Despite playing in its home away from home, the UConn men’s basketball team struggled against Indiana Tuesday night, losing 57-54. Junior Josh Carlton paced the Huskies with 18 points and five rebounds while junior Tyler Polley added 12 points. Freshman Akok Akok and redshirt sophomore Sidney Wilson both stood out as well, with the duo combining for six of UConn’s eight blocks.
On offense, UConn alternated between brilliant and brutal. Their erratic execution led to 22 turnovers — tied for the most in a single game since 2014. The sloppy play was especially evident among UConn’s guards, who could not handle Indiana’s ball pressure and accounted for 82% of the team’s giveaways.
After some nervy opening minutes, UConn jumped out to a 15-2 run, and the Garden was rocking. It was all spurred by Akok, who put the college basketball world on notice with three left-handed blocks, three rebounds, and a three-pointer, all before Indiana’s first timeout.
Imagine thinking you could shoot over Akok Akok pic.twitter.com/Xx5vcm3r2R— The UConn Blog (@TheUConnBlog) December 11, 2019
While Akok was putting on a show, Carlton was getting it done as well with 12 first-half points. UConn soon found itself up 10 and, as the kids say, the vibes were good.
However, IU found itself in the bonus early — and combined with 14 UConn turnovers — the Huskies’ lead slipped away. Akok sat with foul trouble as the Hoosiers mounted a 16-1 run to take a five-point lead into the break. The last eight minutes were pretty ugly, as the Huskies abandoned looks inside to Carlton and the guards couldn’t get any separation, which lead to some truly awful shot selection.
In his halftime interview, head coach Danny Hurley lamented to Holly Rowe the turnovers, cheap fouls, and shot selection. Unfortunately, Akok picked up an extremely questionable third foul three minutes in, and the Huskies continued to struggle offensively. However, despite the careless ball handling, foul trouble, and head-scratching shot selection, UConn was only down five at the under-16 timeout.
The highly suspect fouls turned the game into a rock fight, with sloppy execution from both sides. Sid Wilson supplied five big points to tie things up at 10:49, but it was mostly the same story as the first half— too many turnovers and poor shot selection.
Dan Hurley said Akok Akok and Josh Carlton played well, Tyler Polley hit some big shots and Sid Wilson provided some energy.— Alex Putterman (@AlexPutterman) December 11, 2019
Otherwise, he said, no one played particularly well
With 3:29 left, Carlton committed a flagrant foul and Indiana took a five point lead. UConn had a shot to make it a one point game with a little over a minute remaining, but a Polley three clanged out and the Huskies weren’t able to corral Indiana’s two ensuing misses. A deep Alterique Gilbert three made things interesting at the end, but Husky turnovers in the final minute allowed Indiana to put the game away.
Ultimately, UConn had no business being in that game down the stretch. You can’t turn the ball over 22 times and expect to win. On top of that, Indiana beat UConn at its own game in the depth department. The hype train was rolling in Charleston about the Huskies’ 10-man depth, but Indiana’s bench outscored UConn’s 17-5. UConn held Indiana — who was eighth in the nation in field goal percentage — to 37% shooting, and its eight blocks underscore that the problems aren’t coming from the defensive end.
The Huskies have a long break before their next game to sort out their offensive rhythm. They take on Saint Peters in the XL Center on Sunday, Dec. 18 in a game that tips off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on SNY and ESPN3.