The UConn Huskies lost at the hands of the Central Florida Knights on Thursday night. The Huskies’ 12-point halftime deficit proved too much to overcome despite a big second half performance from Jalen Adams.
Here are our takeaways:
The Offense is Limited Without Alterique Gilbert
Dylan Finer: Tarin Smith, Alterique Gilbert’s replacement, had a fine game with 11 points, a team-high four assists and no turnovers. However, it was evident that UConn was short on playmakers as the offense went stagnant in the first half. The Huskies scored just 22 points in the first half and, though mostly due to turnovers, struggled to find open looks.
At 3.8 assists per contest, Gilbert is the team’s best distributor. The offense was limited without his ability to create off the dribble, collapse the defense and find teammates open for shots. Tarin Smith showed that he can be a fine replacement in extended run, but he can’t replicate what Gilbert adds to the team.
Mike Sivo: Gilbert being out puts the ball in Adams’ hands more. It took him some time to adjust. After a brutal first half that saw him score just five points, the senior came alive and dropped 22 in impressive display in the second act. A good chunk of it came from the perimeter, but he showed his usual shiftiness in getting in the lane as well at times.
It’s frustrating because, as good as Adams was down the stretch, seven turnovers is just too many for a senior guard, who is being asked to do a lot with Gilbert out.
Fumbled the Game Away
DF: UConn turned the ball over 14 times — ten of which came in the first half. Oddly enough, UCF managed just two points off of UConn’s ten first half turnovers. The turnovers did, however, disrupt any momentum and rhythm that the team hoped to gain on the offensive end.
UCF showed a zone look that the Huskies struggled to find open looks against. Frustrated by the lack of offense, the team began to force ill-advised passes and dribble into the teeth of the zone. The turnover-filled first half resulted in a 12-point first half deficit that UConn couldn’t overcome despite Dan Hurley’s halftime adjustments and Jalen Adam’s second half offensive surge.
Josh Carlton Steps Up
DF: In 33 minutes, the sophomore big man scored four points, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out two assists. He also stepped up defensively with two blocks and a steal as he limited UCF’s Tacko Fall for much of the game.
Carlton was a force on the offensive glass as he pulled down four offensive rebounds to give his team second chance opportunities. He rewarded the team with five second chance points as he assisted on a Christian Vital three-pointer on one and made a put-back layup on another.
Carlton’s emerging presence on the interior has been a welcomed sight for the team and fans alike. Since his eight-point, seven-rebound performance against SMU on January 10, he is averaging 9.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and just over a block in 28.5 minutes per game.
DF: The high-pressure defense that UConn wanted to deploy was hurt by the team’s inability to defend without fouling. The Huskies totaled 24 fouls to the Knights’ 15, but five of UConn’s 24 fouls came in the closing minutes when the team fouled to stop the clock.
UCF spent 18 total minutes of game time in the bonus — ten in the first half and eight in the second half. With significant foul totals, it makes it more difficult for the team to deploy its pressure defense and, when it does insist on remaining high-pressure, UConn is going to send its opponent to the line. Central Florida shot 36 free throws in the contest.
MS: The fouling was tough to watch, as many chances for extended runs on offense for the Huskies were squashed by defensive fouls. It also allowed the Knights to survive periods of poor shooting, or the chance to pick up points at the line on offensive rebounds. If UConn could get itself to the line more, we’re again talking about a totally different game. Perhaps maybe even a different season. Drawing contact in the lane should be a point of emphasis for Hurley guards starting next year.
Additionally, though I believe in Hurley and what the program can be capable of under his direction, the technical fouls are concerning. A coach sets an example for the players. The occasional emotional display is fine and can even amp up the team but this is happening far too much.. What is smart about handing over free points and possession to the opposition?