basketball Edit

Notes & Quotes: UConn Beats Wichita State

STORRS, Conn. – Jalen Adams exited Gampel Pavilion in slippers.

It was that kind of cozy, feel-good winter night for the UConn Huskies, who destroyed Wichita State, start to finish, 80-60 in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday night.

Christian Vital scored 21 points, while Adams turned in his first double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds as UConn (11-8, 3-4 American Athletic Conference) won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December.

Throw in the maturation of sophomores Tyler Polley (12 points) and Josh Carlton (11 points, six rebounds), and it was almost a perfect night against a Wichita State (8-11, 1-6) program that has made seven straight NCAA appearances.

The lonely low moment was the loss of redshirt sophomore Alterique Gilbert to a left shoulder injury – yes, that shoulder – with 14:37 remaining and the Huskies up 21 points.

“Al will be day-to-day, I think,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “Not sure about his availability for Thursday, but I think he’s going to be fine. He’ll have some type of test, but the early prognosis is day-to-day and not a long-term thing.

“So, phew, I think disaster adverted there.”

Jamarius Burton led the Shockers, who have dropped seven of their last eight, with 16 points. Erik Stevenson added 12, but leading scorer Markis McDuffie (19.2 ppg) was held to nine thanks to Polley’s defense.

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WHAT WENT WELL

The Right Place - The packed house – especially student section decked out in white t-shirts – was not lost on the Huskies. From the opening-seconds steal and layup from Vital, the crowd was loud and into it. The Huskies kept them that way by turning in one of their best first-halves of the season. An 8-0 start grew to 14-2 by the 14:12 mark and UConn would never lose its double-digit edge.

Hurley: “I felt really well about our chances of playing well when I walked through the tunnel – actually earlier today when we saw fans kind of filing like 4:45, then you come through the tunnel and see the amazing student turnout and that atmosphere – it just kind of lit the match for us. I think we were pretty determed coming in but when you get a crowd like that at home, it hard not to perform at a high level. Big thanks to our fans, our students were awesome … it just created an amazing atmosphere where it was hard for us to screw it up today.”

Adams: “Today was amazing. The fans came out and showed a good amount of support for us. Throughout times in the game they kind of carried us, got us a bucket I think, and just got us that extra energy to make defensive plays.


Guard Leadership - The bottom line is Adams, Gilbert and Vital are the key to how the Huskies will be each night. This time they were humming on all cylinders, led by Vital and Adams. The trio combined for 14 assists, four steals and three turnovers leading the way.

Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall: “That was a pretty solid thumping they put on us tonight. I thought Danny’s team played really well in all phases, especially his guards. Jalen Adams, I’ve watched Jalen Adams a lot now in the last two years and it might be the best I have seen him play. He was kind of a maestro out there directing things.”


Polley Performs - Hurley and his staff continue to show confidence in Polley, and this time the youngster had a big challenge with trying to defend McDuffie. Polley more than passed the test holding the Shockers’ top scorer to 4 of 14 shooting and 10 points under his season average. He also tossed in 12 points of his own on 4 of 8 shooting with four rebounds and an assist.

Polley: “It was a real good night. I think my confidence came from defense and rebounding. … The coaches, I like that they challenged me to guard him and I stepped up. I’m proud of myself.”

Vital: “Coming into the game we knew that was going to be a big matchup and it was going to be big for Tyler to step up and show that he can defend scoring wings and scoring bigs in this conference and around the country. He stepped up to the challenge. He’s another guy who wasn’t too confident in himself coming in, but you can see he’s coming into his own now and I’m just proud of him.”


Big Man Contributions - Polley had company in the super sophomore performances with Carlton turning in his second straight solid game, including four of the team’s season-best nine blocks. He was 4-for-4 shooting from the field and gave the Huskies a strong interior presence. Senior Eric Cobb kept that energy going off the bench with five of his seven rebounds coming on the offensive end. He also blocked a shot and played with passion.

Marshall: “Cobb played as well as I’ve seen him play. He was really active on the offensive glass and I kept trying to rotate guys and said ‘listen if you can’t keep that kid off the glass, you are not going to play very long, and it looked like a revolving door for a while. Carlton is improved – he can go over both shoulders – and he’s big and long.”

Hurley: “Josh is just, again I don’t know what he averaged last year like eight minutes a game, he didn’t get a lot of opportunity or experience last year, so this has been almost like a first year of college and you can see him coming on. He has the skill level, but now the motor is picking up, the rebounding and the defensive presence. Those were some impressive blocks today and he’s a guy we can have a chance to be better offensively and defensively with the way he’s emerging right now.”

WHAT NEEDS WORK

Full-Time Effort – Actually, the Huskies could use about 10-12 more performances like this one as they head into the meat of their season. A solid 40-minute effort is something he Huskies have struggled to produce – especially on the road – and they will face a big test trying to carry this strong performance over Thursday down to Orlando and UCF.

Adams: “Today we did a great job starting from the tip off to the end of the game, and that just comes from our coaching staff preaching. In order for us to have full games we have to have full practices, so it just starts there.”

Vital: “Our message is to always take care of home, but NCAA teams win on the road, and this conference is a lot better than people thought it would be. It’s a lot better than what is was in the past, so winning on the road just ups our confidence and just shows us how good of a team we can be. We definitely do need to get wins on the road.”


MISC.

Mamadou Diarra (left knee) made his season debut with 4:17 left in the game. The red-shirt sophomore took the floor to a loud ovation and finished with two points in just over four minutes. … Walk-on Akok Akok on the UConn bench for the first time. The freshman will not play this season but can practice with the team and travel the rest of the season. … Former UConn coach Dee Rowe received a cake and a “happy birthday” song from the crowd as he celebrated his 90th. …. Also, long-time voice of the Huskies Joe D’Ambrosio was honored during the game. … It was the second sellout of the season at Gampel.


UP NEXT

Thursday, at Central Florida, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

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