Late Charge Falls Short

Rally by short-handed Huskies not enough in loss

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - SPORTS - By David Borges

MEM­PHIS — Dan Hur­ley ad­mit­ted things were “pretty somber” around his team the past few days af­ter learn­ing that lead­ing scorer Jalen Adams was likely done for the sea­son.

And the UConn head coach added that it was “a lit­tle un­nerv­ing” hav­ing to go against runand-gun, ath­letic Mem­phis with­out both Adams and start­ing point guard Al­terique Gil­bert, who con­tin­ues to sit with shoul­der sore­ness.

All that con­sid­ered, UConn showed plenty of nerve and very

MEM­PHIS 78 UCONN 71

lit­tle, well ... somber­ness at FedEx­Fo­rum on Sun­day after­noon. And while Mem­phis wound up with a 78-71 win, the Huskies could hold their heads pretty high as they walked off the floor.

UConn never led, trailed by 15 early in the sec­ond half and by 13 with 61⁄2 min­utes left to play. But the Huskies (13-11, 4-7 AAC) got to within four twice within the last 1:14, the lat­ter af­ter an Eric Cobb in­side hoop with 33 sec­onds left.

How­ever, Mem­phis knocked down four straight free throws over the fi­nal 29.9 sec­onds to seal the deal.

“Losses are un­ac­cept­able when you coach or play at a pro­gram with the history and tra­di­tion that we have,” Hur­ley said. “So, there’s no moral vic­to­ries. There’s never a good loss or any­thing you feel good about when you walk out and lose by seven. It st­ings, it hurts, and it’s not some­thing we’re used to at the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut.” That said ...

“To come in here, ba­si­cally with a seven-man ro­ta­tion, most of which was young play­ers ... the way we bat­tled, Tyler (Pol­ley’s) pro­gres­sion, Sid (Wil­son) to­day ... it gives us great hope mov­ing for­ward.”

Pol­ley scored 15 of his ca­reer­high 20 points in the lat­ter half, in­clud­ing 11 of UConn’s first 13 points and 14 of its first 18 af­ter the break.

“I know I’ve got to be more ag­gres­sive,” said Pol­ley, a sopho­more. “I know I’ve got to shoot the ball and don’t let the misses get to me. And when I do that, good things hap­pen.”

Wil­son, in his first ca­reer start, added a ca­reer-best 16 points and three blocks. While no one wants to see in­juries, es­pe­cially a po­ten­tial col­lege ca­reer-en­der for Adams, the sil­ver lin­ing is that play­ers like Wil­son, Pol­ley, Bren­dan Adams, Josh Carl­ton — the team’s fu­ture — will get more ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s def­i­nitely a pos­i­tive for us younger guys to build on for next year,” Pol­ley said, “get ex­pe­ri­ence from games like this and get­ting

more games un­der our belts.”

“It sucks to lose,” added Hur­ley, “but to see your fu­ture out there play­ing well against some men, it was a good thing.”

Mem­phis (14-10, 6-5 AAC) led 48-33 af­ter a Raynere Thorn­ton jumper with 15:43 to play, and it ap­peared the Huskies were doomed to one of those ugly, 20-point losses where the en­tire sec­ond half es­sen­tially be­comes garbage time.

Paced by Pol­ley, UConn made some in­roads into its deficit, but still found it­self down 67-54 af­ter a Ka­reem Brew­ton hoop with 6:32 to play. The Huskies re­sponded with a 7-0 run, and con­tin­ued to chip away. Wil­son scored on a tran­si­tion layup to get within six with 2:21 to play, and af­ter a Mem­phis miss, the Huskies had a chance to make it a onepos­ses­sion game.

But Smith missed a tran­si­tion layup, Cobb couldn’t con­vert a pair of tip-ins, then fouled Jeremiah Martin, who hit one of two free throws.

Smith coun­tered with a 3-pointer to get within four, but with 43.1 sec­onds left, Mem­phis’s ath­leti­cism may have sealed the game. Brew­ton missed a run­ner, but Thorn­ton grabbed the re­bound and jammed it home in one mo­tion to put the Tigers back up six.

Cobb scored on an in­side hoop, but Mem­phis (which shot 16-for-18 from the foul line for the game) sealed the deal from the char­ity stripe.

Chris­tian Vi­tal had 13 points and nine re­bounds for UConn, Smith net­ted 13 points and Cobb had eight points and 11 boards. Carl­ton scored just one point be­fore foul­ing out.

“We’ll give him a Mul­li­gan,” Hur­ley said of the sopho­more cen­ter, “be­cause of how good he’s been.”

Daven­port led all scor­ers with 26 points for Mem­phis, which jumped out to a 6-1 start and led by 14 late in the first half, be­fore a 7-0 UConn run cut its deficit in half by the break.

“Their se­niors were prob­a­bly a lot more locked in than our group, that came in here with their two best play­ers in travel suits,” Hur­ley noted. “I think (the Tigers), emo­tion­ally, were more ready to play. And I think it took us a lit­tle bit of time to gauge their ath­leti­cism. That took us a lit­tle time to get ad­justed to. You could see that with their easy bas­kets they were get­ting early, they didn’t get as much in the sec­ond half.”

Still, the end re­sult wasn’t a good one for a pro­gram that doesn’t have time for moral vic­to­ries.

“Proud of the way we fought,” Hur­ley added, “but a loss is a loss.”

Brad Vest / As­so­ci­ated Press

UConn’s Chris­tian Vi­tal, left, works for po­si­tion against Mem­phis’ Kyvon Daven­port on Sun­day.

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