The UConn Huskies suffered a pair of wounds on Wednesday night, losing the game to Temple 81-63 and losing Jalen Adams to injury.
The UConn (13-10, 4-6 American) offense languished in the first half before a second-half improvement, but could not chip away at the large deficit. The defense struggled all game en route to allowing one of Temple’s best offensive performances all season.
Josh Carlton and Christian Vital each scored 18 and grabbed 13 rebounds, both game-highs. Vital tied the game high in assists with five and Tarin Smith pitched in with four dimes and six points.
Temple’s game-opening 6-0 run was stopped by a Vital trey, but the Owls offense had no trouble scoring early, making their first six shots from the floor as the UConn defense suffered from first-half breakdowns.
The trouble got worse for the Huskies when Adams was carried into the locker room with a leg injury after only six minutes, the worst-case scenario for a team also missing sparkplug guard Alterique Gilbert. Down to three guards, Dan Hurley was forced to play Vital, Smith, and Brendan Adams to fill his lineups, and even deployed Sidney Wilson and Tyler Polley out of their typical positions.
Taking advantage of UConn having to floor multiple backups, many of whom were in different roles than they’re used to, the Owls went on a lengthy 15-0 run, which they built upon to take a big lead throughout the first half. The Owls shot .621 in the first half, including .455 from three, against a shorthanded UConn defense.
The Huskies trailed 46-20 at halftime, with few defensive stops and even fewer offensive options, with a gap that had appeared to be too big to overcome just ten minutes into the game.
The offense improved quickly in the second half, as UConn began to score like normal, but with such a big deficit, the Huskies weren’t able to close the gap. Nonetheless, Vital emerged as an offensive leader without his two usual backcourt counterparts, and Carlton continued a run of good play by dominating the post. Carlton and Eric Cobb both had their way with Temple’s post defenders, combining for 31 points on 23 shots.
The Huskies proved that their offense can still be competent even without two vital players, but the defense left a lot to be desired. UConn does not yet have the organizational depth to match up with quality teams after losing two of its three top scorers and replacing them with deep bench players.
While UConn’s second-half play was clearly better than the first, the Huskies never recovered from the loss of their senior point guard, and Temple closed out the game without any difficulty.
Temple (17-6, 7-3 AAC) was led by Shizz Alston Jr. with 18 points and Nate Pierre-Louis with 17, two of five Owls who finished in double figures. Temple travels to Tulsa on Saturday.
The Huskies struggled from the perimeter without Adams and Gilbert, shooting 4-18 from three—including Vital’s 3-6 mark from beyond the arc. The Huskies visit Memphis on Sunday.