but the real story of the game was the Huskies’ poor outside shooting, converting just six of their 22 attempts from deep, as Tyler Polley and Alterique Gilbert combined for 0-10 from beyond the arc.
The Huskies took a 10-4 lead into the first timeout. That margin was aided by South Florida leading scorer David Collins heading to the bench with two fouls after only two minutes.
Gilbert was also whistled for two fouls early in the game, but the Huskies were more equipped to lose one of their top players. Tarin Smith hit a three on the first possession of Gilbert’s absence, and Brendan Adams provided valuable first-half minutes. Jalen Adams also played well through the first half, converting a deep three-point attempt with as the shot clock expired midway through the first period to give the Huskies their first double-digit lead of the game.
Dan Hurley, often aggressive in deploying players with foul trouble, put Gilbert back into the game with eight minutes left in the half, which turned out to be a good decision—Gilbert opened up the team’s offensive game while providing tough defense on the other end. The Huskies took a 33-25 advantage into the break.
While a powerful block by Sidney Wilson provided UConn with some energy early in the second half, the Huskies’ lead evaporated after a string of questionable foul calls. The Bulls took the lead back seven minutes into the second half.
USF extended it to a nine-point edge with four minutes remaining as Josh Carlton fouled out. The Huskies were able to pick up their scoring late in the second half, but with South Florida getting second chances, if not third chances, on most of its possessions, UConn had trouble getting back into the game.
A series of USF turnovers with under two minutes got UConn back in it somewhat. With a minute left to play, the Huskies had halved the Bulls’ previously double-digit lead to five. That was as close as UConn would get, though, and South Florida secured the victory without much trouble.
UConn was at its best when combating Brian Gregory’s slow, methodical strategy, going to a fast tempo and pushing the ball in transition. South Florida’s gameplan is to force opposing teams into foul trouble and sloppy basketball, which the Bulls were able to do for the majority of the game. The slow pace and free throw disparity—eighteen more attempts than UConn—became the driving factors in the victory, even as the Bulls converted only 63% of their shots from the line.
LaQuincy Rideau led the Bulls (11-2) with 25 points, Collins added 17, and Alexis Yetna pitched in with a dozen. South Florida visits Tulsa on Saturday.
Gilbert, who led the Huskies with ten free throw attempts, also scored 12 points, and Eric Cobb led a rebound-averse team with seven boards.
UConn plays host to Central Florida at the XL Center in Hartford on Saturday afternoon.