Tyler Polley scored a career-high 23 points, all in the second half, to lead the UConn Huskies over Marquette at the Fiserv Forum, 65-54. The Huskies came back from a double-digit second-half deficit to improve to 5-1 (2-1 in the Big East).
“It was like a boxer going to the stool after just getting rocked and we had to decide if we wanted to get off the stool and continue to fight,” head coach Dan Hurley said after the game. “We just showed a lot of character.”
James Bouknight struggled a little early and sat due to injury for a stretch, though he would finish the game. Luckily for the Huskies, Polley’s wasn’t the only standout performance. Isaiah Whaley notched his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 boards. This is a promising development for a UConn team looking for consistency in the lineup after Bouknight.
UConn was down 18 points with 15:41 left in the second half but Whaley and Polley led the comeback effort. The pair of seniors scored 74% of the Huskies’ points on the night. Polley showed off the shooting stroke we know and love, hitting all five of his second-half 3-pointers.
Whaley provided the energy UConn needed to get back into the game, getting active on defense and ripping down offensive boards. The North Carolina native even hit a three, making him a career 50% three-point shooter (1-2).
The first half was full of turnovers and bricked shots, but offensive rebounds helped the Huskies stay in the game. Hurley’s squad struggled offensively, hitting 33% of their first-half field-goal attempts and just one three-pointer. The Huskies grabbed 21 first-half rebounds and didn’t give up any foul shots.
Bouknight missed the final minutes of the period after Golden Eagles guard Koby McEwen landed on his left elbow. He came back out to start the second half with a sleeve on his left arm. The sophomore has a hyperextended elbow, according to Hurley.
Though the Marquette lead was in the double digits, UConn played enough defense to finish the half down 31-23.
UConn struggled out of the gate in the second half as well and Marquette saw its lead peak at 18 during the first five minutes. But then Polley took over.
This UConn team has been looking for a second option after James Bouknight all season long. They have gotten promising games from Tyrese Martin, Josh Carlton, and Isaiah Whaley but the consistency was lacking from this group. Polley is now clearly one of the options on the committee, which is a massive bonus for head coach Dan Hurley. They have the luxury of depth and even on a night when their star doesn’t shine as bright, they pulled out a win thanks to their depth.
“When you’re in year three of rebuilding a program, you can overcome a performance like that because you have enough culture and character built up,” Hurley said.
Next up, the Huskies will face off against Butler in Indianapolis on Jan. 9 at 4 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.