Tyler Polley recorded a career-best 20 points to lead the Huskies, but a injury-shortened roster ensured UConn was not at its best in a loss to Memphis, 78-71, on Sunday afternoon.
Alterique Gilbert missed his fourth straight game and Jalen Adams—reportedly out for a month—was also unavailable, bringing Dan Hurley’s rotation to just seven players. Despite many of them having strong games, the fast-paced style of Penny Hardaway’s Tigers wore out the Huskies over the course of 40 minutes.
Though once again having to adjust to the absence of two standout players, the Huskies (13-11, 4-7 American) eventually settled into a quality performance after a long slump, even dominating the glass, but were clearly missing the personnel they needed for a victory in a raucous FedExForum arena.
Memphis (14-10, 6-5 AAC) knocked down back-to-back threes to open the game, but the Huskies’ run of sloppy play to open the game was ended by Christian Vital splashing a three of his own. UConn’s early offensive effort was marred by turnovers, but Memphis racked up some foul trouble, sending starting forward Mike Parks Jr. to the bench with a pair of violations after only three minutes.
The Huskies went ice cold in the first half, going five minutes without scoring a point until a converted and-one by Eric Cobb brought them back within eight. Memphis had no trouble scoring, though; even when the Tigers missed shots, they were just as likely as not to rebound their own miss.
The Huskies offense picked up later in the first half, with Memphis in deep foul trouble for the opening period. From a first-half deficit as big as 13, UConn fought back to hold the halftime score to 37-30. The Tigers’ already short rotation was further limited with four players carrying two fouls, allowing the Huskies to make a minor comeback despite weak shooting percentages.
Memphis’ starters reentered the game after the break and took advantage of UConn’s depleted lineup to start the second half on a quick 9-0 run. The Huskies settled down after the initial trouble to create opportunities on offense and force the Tigers into unfavorable situations, but the talent gap—caused in no small part by UConn’s injuries—was often too much to overcome.
Another minor run, similar to the one at the end of the first half, brought the Huskies within single digits halfway through the second frame, but UConn seemingly alternated between stretches of good offense and good defense, never combining the two for long. Active defense and motion-filled offense gave the Huskies improvement on both ends, just rarely on back-to-back possessions.
With a minute and change left, Tarin Smith hit a big three to bring the Huskies to a four-point deficit, but the two teams traded baskets over the following half-minute, giving Memphis the ball with just thirty seconds left. The Tigers made their intentional free throws, closing out the game when the Huskies missed a transition layup.
Kyvon Davenport led all players with 26 points as the Tigers’ winning effort was aided by an .889 free throw percentage. Memphis visits East Carolina on Wednesday.
Sidney Wilson had the best performance of his freshman season with 16 points, and Vital and Smith each scored 13. Eric Cobb had eight points, 11 rebounds, and four assists off the bench in a sparkplug performance. The Huskies host Houston on Thursday.