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Hartford Courant - - Sports -

UConn never trailed. Though they let More­head State hang around too long, you never felt UConn was in dan­ger of los­ing con­trol of the game.

Over the last two sea­sons, start­ing with the twin night­mares against Wag­ner and North­east­ern in 2016, and through over­time wins against teams like Columbia and Mon­mouth and an even less con­vinc­ing win over Cop­pin State, UConn of­ten fell far be­hind, then tried to “flip a switch” and re­cover just in time.

Hur­ley’s Huskies didn’t suf­fer the lack­adaisi­cal start, or the long dry spells that marked the half­hearted ap­proach to mid-ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion of the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons. Those are good rea­sons to be more ex­cited about this game, and based on the rau­cous locker room scene the school tweeted out, Hur­ley and his play­ers cer­tainly took joy in it.

Some take­aways:

The ‘Al’ fac­tor

Al­terique Gilbert played only nine games in two years, and re­ally looked only in flashes like the McDon­ald’s All-Amer­i­can he was com­ing into UConn. He is fi­nally be­gin­ning to put some dis­tance from that. Only he knows how much bet­ter his left shoul­der feels after the third surgery, but he looks more con­fi­dent and does not look like he is fa­vor­ing it. And with Gilbert play­ing the way he did Thurs­day night — ag­gres­sive and smart, with 15 points, four as­sists, four re­bounds and only two turnovers in 31 min­utes — the Huskies are look­ing like a much dif­fer­ent team.

Hur­ley’s dash

The talk­ing point com­ing out of the game was Hur­ley’s rush to pick up and pat Josh Carl­ton after he dove into the crowd. That was one of a few no­table things about his night. He benched Chris­tian Vi­tal in the sec­ond half against South­ern Con­necti­cut after a tech­ni­cal foul, but point­edly said “he goes hard all the time and I have a short mem­ory with guys who go hard all the time.” Hur­ley started Vi­tal in the opener, show­ing, as he did with Carl­ton, that there are re­wards for do­ing things the right way, as well as penal­ties for not do­ing so. And he talked about let­ting play­ers, like Carl­ton, play through rough stretches in or­der to learn and de­velop, which is some­thing we didn’t see in the re­cent past.

Jalen’s night

With two first-half fouls, and a third early in the sec­ond half, Jalen Adams was lim­ited to 22 min­utes, but he scored an easy 16 points with two as­sists and re­ally an­chored the team, like a se­nior, when he checked back in for good with 11:41 to go. 3-point­ers, re­bound­ing

UConn was 7-for-21 on 3-point­ers, though the Huskies did hit three in a row dur­ing a key stretch late in the first half that al­lowed them to open up a 13-point lead. Jalen Adams was 0-for-2, Bren­dan Adams 2-for-4. Mostly good looks, and UConn just has to make more of them. … UConn fin­ished plus­five in re­bound­ing, which isn’t good enough against More­head State, not with the game against long, phys­i­cal Syra­cuse less than a week away. They need more work there, though Carl­ton’s eight were en­cour­ag­ing.

Con­vic­tion

The big­gest dif­fer­ence in UConn’s play was con­vic­tion, de­ci­sive­ness. The body lan­guage didn’t look like play­ers were afraid to miss, afraid to make a bad pass or afraid of get­ting the ball stripped. They shot, passed and drove with a con­vic­tion that has been miss­ing for a long time. Hur­ley’s Huskies, de­spite the too-close-for-com­fort fi­nal score, just looked bet­ter pre­pared, which is the root of con­fi­dence.

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