UConn men's basketball gets key lift from Adams' return

Published on Wednesday, 13 March 2019 21:35
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - There is little doubt the UConn men’s basketball team’s season could have turned out differently.

There’s still time for the Huskies’ to write the final chapter of their 2018-19 campaign, but it’s clear injuries to its key players have already made significant adjustments to the script.

“It derailed their season,” South Florida coach Brian Gregory, whose Bulls take on UConn on Thursday, said of injuries to Jalen Adams and Alterique Gilbert.

Gregory also is a little on edge as the Huskies may finally be getting healthy.

“With Jalen Adams back, they’re as good as anyone around,” Gregory said.

Ninth-seeded UConn faces eighth-seeded South Florida at FedEx Forum (1 p.m., ESPNU) in the opening game of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday.

Adams, who returned from a knee injury over the weekend to help UConn (15-16) finish the regular season with a win over East Carolina, will play this week. Gilbert, who suffered a concussion and eye injury last week in a loss to Temple, is unlikely to suit up Thursday.

The winner of Thursday’s game between the Huskies and Bulls will face top-seeded Houston in the quarterfinals Friday.

But whether the Huskies get there, UConn coach Dan Hurley was glad to see Adams return before his senior season ended.

“It’s great to see him back out there finishing his career in a UConn uniform,” Hurley said.

It has seemingly given the Huskies a shot of confidence as they try to do the seemingly impossible this week in Memphis.

“The team’s in a pretty good state of mind going in,” Hurley said. “I’m excited to see what Jalen and the guys can do this week.”

Gregory, for one, is impressed with what Hurley has done in his first year in Storrs.

“I think Danny’s done a great job. I know how difficult a job it is meshing guys,” Gregory said.

Gregory has been facing similar challenges and has made some strides in his second full year at USF.

“We’ve made some progress. We’re not exactly where we want to be but we’ve made some good progress,” Gregory said of his 19-12 Bulls.

South Florida and UConn split their two meetings during the regular season, with each winning on their home floors.

“We just played them eight days ago and lost a tough game on the road at their place,” Gregory said of a 60-58 loss to UConn.

Although the Bulls are facing their own injury issue, with guard Laquincy Rideau battling a foot problem that could keep him sidelined this week, their dominance on the backboards could be enough to earn them a victory Thursday.

In two games against UConn this season the Bulls combined to outrebound the Huskies 93-65. Redshirt freshman big man Alexis Yetna, a native of Paris who attended Putnam Science, was the toughest rebounder for UConn to contain.

Hurley has known of Yetna’s abilities for some time, it seems.

“We tried to recruit him at Rhode Island but I think he was looking for a bigger level. But I was familiar with him,” Hurley said.

UConn fans have become unfamiliar with long postseason runs in recent years but like Hurley are eager to see what an almost healthy group of Huskies can do.

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Wednesday, 13 March 2019 21:35. Updated: Wednesday, 13 March 2019 21:37.