Adams helps UConn escape against a mid-major - again
HARTFORD – In his two-plus seasons at UConn, Jalen Adams has shown no fear of shooting in the clutch. There’s, of course, the 70-footer in overtime against Cincinnati at the AAC Tournament in 2016. There’s also his game-winner at Temple last season, and his OT-forcer just this past Wednesday versus Columbia.
It’s a good thing for UConn, because the Huskies have not shown they’re capable of putting away teams early. For the second straight game, they had to rally at home to force overtime against a mid-major, this time versus Monmouth at the XL Center on Saturday. Adams’ runner with 32 seconds left gave UConn an 84-81 victory, another win that leaves more questions than answers for the 6-2 Huskies.
Adams’ ability to blow by his defender, get to the paint, and finish has saved his team this week. UConn’s fan base, understandably, has been on edge since its ugly 35-point defeat to Arkansas over Thanksgiving weekend. If Adams was unable to convert late in these wins over Columbia and Monmouth, the sound of anger would’ve hit an all-time high pitch. Disaster averted, for now.
“I’ll take the win, but I am not satisfied with how we’re getting there,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “It’s just to a point that we have to get a killer mindset. (The issues) starts with us playing ‘do me’ basketball, not sharing the ball, and taking bad shots. And then we don’t play defense – that’s one thing that has to get better (Monmouth shot 51.8 percent).”
Ollie didn’t have to think hard of what to run at the end of overtime.
“I’m just trying to put Jalen in space,” Ollie said. “He is great off the pick and rolls, everybody knows that. When it comes down to it, I have to put the ball in one of our best player's hands and let him make plays. That is what he is doing.”
“The play was for me to come off the pick and roll,” noted Adams, who finished with 31 points on 13-of-22 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three. “A couple of times before that, I was going around the big and getting to the rim. This time I noticed when I came off the screen, he started to back off, so I knew I’d take the floater.”
Adams also made a 35-foot three at the halftime buzzer, a crucial lay-up in the final minute of regulation, and almost added another 70-foot buzzer-beater to his resume, but his heave at the regulation buzzer just missed.
“I thought it was going in,” Adams laughed.
UConn also received a much-needed defensive boost from guard Antwoine Anderson, who held his primary assignment in Micah Seaborn to seven points after halftime. Seaborn exploded for 20 points in the first half.
Anderson played all 45 minutes and has been a strong addition to the Huskies, averaging 10 points a game. It appears UConn may even need more from him going forward after Ollie gave an unofficial, yet grim update on Alterique Gilbert and his shoulder issues after the game. Long story short, his season is in jeopardy, again.
Christian Vital fought his way to 19 points, most of them coming from the foul line (11-of-13). Terry Larrier added 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
“They kept believing in each other,” observed Monmouth coach King Rice. “You could tell they came to fight. They kept making the right plays and we tried to play hero basketball and lost.”
When looking at UConn’s schedule prior to the season, its first six home games stood out as must-wins, with one loss even categorizing as a disaster. The Huskies are 5-0 so far in those contests (Coppin State is the sixth game), albeit it unimpressively. It’s imperative for this team to show it can sustain a strong effort against a good team, actually any team, for an entire game.
UConn will get that chance against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Last year, Vital hit two free throws in the final seconds to beat the Orange in the same building.
“I’m definitely looking forward to going back there. I haven’t been home in a while,” said Vital, who is from Queens Village.
And the several thousand UConn fans expected to be there are surely excited, too. Especially with their team 6-2 instead of 4-4, thanks to Adams’s late heroics.