Notes & Quotes: UConn Overwhelms New Hampshire
HARTFORD, CONN.—UConn basketball fans have a lot to be thankful for these days—Dan Hurley, Alterique Gilbert’s health, an early win over Syracuse--but consistently beating up on teams they’re supposed to has to feel the best.
The Huskies trounced the University of New Hampshire at the XL Center on Saturday afternoon, 91-66. Led by Josh Carlton and Jalen Adams, who each scored 17 points, UConn served up another balanced attack, adding savory sides of excellent defense, delicious passing, and dazzling finishes. Connecticut is now 5-1 on the season and will host UMass Lowell on Tuesday night at Gampel Pavilion.
Here is a look at what went well and what didn’t for the Huskies.
WHAT WENT WELL
1. Lead Guards: Jalen Adams was superb in a lead role once again against the Wildcats. The senior, who played for Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, scored 17 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out a pair of assists. Adams was an efficient 8-of-10 from the field and consistently wiggled his way into the paint, breaking down the defense. Christian Vital had 14 points and 10 rebounds while Alterique Gilbert added 11.
Adams: “We know that [coach Hurley] isn’t trying to make us run play after play. We know the set to spread the defense out and then a couple passes and then attack downhill. Everything is just attack, attack, attack.”
New Hampshire Head Coach Bill Herrion: “They’ve got great guards. When you’ve got great guard-play in basketball you can do a lot of damage. They’ve got veteran guards, they’re older, they’ve been through the wars a little bit.”
2. Interior Passing: While the Husky guards get a lot of attention for their ability to break down the defense and get into the paint, an often overlooked aspect of their game is how well they find their bigs for easy shots down low. The Huskies outscored New Hampshire, 54-24 in the paint, and held the advantage in second-chance points, 19-8. Carlton was the biggest beneficiary on Saturday, scoring 17 points while hauling in six rebounds.
Hurley: “I love the way we shared the ball in the first half, the pace we played at and obviously what Josh [Carlton] did.”
Christian Vital: “We are more alert team this year—we know where people like to get the ball and we are also trying to find each other. It is not just ‘Jalen go score,’ or I go score. We are looking for each other and we just want to win. We know what transpired in the past so we just want to get back to what UConn does and that’s win games.”
Carlton: “Having guards that can penetrate so well you just have to trace them and find an open spot so you can get those easy buckets.”
3. A Balanced Attack: UConn had five players score in double figures, getting significant contributions from Tarin Smith, Brendan Adams and Isaiah Whaley off the bench as well.
Hurley: “For us to win some of these high leverage games coming up, maybe we will need 25-28 points from Jalen. We may need one of those explosive nights from a couple of our key games. In these types of games, these are really the ones when you can show balance, good teams get people to step up and play well on nights where guys aren’t taking advantage. To have five guys in double [figures] was good for us…I was just happy the way they responded to our message of passing the ball more.”
Adams: “We know we are going to score the ball with our offensive scheme, we have a bunch of guys who can create and score at any time.”
4. Tyler Polley Emerging: The sophomore power forward continued to show improvement on Saturday, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He did a bit of everything, knocking down a pair of mid-range jumpers, a deep three to go along with tough finishes inside.
Hurley: “He is getting fouled, he is getting to the line, he is more decisive. He is more shot ready…his length and shooting is a real weapon for us. I just think it is all about confidence with him and this new staff building a relationship with him so he knows we believe in him. Obviously he is getting a lot of minutes on the court, he is making jump shots, getting into the mix on the glass, slashing a bit, he just seems to be involved in a couple more tough-guy plays.”
Vital: “You can see he is confident to take those threes—a lot of people don’t know he is a really good shooter. He is getting a lot tougher especially playing for coach Hurley…I’m really proud of Tyler and he is only going to up from here.”
Adams: “I think [Polley] just has that confidence knowing he is one of the best shooters in the country. I think that comes from our assistant coach Kimani [Young] and the way he talks to him just gives him crazy confidence. I think last year I saw him score and just walk off, this year I’ve seen him get an and-one and he is yelling. His personality is just growing and now it is showing.”
WHAT NEEDS WORK
1. Pressure Defense: Hurley wants his team playing in-your-face defense, and while the Huskies flashed a lot of great defense, the Wildcats did punish Connecticut for overpressuring. UNH got quite a few easy looks at the rim thanks to quick backdoor cuts.
Hurley: “I really liked how we guarded early [New Hampshire] was having long possessions of offense and we guarded with responsibility and integrity. I just felt like we had too many giveaway possessions that we mentally shut down. We either played really good defense or gave up an embarrassing basket which was very frustrating at times.”
Adams: “More of just locking in defensively, ramping up the pressure on defense really frustrates teams… It is just about locking in for 40 minutes on the defensive side.”
Herrion: “We knew their pressure defense was going to be intense. I thought we did a good job of back cutting.”
2. The XL Center? Hurley felt like UConn left some points on the floor thanks in large part to playing at the XL Center. The Huskies were just 4-of-16 from three despite shooting 52.3 percent from the field.
Hurley: “We probably could’ve scored 105 today easily, we missed some good threes. That’s a function of shooting in a place that you don’t practice a lot. So for us, we’ve got to find a way with the schedule of the building, or it is tough with class schedule, we’ve got to find a way to get these guys more comfortable shooting in here right now. It is almost like a road game for our opponents but a neutral site for us in terms of the rims, not in terms of the fan support.”