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Notes & Quotes: UConn Falls to UCF

HARTFORD – In a match up with one of the best teams in the American Athletic Conference, the UConn Huskies found out they still have a ways to go.

Aubrey Dawkins scored 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to lead Central Florida over the struggling Huskies 65-53 in front of 10,541 fans on Saturday afternoon at the XL Center.

“It’s kind of hard to sit up here as the coach of UConn basketball and feel good real good about the effort or feel better about yourself after a 12-point home loss,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “I think after the Wednesday game’s shame and embarrassment of our effort, particularly in the last 25 minutes in that one, coming here and just the way we challenged the guys about their effort, competitive natural, competitive character, from an effort standpoint, I’m not sure we could have played much harder.”

The box score made things uglier than they were for the Huskies (9-6, 0-2 AAC). UConn scored a season-low in points for a game and a half (23 in second), while shooting a half-worst 24.2 percent (8-for-33 in the second).

Alterique Gilbert scored 18 points and Christian Vital added 15 as UConn dropped its third straight.

After trailing 33-30 at the break, things unraveled for the Huskies again in the second half. UConn has shot 29.1 percent in the second half of loses to Villanova, South Florida and UCF (12-2, 2-0).

The Knights’ 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall scored only three points with five rebounds and two blocks, but was a game-changer in the paint with his size.

UConn shot just 32.2 percent (19-for-59) from the field overall.

Here’s a look at how things went for the Huskies:


WHAT WENT WELL

1. SIGNS OF LIFE: After being hamstring with injuries early in his UConn career, Gilbert is finally getting a chance to play basketball in the AAC. The redshirt sophomore point guard played well in the first half on the way to 5-for-9 shooting (6-for-19 overall), including 3-for-3 on 3-pointers (4 of 8), on the way to 13 points. Vital also came to alive in the second half with 13 of his 15 points coming in the second half.

Gilbert: “I feel good. I think we played together as a team today. We played with energy and effort and now it’s another level where we have to play smarter.

Hurley: “With Al, you look at the stat line and you see 19 shots. He took a bunch late where we were trying to scramble to get back in so his shot selection might have gotten away from him there at times. Al’s going to be a work in progress. Al’s going to continue to knock the rust off and get better, but Al has the heart of a lion. … He will keep getting better because he’s made of the right things.”


2. GLASS EATERS: The good news is UConn hit the board hard, blanking UCF 17-0 on the offensive end and 37-23 for the game. However, the Huskies only scored six points on the second chances – with Fall being a major reason why.

Hurley: “They guard well and they were physical. They did a heck of a job being as physical as they were without fouling Obviously, when you rebound there’s a 7-6 guy there and it’s hard to get the put back. What we kind of preached was get the offensive rebound and kick it out to the 3-point line and we’re just not at the point as a program were we do a lot of things right because it takes time to build habits the right way. There’s no magic dust you sprinkle on the team.”

UCF coach Johnny Dawkins’ take on the offensive rebound disparity: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.”

Gilbert: “They have a giant in the middle and it was a challenge for us. I’ll view the tape and learn from it and stay together.”



WHAT NEEDS WORK


1. EVERYTHING: The Huskies played harder than they did in a loss to the Bulls, but they still have a ways to go to be a factor in league play. The Knights figure to be one of the top teams in the conference the rest of the way, and now Hurley and company need to figure how they can get close to that level. After being tied at 40 in the second half, things unraveled for the Huskies – turnovers and missed shots being the biggest culprits. UConn committed 10 of its 19 mistakes in the second half, including a stretch of four straight that helped UCF take the lead for good.

Hurley: “The reality is, at least offensively and defensively, we are as a team still pretty far away from where we need to be here, but I felt great about the effort.”

Gilbert: “Turnovers and then we struggled on offense, a lot of our guys … we weren’t making shots today.”


2. CAN SOMEONE SHOW THEM THE WAY? The Huskies hoped Jalen Adams would be their leader on the floor, but he hasn’t been able to show them the way against the better teams. While Adams (four assists) struggled from the field going 2-for-10 he continued to play hard, according to Hurley. But, he wasn’t a difference maker for his team the way Dawkins and senior guard B.J. Taylor (12 points, three assists) were for the Knights.


Hurley: “We had a little too much Aubrey Dawkins – he put on a show out there and hit some really tough shots.”

More Hurley: “Listen I thought (Jalen’s) whole approach to owning the past two days (following the USF loss), he was the first guy out on the court today shooting. He had a stone-faced determined face – there were no smiles, no playing air guitar after a 3. He was locked in in a way a serious player needs to be locked in. He’s going through some struggles right now with his confidence, but the Jalen Adams that approaches every single day the way he did the last two … he’ll come out of this and start playing much better…. Can he take over games the way B.J. Taylor or Aubrey Dawkins does? Obviously, he’s going to have to prove that, but I loved how he showed up today.”


MISC

The Huskies were without Kassoum Yakwe (right foot) and Mamadou Diarra (knee) once again along with Kwintin Williams (suspension). … UCF won for the first time at UConn in the series, which the Huskies lead all-time 11-3. … Five-star center Akok Akok has still not joined the Huskies. The former Mass Rivals and Putnam Science Academy star announced last month he was coming to UConn after taking his SATs, but nothing has become official.


UP NEXT

Thursday, vs. SMU at Gampel Pavilion, 7 p.m. (CBS SN)