Storrs, CT- The Connecticut Basketball program has a proud and storied history that’s been marred by recent tumult. On Sunday afternoon, the Huskies honored their history with a touching ceremony retiring the legendary Ray Allen’s uniform number. Dan Hurley’s young Huskies then took the floor at Gampel Pavillion and looked to turn the page on a troubling stretch. They did just that against the USF Bulls.
Josh Carlton carried the load early for the Huskies in a back-and-forth first half. The sophomore from Winterville, NC, posted 12 of his 16 points and put up 7 of his 9 rebounds in the opening half to stake the Huskies to a 32-31 halftime lead.
With Jalen Adams out due to a knee injury, the Huskies neded more firepower from their guards. They got exactly that with red-shirt sophomore Alterique Gilbert, who piled up 15 total points. Christian Vital pitched in 9 and Tyler Polley added 8.
USF rode aggressive performances by David Collins and Alexis Yetna of 17 and 15 points respectively to keep close.
UConn played keep away with the lead for much of the second but yielded it on a Laquincy Rideau three-pointer with 6:11 left in the game. The final minutes of the game were chaotic and ugly with 17 of the final 22 points coming from the free throw line.
With less than a minute left, Alterique Gilbert hit a jumper to wrestle the lead away from USF. Tarin Smith took four free throws and ballooned the lead to three. David Collins and Christian Vital traded trips to the line and USF trailed by three with 17 seconds left. Collins fired a long three and was fouled by Sidney Wilson. Collins hit two of three, missing the middle free throw, and could not tie the game. Gilbert split a pair of free throws and intercepted a long inbound pass to conclude a 60-58 slugfest.
The UConn win snaps a painful six game losing streak. They move to 14-15 and 5-11 in The American. They sit third from the bottom in the conference.
Ironically, with the NBA’s most prolific three point shooter getting his number retired, UConn missed all 15 three pointers attempted.
“I thought we defensively battled,” observed UConn Head Coach Dan Hurley. “It was a close game because of the struggles we had That’s our pathway to victory with what we’re putting out there. We’ve gotta play high level defense. We’ve gotta be gritty. It was a close game because of our struggles on the defensive glass and we just couldn’t hit anything from the perimiter. This is a group that desperately needed a win.”
UConn held USF to 28.6% from the field in the second half and 32.8% for the entire game.
USF outrebounded their hosts 46-33, including 20-11 on the offensive boards.
UConn concludes their home schedule against Temple on Thursday night at Gampel Pavillion. Tip off against the Owls is at 7 pm ET. They’ll finish the regular season at Eastern Carolina on Sunday, March 10th. Tip off at Williams Arena is at 2 pm ET.
USF remains without a win against UConn away from Tampa. They drop their record to 18-11 overall and 7-9 in The American.
“Give a lot of credit to Danny and their guys,” commented USF Head Coach Brian Gregory. “Their team’s in a tough slide but playing halfway decent basketball. They lost a lot of close games. Today was the same type of deal. They made plays down the stretch. I thought we did a lot of good things but not enough to win, especially on the road.”
Michael Durr recorded a game high 10 rebounds and Laquincy Rideau dished out a game high 5 assists.
The Bulls travel to New Orleans to face the Tulane Green Wave on Wednesday, March 6th. Tip off at Devlin Fieldhouse is 8 pm ET. They’ll conclude the regular season at home on Sunday, March 10th, with Senior Day festivities. Tip off at Yuengling Center is at 4 pm ET.