HARTFORD - If one basketball team finishes a game with 17 offensive rebounds while holding its opponent to zero in the same category, it might seem like the former team would cruise to victory.
That wasn’t the case for UConn in Saturday’s 65-53 loss to Central Florida. The Huskies had 17 offensive boards to the Knights’ none, but the hosts managed to turn those caroms into just six second-chance points.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said of that stat.
The biggest reason for the oddity? For starters, UCF has a 7-foot-6 center to deter most putback attempts.
“They’ve got a giant in the middle of the paint, so that was tough for us,” UConn guard Alterique Gilbert said.
And the reason UCF had so few offensive boards of its own despite having a huge height advantage? The Knights connected on nearly 60 percent of their shots; there weren’t many rebounds available.
“When you get an offensive rebound and there’s a 7-6 guy there, it’s hard to get the putback,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “What we kind of preached was ‘offensive rebound and then kind of look out to the 3-point line.’”
ADAMS FAMILY VALUES
UConn star Jalen Adams may have missed eight of his first nine shots Saturday and been something of a non-factor offensively, but Hurley liked his approach to the game nonetheless.
Coming off a game against South Florida in which the coach felt Adams did not treat with the proper seriousness, Hurley says the senior’s attitude against UCF was very good.
“I thought his whole approach to owning the last two days. He owned it. He was the first guy out on the court today shooting. He had a stone-faced, determined look. There were no smiles. There were no playing the guitar after a three. He was locked in the way a serious basketball player needs to be locked in,” Hurley said.
Hurley also credited Adams defense on UCF guard B.J. Taylor.
“He’s going through some struggles right now with his confidence,” Hurley said. “But if Jalen Adams approaches every single day the way he approached the last two and game day, and his mindset, he’ll come out of this and he’ll start playing much better basketball.”
As the half ended Saturday, Hurley had to be restrained by his assistant coaches as he was arguing with referee Terry Wymer. Hurley had complained vociferously throughout the half about the time Fall was spending in the paint and the need for some 3-second calls, though it’s not clear what his final beef with the officials involved.
A different official, Peter Juzenas, sprained his ankle early in the second half and the game was played with two instead of the usual three for some three minutes of action as UConn trainer James Doran assisted Juzenas. Juzenas returned to the court and tried to work as usual, but eventually left the floor for good.
UConn forward Tyler Polley suffered through a horrendous shooting night in the Huskies’ game against USF last week, missing nine of his 10 shots from the floor including all seven from 3-point range. And the 6-foot-8 sophomore didn’t do much better on Saturday, going 1-for-5 overall and 0-for-3 from distance.
Since he went 3-for-3 from outside the arc in UConn’s win over Drexel Dec. 18, Polley has missed 11 straight shots from that range.
Gilbert’s 18 points were a rare bright spot for the Huskies against UCF and Hurley believes things bode well for the sophomore point guard in the near future.
“Al’s got the heart of a lion,” Hurley said. “This guy hasn’t played much ball. He’ll keep getter better. Because Al’s made of the right things. Al Gilbert will eventually be a real difference-maker for this program in games like this versus the best teams.”
Kofi Cockburn, a UConn target who was one of the top players in the Class of 2019, committed to Illinois Sunday.
A 6-foot-10, 280-pound center from New York who attends Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, Cockburn is ranked No. 32 by ESPN. He chose the Illini over offers from UConn, Pittsburgh, St. John’s and several others.
UConn’s Class of 2019 currently includes three players: guards Jalen Gaffney and James Bouknight, as well as forward Akok Akok. The 6-foot-10 Akok is expected to join the Huskies in the coming weeks. He plans to enroll at UConn for the spring semester.
Akok is expected to practice and perhaps travel with the Huskies on the road, though he is not expected to play with the team in any games this season.