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UConn men’s basketball beats Maine, 64-40

Freshman James Bouknight led the Huskies with 15 points in a solid win over the Black Bears.

Alterique Gilbert was one of four Huskies in double figures Sunday vs. Maine
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Seven days removed from its best week of basketball in the Hurley era, the UConn men’s basketball team held off the University of Maine 64-40 to improve to 5-2 on the year.

It was another balanced scoring effort. Freshman James Bouknight led the Huskies with 15, while redshirt junior Alterique Gilbert added 13 points, getting 11 in the first half. Sophomore Brendan Adams and junior Tyler Polley chipped in with 11 and 12, respectively. UConn’s press, which Hurley activated heavily in the second half, forced 28 Maine turnovers on the day.

After the game, Hurley admitted his team still has a long way to go. The Huskies’ decision-making was not sound and they had a couple of long stretches without scoring, but their talent and grit won the day.

There was no turkey coma for UConn, who jumped out to an 11-2 lead after two Gilbert threes. But a hot start was quickly replaced by complacency. They spent the early portions of the half settling for threes against Maine’s 2-3 zone, despite owning a clear athletic advantage.

The Huskies quickly remembered, and some concentrated efforts to get to the rim kept Maine at bay. That opened up shooting lanes a bit, but UConn was never able to really pull away, mostly because they fell asleep on too many possessions defensively. Despite forcing 12 Maine turnovers, the Huskies ended the first half only up six, and head coach Dan Hurley looked noticeably agitated on the bench.

Maine’s zone sagged off on shooters and clogged the paint, virtually daring UConn to shoot. So while the Huskies were able to move the ball around and get plenty of open looks, it didn’t translate on the other end. The missed assignments on defense got so bad at one point that Hurley was shown in a timeout throwing a chair and reportedly breaking a clipboard.

Hurley’s halftime speech must have been a good one. In the second half, UConn started stretching its lead after two straight turnovers led to transition buckets, including an absolute hammer from sophomore Brendan Adams (see above). The Huskies were in control after that, with James Bouknight continuing to flash his elite skill-set. The freshman wowed the crowd with a pretty finish after getting fouled, a put-back dunk from his own miss, and a 5-of-11 performance from the field ending with 15 points and five rebounds, both team highs.

It took a while, but the Huskies eventually imposed their will on Maine. It was a welcome sign to force 28 turnovers, but half-court offensive execution will need to be tightened up when the opponents get tougher. Maine came into this game ranked 316th in KenPom, making it a bottom-50 team in the country.

Next up for UConn is a Wednesday night tilt against MAAC foe Iona, currently ranked 178th in KenPom, at 7:00 p.m. in Gampel Pavilion. The game will be televised on SNY and ESPN3.