Late surge lifts UConn to comeback win over Stony Brook
Hartford — Staring at a late nine-point deficit, Terry Larrier delivered a message to his UConn basketball teammates during a timeout.
There's plenty of time left to turn things around.
"He told us to just stay poised. We've got five minutes left. We can still come back. It's nothing crazy," junior Jalen Adams said of Larrier's message. "We just rallied behind that.
The Huskies responded with a game-ending 19-2 spurt to surge past Stony Brook for a 72-64 victory at the XL Center in Hartford.
"We definitely wouldn't have won that game last year," coach Kevin Ollie said. "This team, right here, just showed their resilience and their heart. We don't want to be in those situations. But to show we can come back and play UConn basketball was a great feat for these guys."
The inspired comeback started by following Larrier's advice and then following junior Jalen Adams' lead on the court. Adams, who sat out the season opener serving a suspension, scored all 19 of his points in the second half, including nine straight to fuel the late charge.
"My teammates just had crazy trust in me to just keep making plays," said Adams, who missed his first five shots before finishing 8 for 16 from the field.
The Huskies (2-0) battled through some inconsistent offensive stretches in the first half, overcame 19 turnovers and survived Stony Brook (0-2) sinking 11 3-pointers. UConn hit a sizzling 15 of 21 field goals in the second half and 51 percent overall. Redshirt freshman Alterique Gilbert finished with 14 points while Larrier, who battled foul trouble, had 12 points and graduate transfer Antwoine Anderson added 10.
Things looked bleak for awhile for the Huskies. They fell behind late in the first half and trailed 31-25 at the break. Five of Stony Brook's 11 first half field goals came from 3-point range.
UConn continued to chase Stony Brook in the second half. It seemed like every time the Huskies closed to within a basket, the Seawolves buried another three.
Ollie called a timeout after Tyrell Sturdivant's second straight 3-pointer handed Stony Brook a 62-53 with 5:37 remaining.
Larrier spoke up.
"Being down nine with five minutes to go, a lot of people thought in the arena that we were going to lose," Ollie said. "But those guys on the bench with me, they hung in there."
Coming out of the break, the Huskies seized control, mounting a 17-0 blitz. Freshman Tyler Polley's 3-pointer started the spurt.
"Just to see a freshman knock down such a big shot in a crucial moment, it was huge," Adams said. "Everybody just rallied behind that."
Then Adams took over.
Adams scored nine straight points mostly by attacking the basket and finishing off layups in traffic. His driving shot put UConn in front, 63-62, with 2:32 remaining. It was his team's first lead since 23-22 with 4:56 left in the first half.
"Jalen finally got his wake-up call in the second half," Ollie said. "He was sensational getting to the basket."
On the other end, UConn's tenacious defense smothered Stony Brook, which suffered through a 5:21 scoring drought. The Seawolves shot 39.7 percent overall and had 18 turnovers.
Polley's steal led to two free throw attempts. He made one to cap the 17-0 run and give the Huskies a 70-62 edge with 21.2 seconds remaining. Gilbert's two free throws closed it out.
The Huskies jogged off the court with a confidence-building win.
"It definitely gives us confidence," Gilbert said, "but at the same time we can't come out and play lackadaisical. We've got to come out and play from the start instead of waiting until the second half."
The game also marked the debut of graduate transfer David Onuorah, who had been sidelined since preseason with a hip injury. He tied Eric Cobb for the team lead in rebounds with seven. Adams also credited him with setting screens that opened up the court.
"I was anxious to be out there and excited to be out there," Onuorah said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity."
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