UConn's depth overwhelms New Hampshire in rout
Hartford — The painful memory of two straight losing seasons is always on the UConn players' minds.
It drives the Huskies in everything they do.
"Our camaraderie has grown with each game and with each practice," junior Christian Vital said. "We just want to win. We know what's transpired in the past. So now we want to get back to doing what UConn does, and that's win games. We're just trying to do that."
So far, so good.
UConn took advantage of young, inexperienced New Hampshire, running away with a 91-66 win before 8,351 fans at the XL Center.
The Huskies (5-1) overwhelmed the Wildcats (2-4) with their superior depth and balanced scoring. All five starters scored in double figures, with Josh Carlton (17 points) and Tyler Polley (12) matching their career highs while Jalen Adams (17), Christian Vital (14 points, a team-high 10 rebounds) and Alterique Gilbert (11 points) also contributed to the rout.
Four of UConn's five wins are against inferior competition, posting a 20-point average margin of victory in those games.
"In these types of games when you have a better team, that's what you're supposed to do," coach Dan Hurley said. "But we haven't done anything yet that we weren't supposed to do. ... My mindset is I coach these guys so hard coming into these games that I borderline ruin Thanksgiving for everybody because you've got to keep them on edge because there's such a tendency to relax.
"But we've done nothing the last couple of years, we've done nothing this season to warrant us overlooking anybody."
UConn attacked from the start on both ends of the floor. The Huskies made nine of their first 10 field goals on the way to shooting 52.3 percent overall. Their tenacious defense pressed New Hampshire into bad shots. The Wildcats finished at 42.9 percent overall.
By halftime, the Huskies built a 48-29 lead. Polley and Carlton already had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
But Hurley saw some blemishes.
"Just generally pleased with getting a comfortable win and just being able to handle our business," he said. "We either played like really good defense or we gave up an embarrassing basket, which was very frustrating at times."
A deep UConn team just got deeper now that redshirt freshman swingman Sidney Wilson's suspension from game competition is over. Wilson has only practiced with the team since UConn announced Wilson's punishment on Oct. 31. He's eligible to play in Tuesday's game against UMass Lowell in Storrs.
Don't expect Wilson to make an immediate impact. He'll have to shake off rust from sitting out last season as a redshirt and also fight for playing time in a crowded rotation.
"We didn't stop the season waiting for Sid," said Hurley, who raved about Wilson during preseason. "We do have depth. He's got to carve out minutes and opportunities for himself in practice. That's something he should have been thinking about in the last week. Now that he's eligibile, he's going to have to earn it in practice."
Hurley's options are growing.
Sophomore forward Isaiah Whaley played six minutes in his return Saturday after sitting out last game due to an ankle injury. Graduate transfer Kassoum Yakwe (four rebounds in 10 minutes) is getting healthier. Redshirt sophomore forward Mamadou Diarra continues to recover from knee surgery. He's progressing and participating in some drills but not expected to be back soon.
The Huskies are excited about adding Wilson to the rotation.
"Sid is going to bring a great piece to this team," Vital said. "He hasn't played in college but his body has gotten a lot stronger. His shot looks a lot better this year in practice. ... He's young; He just turned 19. But he's definitely going to be a great addition to the team once he gets back. I'm glad he's back. That's my brother right there."