Another painful, messy loss for UConn men

UConn guard Jalen Adams (4) attempts a shot as Florida State forward Mfiondu Kabengele (25) defends during the first half of a men's college basketball game Saturday in Newark, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP Photo)
UConn guard Jalen Adams (4) attempts a shot as Florida State forward Mfiondu Kabengele (25) defends during the first half of a men's college basketball game Saturday in Newark, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP Photo)

Newark, N.J. — Saturday's non-conference battle turned into a crazy, ugly mess.

UConn and Florida State combined for 41 turnovers. Fifty-five fouls were called, including two technical and two flagrant fouls on the Huskies. The Seminoles also were whistled for a flagrant and technical foul.

It was painfully hard to watch.

The outcome also was hard for the Huskies to swallow, as they dropped a 79-71 decision to the No. 11 Seminoles in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center.

The Huskies (7-3) failed at yet another opportunity to grab a quality win. They've lost two of their last three.

"Obviously, disappointed with the loss," UConn coach Dan Hurley said. "This was a game that we marked on the calendar and that we desperately wanted to win. Loved the way our guys fought. I feel like we definitely could have played better.

"... Obviously, the turnovers were an issue for us. But I'll take that type of effort from a team that I coach against that caliber of opponent any day of the week."

The Huskies couldn't overcome 19 turnovers and converted just 37.7 percent from the field. They were bothered by FSU's size, athleticism and length. Redshirt sophomore Alterique Gilbert kept his team within striking distance by scoring 17 of his career-high 24 points in the second half. Senior Jalen Adams added 15 points and Tarin Smith had 12.

They also remained close by pressuring Florida State (8-1) into 22 turnovers.

"They did a very good job of making us feel uncomfortable," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Coach (Hurley) has done such a great job with his team. They're definitely an NCAA tournament team. They're going to do very well in their conference."

To eventually be an NCAA team, UConn needs some quality wins on its resume. The Huskies missed out on one on Saturday.

The fiercely competitive game turned late in the first half when Florida State took charge. The Seminoles went on a 9-2 run to take a 39-33 halftime lead. Then they opened the second half with a 10-1 spurt. Terance Mann (20 points) scored to push the lead to 49-34.

At this point last season, the Huskies would have fallen apart.

But they kept up their intensity and battled back to gradually cut the gap. Gilbert buried consecutive 3-pointers to bring the Huskies to within 63-56.

Florida State answered with five straight points.

Back came the Huskies again, however, as Smith's rebound basket narrowed the deficit to 74-69 with 54 seconds left.

Hurley didn't do his team any favors by picking up a technical foul with 39 seconds remaining and UConn trailing by six. Junior Christian Vital also earned one in the first half.

The Seminoles closed it out from the foul line. They received a huge boost from their bench, as reserves David Nichols (16) and Mfiondu Kabengele (15) made key contributions, especially in the first half.

Despite the loss, Hurley, a New Jersey native who taught and coached at nearby St. Benedict's Prep for nine years, enjoyed his homecoming game.

"It was cool," Hurley said. "It was fun. I thought during the anthem that I'd soak it all in a little bit more. But we were so locked in. You've got to appreciate the journey. It would have been great to come here and get a win.

"Tough loss, but it was nice getting home."

g.keefe@theday.com

UConn forward Josh Carlton, left, and Florida State forward Mfiondu Kabengele go after a loose ball during the first half of Saturday's men's college basketball game in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP Photo)
UConn forward Josh Carlton, left, and Florida State forward Mfiondu Kabengele go after a loose ball during the first half of Saturday's men's college basketball game in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, N.J. (Bill Kostroun/AP Photo)
Florida State guard Anthony Polite, left, looks to pass the ball as he is pressured by UConn guard Alterique Gilbert (3) during the second half Saturday at the Never Forget Tribute Classic. (Bill Kostroun/AP Photo)
Florida State guard Anthony Polite, left, looks to pass the ball as he is pressured by UConn guard Alterique Gilbert (3) during the second half Saturday at the Never Forget Tribute Classic. (Bill Kostroun/AP Photo)

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