Back home after a productive week in the Bahamas, the no. 17 UConn men’s basketball team survived Maryland Eastern Shore 72-63 to improve to 7-1 on the season.
RJ Cole led the Huskies with 25 points, while Tyler Polley chipped in 14. Isaiah Whaley added eight points, seven rebounds, and four blocks. Adama Sanogo exited in the second half with an oblique injury and leading rebounder Tyrese Martin remained sidelined with a sprained wrist.
A win is a win, but the majority of the game was marred by disjointed play from UConn on both ends, with the Huskies never finding any sort of game flow.
The two teams traded leads until the u-12 timeout when UConn took the lead for good. A lack of offensive rhythm —something that plagued the Huskies in the Bahamas — kept UConn from pulling away.
On the other end, an undisciplined defense that bit on too many pump fakes let the Hawks stick around. Although the Huskies entered the break with an eight-point lead, it was a sloppy, listless effort, with UConn only ahead because of Cole’s steady play and two Tyler Polley treys. UMES’ tallest player checked in at 6’5 yet the Hawks won the rebounding margin in the first half.
In the second half, UConn didn’t score until the 16:59 mark, while UMES cut the lead to one. It felt like Opposite Day; it was the Hawks playing tough defense and wowing the crowd with thundering dunks. Thanks to some better ball pressure and a few Jordan Hawkins buckets, UConn finally found separation, building a double-digit lead before the under eight timeout. But in the blink of an eye, the toothless Huskies returned and let UMES back into the game. Foul trouble and timely plays from Cole and Whaley prevented the unthinkable, but the game left anyone watching with a bitter taste in their mouth.
After a grueling three-game slate in the Bahamas, coming home to a KenPom-ranked #351 team was supposed to be a well-deserved respite that built depth and got players back into a rhythm. Instead, UConn appeared to be nursing an emotional hangover, while Hawks head coach Jason Crafton had his team playing hard, staying connected, and hitting tough shots.
UConn won important statistical battles like turnovers, points in the paint, and rebounds. But it was a disconnected, complacent effort that would result in a loss to at lot of D1 teams. But as long as they got the win, no one will remember this game tomorrow, let alone in March, if the guys get better from the experience.
Up next, the Huskies face another HBCU, Grambling State, on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. in a game that will be televised on FS2.