clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UConn Men’s Basketball Drops Third-Straight, Loses To UCF

The Knights had no trouble with the Huskies on Saturday afternoon.

Alterique Gilbert drives with the basketball during UConn Men’s Basketball’s game against Central Florida on January 5, 2019.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

A well-prepared UConn men’s basketball team couldn’t execute its gameplan, as the Huskies fell to the Knights of Central Florida 65-53 at Hartford’s XL Center on Saturday afternoon.

The UCF defense shut down the Huskies’ shooting while having no problem scoring on the opposite end. The Knights converted 20 of their 35 field goal attempts, with Aubrey Dawkins leading the way with 23 points on 9-13 shooting.

UConn (9-6 overall, 0-2 The American) got a team-high 18 points from Alterique Gilbert and 15 from Christian Vital, but each finished with more turnovers than assists, as the rest of the team combined for 6-27 shooting, good for 22.2 percent.

The Huskies’ defense led the way early, forcing three turnovers in the first four minutes en route to a game-opening 7-0 run, and holding the Knights without a field goal until nearly five minutes in.

UCF took advantage of UConn’s turnover issues to get back in the game, but two early three-pointers from Gilbert sparked the Huskies’ offense. For a while, Gilbert was Dan Hurley’s only scoring option, as no other UConn player scored more than two points until Jalen Adams’ go-ahead 3-pointer halfway through the opening period.

While the first-half foul trouble wasn’t an issue like it was in previous games—at least, not to the extent of Wednesday’s 32-foul loss to South Florida—the turnover trouble did. The Huskies gave the ball away seven times in the first half—many of them unforced errors—leading to 13 UCF points.

A timely play by Gilbert at the end of the half—a 3-pointer with a hand in his face and a floater through contact—brought the Huskies back into the game at the midway point, cutting the Knights’ lead to three. The Huskies’ play was sloppy at points, but the gameplan was sound, as UConn mostly made UCF’s star center Tacko Fall a non-factor.

The Huskies struggled in the first few minutes after the break, as Dawkins caught fire from the floor, but capitalized off some mistakes and miscommunications to recover. Knights coach Johnny Dawkins took Fall off the court after he received his third foul, at which time Adams found Christian Vital for a game-tying corner 3-pointer.

The Knights regained the lead, and held a single-digit advantage for most of the second half. Poor shot selection gave Central Florida plenty of transition opportunities, which the Knights used to their benefit, picking up layups and and-ones while putting the UConn defense on the run.

Another second-half slump plagued the Huskies, suffering through a stretch where they missed 15-straight attempts from the floor. The defensive play, which was mostly fine, never had a chance to make a difference with such a poor shooting percentage. The Huskies finished shooting 30 percent from the 3-point line and a putrid 33.3 percent on two-point field goals, displaying a lack of tenacity along the way.

B.J. Taylor added a dozen points, most of which came from the charity stripe, and Dayon Griffin gave Central Florida a nine-point performance off the bench. The Knights resume play next Sunday after a week-long layover with a home contest against East Carolina.

Adams was only 2-10 from the floor for UConn, his worst single-game percentage in two years. The Huskies host SMU at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs on Thursday evening.