Extra work of three UConn men's basketball players pays off in win over Central Florida

Published on Thursday, 11 January 2018 22:42
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Three players on the UConn men’s basketball team worked overtime Tuesday night in Gampel Pavilion, and that probably ensured that the Huskies wouldn’t have to a day later.

Christian Vital, Jalen Adams and Antwoine Anderson took to the court following a women’s basketball game Tuesday to work out a few kinks. Less than 24 hours later, UConn beat Central Florida 62-53 before a sparse but boisterous crowd of 5,065 fans on the same floor.

Vital was the biggest beneficiary of the extra work, posting game-highs of 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

“Jalen, Antwoine and I were in the gym, in Gampel until like 11:30 or something like that,” Vital said. “We know we haven’t been shooting well. Jalen knows his percentage. I know my percentage. We know we’re both better shooters, better scorers than that.

“We thought it would be a good idea to get some shots up in Gampel. And it looks like it paid off for us,” Vital said.

Terry Larrier and Adams added 13 points each for the Huskies (9-7, 2-2 AAC), the latter going over 1,000 career points in the process.

“We just wanted to play some 1-on-1 because we know in our offense it’s going to be huge for us, for the guards to be able to get passed the initial defender, and scoring the basketball in different ways,” Adams said.

Central Florida (12-5, 3-2) had won three straight games and eight of its last nine. The Knights have lost all eight games with UConn since the two became conference foes.

Although UCF trimmed what was a 14-point second half lead down to one with 13 minutes to play, Wednesday’s game was the first this season for the Huskies in which they led from start to finish.

It also earned them back-to-back wins for the first time since overtime victories over Columbia and Monmouth Nov. 29 and Dec. 2.

Seven-foot-6 UCF center Tacko Fall struggled against the Huskies in the two meetings between the teams last season, both UConn wins, including a scoreless effort in the matchup one year ago in Connecticut. And he was far from dominant as some had expected on Wednesday. Fall was below his season averages with 11 points, five rebounds and two blocks.

“He did get a couple dunks but I thought they did a real good job on him,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said.

UConn entered the game making a paltry 40.4 percent of its shots, on pace to be the worst mark in school history since 1959.

But the Huskies, perhaps thanks to some extra effort in the gym, managed to shoot a 45.5 percent in the first half a 43.2 for the game.

“I think our team is buying into the game plan. We don’t need to jack up a whole bunch of threes. We’ll get them when it’s meant for us to take those shots,” Adams said. “Just staying in our offense, moving the ball, making the extra pass has been huge for us. That’s how we’re improving offensively.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Thursday, 11 January 2018 22:42. Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2018 22:44.