Adams sparks UConn past SMU
Storrs — The inspirational text message was sent out Thursday morning.
Coach Dan Hurley received it around 8 a.m. while still at home.
It was from senior Jalen Adams.
"It was something along the lines of war time, locked in," Hurley said. "When I saw that, I sprung up out of bed, got on the peloton bike and was recharged. ... When you're at a place that you're successful and winning, that's the type of things that you get from your leading players.
"Just to see that this morning I knew he was going to be good today."
Actually, all the Huskies were pretty darn good in a satisfying 76-64 win over Southern Methodist University before 6,538 fans at Gampel Pavilion. They snapped a three-game losing streak while earning their first American Athletic Conference victory.
Adams fueled the charge, finishing with a game-high 21 points, and backcourt partners Alterique Gilbert and Christian Vital chipped in 19 and 11 points, respectively. He also inspired his teammates with his leadership and the early morning text message.
"Pretty much just letting them know that I'm in the fight with them," Adams said. "I know things haven't been looking up for us. Today was another opportunity for us to turn it around. I sent that text out to (coach Hurley) and guys in the group chat just to let them know that it was war time and we had to go to war, which we did."
The Huskies (10-6, 1-2) never trailed after jumping ahead 21-20. They carried a 42-31 edge into the break and refused to buckle when the Mustangs (10-5, 2-1) got as close as six in the second half.
Once again, Hurley credited Adams for keeping the Huskies on course for a win.
"There was a determination," Hurley said. "These guys didn't hang their heads Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. And that started with Jalen Adams. He was a tremendous leader the last three games in practice, in video, in shoot-arounds, in the dormitory. He carried himself with desperation and urgency. He acted the way a senior, best player is supposed to act."
Still, UConn's lead stood at 59-52 with 9:10 remaining.
The Mustangs were poised to narrow the gap when Tarin Smith missed two free throws. But athletic reserve Sidney Wilson (four points, six rebounds, three blocks) won the rebound. He converted the put-back while being fouled.
Wilson hit the free throw for a 62-52 edge.
"I was just trying to make as much of an impact as I could during the game," Wilson said. "I hadn't scored yet. Josh (Carlton) had tipped it already... and then I just got a good easy basket."
The Huskies drew inspiration from the hustle play and basket. Smith buried a three-pointer to cap a 10-2 run and extend the lead to 69-54 with 6:12 remaining.
The Huskies finished it off from there.
They were fully engaged from the start, diving on the floor for loose balls. Even Hurley got involved, although not by choice.
Early in the second half, Vital and Gilbert both hit the floor in pursuit of a rolling ball near the UConn bench. Teammate Tyler Polley ended up with the ball out of bounds and also knocked over Hurley.
A fired up Hurley bounced to his feet and starting clapping his approval.
"That definitely energized us and energized the crowd," Wilson said. "Seeing coach do things like that really makes you feel like he's in the fight with you. That was a really good moment and I feel like that really powered us during that little stretch."
UConn was active on both ends of the floor. The Huskies finished shooting 52.4 percent and limited the Mustangs to just 34.8 percent from the field. SMU came in averaging 76.4 points.
Smith and Gilbert helped contain SMU senior Jahmal Murray, who had 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting. The Huskies had only 10 turnovers, about four fewer than their average. They also received important contributions from Polley (seven points) and Carlton (eight points, seven rebounds).
"Obviously, thrilled with the overall effort," Hurley said. "Defensively, we were really dialed in versus a very difficult team to guard. One of the most efficient offenses that we'll see. So we were locked in defensively. Any time our turnover numbers are 10 or lower, which is our game goal, we're going to either win or give ourselves a real good chance to win.
"Guys were great today. ... Everyone gave us something for the most part."
Now the Huskies head on the road for the next two games, starting out at Cincinnati on Saturday.
UConn coach Dan Hurley on his team’s inspired effort in win over SMU pic.twitter.com/SzUeN8SSUJ— Gavin Keefe (@GavinKeefe) January 11, 2019