Adams, Vital lead UConn over UMass Lowell 97-75
STORRS, Conn. — UConn cruised past another mid-major opponent, but with an effort that did not please coach Dan Hurley.
Jalen Adams and Christian Vital each scored 19 points and the Huskies beat UMass Lowell 97-75 on Tuesday night.
Alterique Gilbert and Josh Carlton added 15 points each for UConn (6-1), which won its third straight, all home wins over lesser competition.
Obadiah Noel had 20 points for UMass Lowell (4-5), which was able to cut a 23-point Husky lead to 10 by halftime.
Vital had 17 points in the first half, hitting six of his first eight shots, including four 3-pointers. The Huskies built a 32-9 lead after a short jumper by Kassoum Yakwe, before Lowell began chipping away.
A turnover by Vital led to a layup by Allin Blunt at the other end capped a 10-2 run that cut the deficit to 42-32. It was 44-34 at the half.
Hurley said it was apparent the Huskies lost the appropriate respect for their opponent and with it, the team’s focus.
“We start getting out of position a foot, two feet,” he said. “Our rotations, our closeouts get sloppy. We lose our integrity and we just become irresponsible. That’s just a sign of a team that’s not used to winning.”
The Huskies refocused after intermission.
Adam’s pushed the lead to 13 on a traditional 3-point play to open the second half. A 3-pointer by Gilbert made it 75-53 with just under 10 minutes left and UConn cruised to the finish.
“We’re supposed to be winning these games,” said Vital. “You come to UConn, you don’t expect to lose that much. We’re winning now, so we just need to keep it up.”
UConn: Sidney Wilson made his long-awaited debut for the Huskies with just under nine minutes left in the game. The 6-foot-7 forward transferred from St. John’s after spending just part the summer of 2017 at the New York school. The NCAA denied his waiver request, forcing him to sit out last season. UConn suspended him for the start of this season for an unspecified violation of university policy that occurred last year. He had three rebounds, a turnover and missed a dunk in just under five minutes on the floor.
“It was Sid’s first seconds in college basketball, first minutes in college basketball,” Vital said. “Once he starts understanding and gets his feel back for playing in games, you all are going to see a Sid you haven’t seen before, I promise you that,” Vital said.
UMass Lowell: The River Hawks were held seven points and five rebounds below their season averages. They also turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 24 UConn points.
“We fought back a couple of times,” said coach Pat Duquette. “They’re just able to extend the lead so quickly and so easily.”
UMass Lowell hit just two of its first 11 shots, but finished shooting 49 percent from the floor, including 10 of 24 from 3-point range.
“In the end, I just thought it was a dreadful defensive performance,” Hurley said. “If we don’t get better at that end quickly, we’re going to be in deep trouble beginning on Sunday, if we guard at that level.”
THE DOWN LOW
Carlton has now had three games this season of 15 points or better for the Huskies. UConn’s big man also had seven rebounds and three blocked shots on Tuesday. The Huskies outscored Lowell 54-24 in the paint and outrebounded the River Hawks 40-32.
“Having games like this really helps my confidence,” Carlton said. “I think we can keep this going.”
UConn: The Huskies host Arizona in what coach Hurley calls a high-leverage game on Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford.
UMass Lowell: The River Hawks host NJIT on Saturday at the Tsongas Center.