A frantic UConn comeback set the stage for overtime until a Wichita State buzzer beater pushed the Shockers over the Huskies 65-63 on Thursday night.
UConn (13-15, 4-11 American) continues its road losing streak, and has yet to win a game on another team’s home court this season. The Huskies received solid performances from many players, including Alterique Gilbert playing through pain, but clearly still missed the injured Jalen Adams.
Gilbert, who led the comeback, finished with 18 points and drained half of his 3-point attempts in a return to his pre-injury form. Josh Carlton was the only other Husky to finish in double figures, with 10 points to bolster another great defensive performance.
Wichita State (14-13, 7-8 AAC) started the game on a run, taking advantage of a new UConn starting lineup, and held the Huskies to just two points in the first six minutes. The Shockers’ own offensive struggles, though, meant they led by only two after Christian Vital ended the UConn drought.
Sloppy play once again marred the first half of a UConn men’s basketball game, and the reckless, uncontrolled style benefited the Shockers more than the Huskies. UConn exacerbated their problems by going ice cold from outside; the Huskies made only one of their first seven attempts from three.
That didn’t deter the Huskies from staying aggressive from deep, and they took their first lead of the game thanks to back-to-back threes and a stout defense that held the Shockers scoreless for a five minute stretch of the first half. A 19-3 run gave the Huskies a good lead in the first half, especially from a seven-point deficit, as UConn broke a trend and prevented one cold streak from sinking its entire game.
UConn led 27-22 at halftime, indicative of the ineffectiveness that plagued both offenses, but the Huskies had outplayed their opponent in the first half, displaying better shooting ability and more defensive intensity. Only three Shockers scored in the opening frame, and none of them came by those points easily.
Gilbert hit a pair of tough shots early in the second half to extend the UConn lead to double digits, but the offense once again struggled for a while as Wichita State inched closer to the lead. Good defense and some lucky bounces kept the Huskies ahead, but the Shockers stopped the UConn effort to pull away.
The Shockers tied the game at the midway point of the half and went ahead with a rare 3-pointer on the next possession, setting up a run of back-and-forth lead changes. Wichita State went up by two possessions on multiple occasions, but the Huskies kept it close, just as the Shockers had done earlier in the half.
The Huskies struggled all game with forcing shots on the interior, allowing their own shots to be blocked seven times, including four swats from Asbjorn Midtgaard, and found much more success when spacing the floor. When Gilbert briefly left the game with a cramp, the newly-limited team was forced to find alternative modes of scoring, but failed to adjust.
Gilbert returned to the game clearly hobbled by his leg cramps, and hit two straight 3-pointers to tie the score, the last of which came on a heavily-contested shot through a lot of contact. That shot came with six seconds left, though, and Samajae Haynes-Jones took a tough runner falling out of bounds to win the game for Wichita State at the buzzer.
Haynes-Jones led the Shockers with 20 points, Markis McDuffie added an inefficient 19 points on 5-17 field goal shooting, and Jamarius Burton pitched in with 11. Their superior bench depth turned out not to matter, as Midtgaard’s four points were the only scores from the Shockers’ reserves. Wichita State visits SMU on Sunday.
Brendan Adams broke out with a trio of treys and Tarin Smith finished with five assists. Vital scored seven points off the bench, his lowest since an early December loss to Florida State.
UConn hosts South Florida in Storrs on Sunday.