UConn men in a sour mood after loss to Arizona
Hartford — UConn's post-game mood was predictably sour.
The Huskies knew they let an important resume-building victory slip away. They couldn't overcome 19 turnovers, costly defensive breakdowns and offensive lapses.
A raucous near sellout XL Center crowd of 14,603 could only carry them so far against Arizona.
"Angry, disappointed," redshirt freshman Sidney Wilson said. "This is one of those losses that you really don't get much sleep if basketball really means something to you. This really hurt."
The bitter 76-72 defeat also bugged coach Dan Hurley, who let out an expletive and whipped his jacket that he carried while walking down the hallway after his postgame press conference.
"Hard-fought game, disappointing loss," Hurley said. "A huge thanks to the crowd. The crowd was awesome. They carried us emotionally through some choppy play. ... In the end, the turnovers got us. You've got to take better care of the basketball.
"... We didn't play well enough overall at both ends to beat a good team. ... I told them that we should have won this game."
Arizona (6-2) maintained the lead for the majority of the game and kept its poise down the stretch, sinking 12 of 13 free throws in the final two minutes, 13 seconds, to hold on. Freshman Brandon Williams converted a pair from the line with 4.5 seconds left to ice the win.
UConn (6-2), on the other hand, played hard but not always with the necessary discipline and execution to win a big game. Senior Jalen Adams finished with a team-high 21 points to go with six assists and five rebounds but committed five turnovers. Perimeter partners Christian Vital (11 points, seven turnovers) and Alterique Gilbert (eights points on 3-for-12 shooting) had sub-par performances.
Senior Eric Cobb (12 points, a team-high 10 rebounds) played well off the bench with his second double-double of the season. He'd rather have had the win.
"We let our fans down...," Cobb said. "We're disappointed because we know why we came up short and it was basically because of the defensive end. Everybody knows that defense wins games. That's what we've got to focus on instead of the offensive end."
Still, the Huskies stuck around and never trailed by more than eight.
"We just stayed in the game with grit and a little bit of toughness and obviously a great crowd," Hurley said.
Staring at their largest deficit (62-54), the Huskies fought back. Vital's 3-pointer started a 10-4 run that ended with Tyler Polley's 3-pointer, cutting the gap to 66-64 with two minutes remaining. The Huskies climbed to within two points four more times.
But they never got the breakthrough defensive stop or momentum-turning basket. The Wildcats made their free throws, sinking 19 of 22 overall.
UConn shot 48.3 percent from the field, but only 33.3 percent (8-for-24) from 3-point range. Arizona converted 45.8 percent while four Wildcats scored in double figures, including sophomore Brandon Rudolph who had 20 points, 14 in the second half.
"Everybody is not too happy because we know we didn't play our best basketball," Adams said. "We know we're capable of more and we didn't showcase that today."
The Huskies have two more shots at quality non-conference wins in the upcoming weeks, facing Florida State on Saturday in Newark, N.J., and Villanova at Madison Square Garden in New York on Dec. 22. First, they host Lafayette on Wednesday in Hartford.
UConn coach Dan Hurley’s post-game statement following Arizona loss. “Hard fought game, disappointing loss.” pic.twitter.com/9Dk3LXjvRk— Gavin Keefe (@GavinKeefe) December 2, 2018