Larrier powers UConn men to season-opening win
Storrs — Opening night revealed a hint of UConn's basketball potential.
The Huskies found out, at least for one game against Colgate, that they can survive without guard Jalen Adams.
Redshirt junior Terry Larrier, meanwhile, could be poised for a breakout season while several newcomers showed some promise.
With Adams watching from the bench still serving a suspension, UConn seized an early lead and then rode a late burst to beat Colgate 70-58 in Friday's regular-season opener before 7,154 fans at Gampel Pavilion.
Larrier carried the Huskies, scoring a career-high 27 points and adding six rebounds.
"The guys really stepped up and Terry big-time stepped up for us," coach Kevin Ollie said. "He was just comfortable all night. He's a great two-point shooter. Once his two-point shot started going in, he started getting out to the 3-point line. Then he played great defense all night.
"... This was a test without Jalen and against a great team that's bringing back all their offense, assists and rebounds. To come out and get tested and respond the way we did, I'm very proud of our group."
A versatile 6-foot-8 swingman, Larrier's played very little in the last two years. A knee injury forced him to miss all but four games last year. He sat out the previous season after transferring from Virginia Commonwealth.
"Sitting out those two years, I waited long," Larrier said. "It was just all motivation for me. It fired me up. I got some easy baskets early and I just continued to keep scoring. I definitely had to pick up the slack."
Larrier's contribution was vital considering the Huskies had limited offensive firepower without Adams, who was charged by UConn police with evading responsibility for leaving the scene of his scooter accident on Wednesday night. Larrier converted 11 of 18 field goals while the rest of the team went 12-for-43 from the field.
Graduate transfer Antwoine Anderson, who started in place of Adams, played with veteran poise, finishing with 12 points and six assists.
"First, I wanted to be a leader," Anderson said. "But also, I know somebody else was going to have to step up. ... Not having Jalen, it's not the same. But everybody understands that we all have roles and we have to be a star in our role."
The outcome hung in the balance until the final minutes.
Clinging to a 59-54 lead, Larrier took over, scoring seven straight points. He buried a short turnaround jumper, hit a mid-range shot from the wing and then converted a 3-pointer to fuel a game-ending 11-4 spurt.
"When we needed a bucket, he settled us down," Ollie said.
The Huskies overcame a shaky shooting night (37.7 percent from the field) by sinking 18 of 19 free throws and basically shutting down Colgate's potent 3-point shooting attack, as the Raiders went just 8-for-29 from beyond the arc. And they scored 26 points off of 14 Colgate turnovers.
They won the rebounding battle 41-32 with junior college transfer Eric Cobb grabbing a team-high eight in his first game as a Husky.
Tyler Polley (nine points, four rebounds) also had a nice debut in a starting role while fellow freshman forward Isaiah Whaley (eight points, four rebounds, three blocks) provided a surge of energy in a productive 15 minutes of action off the bench.
Whaley's second straight put-back basket, including the last one he finished off emphatically with a dunk, handed UConn its biggest lead, 51-37 with 10 minutes left. The Raiders were mired in shooting funk, sinking just three field goals in 12 and a half minutes of the second half.
"I was ready to come in and bring that energy and activity," Whaley said.
Ollie will continue to evaluate Adams' suspension on a day-to-day basis. UConn's next game is Tuesday against Stony Brook. He's happy with the way Adams is handling the matter.
"Great learning experience," Adams said. "Good to see that our team was able to get the W tonight. I definitely take full responsibility. ... I know I've got to learn from my mistakes and I'm just moving forward from here."
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