Notes & Quotes: UConn defeats Sacred Heart
STORRS, Conn. - UConn might have opened its season Friday night with a win, but the Huskies are clearly still a work in progress. Josh Carlton and Christian Vital came alive in the second half to lead UConn to a 87-65 victory over Sacred Heart University at Gampel Pavilion.
Carlton finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Vital had 17 points, seven boards and seven steals. Brendan Adams and Sidney Wilson came off the bench to score 15 and 13, respectively, while Tyler Polley added 10.
The Huskies (1-0) led 40-37 after a sloppy, time-consuming first half that resulted in the teams combining for 21 turnovers and 25 fouls.
Carlton woke the Huskies out of the halftime break with an 8-0 run of his own, giving them their largest lead of the game to that point, 48-37. UConn maintained a double-digit lead over the final 16:52 of the game.
Kinnon LaRose had 13 points and E.J. Anosike added 12 to lead SHU (0-2). Jare’l Spellman added 11 points and 15 rebounds.
WHAT WENT WELL
Stepping Up: The first half was a mess as UConn had serious rebounding issues, but the team did a good job of picking itself up and making sure the season started with a win. Carlton and Vital played big second-half roles and ultimately five players finished in double-digit scoring.
Sid Wilson: “It felt good to get that first win under our belt. Happy to see, but we have a lot of mistakes we have to clean up. Just getting the win is good.”
Dan Hurley: “Obviously, happy to get a win. Any win’s a good win, first Division I opponent. Obviously, quite a few parts of the night don’t sit well and need to be addressed.
A Sturdy Bench: Sid Wilson struggled on the offensive end much of last season, but he appeared to fix that over the summer, scoring 10 first-half points on a tidy 5 of 7 shooting with three boards and two assists. Adams also gave a strong performance, leading the backcourt in the opening 20 minutes with eight points and finishing with a career high.
Christian Vital: “To see Sid taking those mid-range jump shots and scoring at the rim, Brendan getting to the rim, hitting threes and just being aggressive and attack - I was really proud of those guys and just want them to keep it up.”
Brendan Adams: “I feel like that’s what we’re going to have to do this year. Whenever the games not going how you want, we have to come in the game and bring energy. That’s what our job is, bring energy and just contribute. Don’t let the energy drop.”
Joltin' Josh Carlton: After sitting the final 7:55 of the half due to foul trouble, UConn’s big man came alive to open the second, scoring eight straight points to give the Huskies a 48-37 lead. Carlton finished with team highs in points and rebounds.
Josh Carlton: “Just being feeling free from the foul trouble, I came out and tried to play more aggressive … hoping to spark things in the second half.”
Hurley: “I thought Josh was good, but I thought Josh should have had 26 (points). He turned a couple finishes at the basket, around the basket he missed a couple point blanks. I have a higher standard, a higher bar for him.”
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Lead Guards' Sluggish Start: Gilbert and Vital were supposed to be the stars this season, but both were MIA in the first half. Gilbert was 1-for-5 from the field and finished with four points and three assists. Vital’s first-half ended with two points (scored on two foul shots with 37 seconds left), four turnovers, and two fouls including a technical. Vital finished with respectable numbers after a hot second half, but UConn can’t afford their slow starts once the stakes increase, which will be soon.
Hurley: “Our chance to change the cycle of the last couple years is going to begin with that senior backcourt. We need that senior backcourt to be good to great most nights, from beginning to end. … Christian really picked it up in the second half … obviously, it wasn’t a great game from Al -Al’s much better than that.”
Vital: “Other teammates were scoring. Sid was scoring, Brendan was playing well. Tyler was scoring. For me personally, it just wasn’t my time to be aggressive scoring wise. It was time for me to be happy for my teammates, make sure they feel confident and make sure they shoot the ball and be aggressive on the offensive end.”
Rebounding Problems: The Pioneers destroyed UConn on the boards in the first half, 28-13. SHU had almost as many offensive rebounds (11) as the Huskies had total, and the road team scored 10 second-chance points to only trail by three at the half. The final numbers were a bit misleading with SHU holding a 49-41 lead, including 19-15 on the offensive end.
Hurley: “The rebounding was just indescribably bad. … We will be addressing that.”
Carlton: “We just needed to play harder. We were getting out rebounded and we weren’t really applying good pressure in the first half on their guards.”
AKOK AKOK REPORT
The freshman forward got his first taste of a real college game and showed some promising flashes of what’s to come. Akok finished with four points, four rebounds and a team-high four blocks in 24:30 minutes. He was just 2 of 8 shooting from the field, but was a factor particularly on the defensive end.
Hurley: “Akok struggled offensively but just as a freshman in terms of being in a lot of the right spots, he was in a lot of the right spots. Eventually he’ll figure out his niche offensively and things will slow down for him, but he actually held up pretty decently out there for a freshman.”
Freshman James Bouknight missed the first of three games due to suspension for an incident Sept. 26 where he received multiple charges following an off-campus incident. He will also sit out against Saint Joseph’s on Nov. 13 and against Florida on Nov. 17. Bouknight will be eligible to return to competition starting with the Charleston Classic on Nov. 21 against University at Buffalo. … Akok became the first true freshman to start for UConn in a season opener since Polley did it in 2017. … It was the first meeting between these two schools in four years. … Taliek Brown is filling in as UConn’s third assistant coach while Kenya Hunter (medical) is out. … Carlton scored the team’s first points of the season on two foul shots.
Wednesday, vs. St. Joseph’s at Gampel Pavilion, 7 p.m. (CBS SN)