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    UConn Men's Basketball
    Wednesday, April 17, 2024

    UConn men snap losing streak with tough win over South Florida

    UConn's Josh Carlton, center, vies for the ball with South Florida's Michael Durr, left, and Alexis Yetna, right, during the second half of Sunday's game at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

    Storrs — Finally, UConn could collectively take a winning breath.

    A suffocating six-game losing skid was over.

    The Huskies did just enough to secure a long overdue victory on Sunday, beating South Florida, 60-58, on a day Husky legend Ray Allen's number 34 was retired at Gampel Pavilion.

    "It just felt good to get a win and get out of the funk," redshirt sophomore Alterique Gilbert said. "Better energy around. Now we've got some oxygen to breathe."

    The Huskies (14-15, 5-11) have mastered the art of tough losses this season, dropping the last two by a combined six points against Cincinnati and Wichita State. They entered Sunday's American Athletic Conference game 1-10 in games decided by eight points or less.

    This time, they found a way to close the deal.

    Just barely, though.

    "I feel like we just deserve one of those...," coach Dan Hurley said. "This is a group that desperately needed a win. Now it gives us obviously a little bit more confidence going into the last home game here (Thursday) where we've won every game this year. This at least puts us in a position where we're playing to get back to .500, which certainly means a lot to me."

    A sputtering offense forced the Huskies, who shot 38.5 percent, to depend on their defense, limiting the Bulls (18-11, 7-8) to an icy 32.8 percent from the field.

    Sophomore Josh Carlton did the damage early, scoring 12 of his 16 points and grabbing seven of his team-best nine rebounds in the first half. He also had a career-best three assists. Gilbert finished with 15 points.

    "Obviously, we're struggling to find guys that can score out there, and through the rest of this year that's going to be something that we're going to have to deal with," Hurley said. "But this is kind of a pathway to victory at this point with what we're putting out there.

    "We've got to play high-level defense. We've got to be gritty. I thought we were that today."

    For the second straight game, Gilbert buried a big shot inside the last minute. The difference on Sunday is UConn's opponent never recovered after Gilbert converted a tough, contested runner in the lane for a 55-54 edge with 49 seconds left.

    Gilbert said he didn't remember his clutch basket.

    "I'm just glad we won, I really am," Gilbert said.

    Hurley has recently heaped praise on Gilbert and did it once again on Sunday.

    "I love to coach guys that play their best at the end of the game," Hurley said. "Real ballers in the last six minutes, they score field goals in close games. Those are guys that have the clutch gene. I think Al's got a little bit of that."

    The Huskies almost self-destructed after Gilbert's go-ahead basket.

    First, junior Christian Vital carelessly fouled USF leading scorer David Collins (17 points), a 72 percent free throw shooter. Collins made both foul shots to cut the gap to 57-56 with 29 seconds left.

    After Vital drained two free throws, Sidney Wilson ran into Collins who was attempting a three. Collins made two of three to narrow the gap to 59-58 with 3.5 seconds remaining.

    When Gilbert converted just one of two from the line at the 2.9 mark, South Florida inbounded the ball after a timeout, but failed to get off a shot attempt.

    UConn learned from previous late-game mistakes. On Thursday, Wichita State raced down court and beat the buzzer with a game-winning basket to hand the Huskies a painful road loss.

    "We had a lot of moments that we weren't 100 percent locked in and teams were able to get a shot off," Carlton said. "This time, we just tried to stay locked in and make sure we finished the game strong."

    The Huskies lost the battle of the boards, 46-33, giving up 20 offensive rebounds. They also failed to make a 3-pointer for the first time since Nov. 27, 2009 against Duke, ending a streak at 338 straight games. They went 0 for 15 from beyond the arc on Sunday.

    "The 0 for 15 from three had a lot to do with him being here today," Hurley joked, referring to Allen, one of the greatest 3-point shooters ever. "Players just couldn't handle the pressure of a shooter of that caliber being in the building."

    Allen spoke to the team in the locker room after the win.

    "Keep shooting," Gilbert said of Allen's advice.

    The Huskies improved to 8-0 at Gampel Pavilion this season. It also was their first win playing with leading scorer Jalen Adams, who missed his sixth straight game with a knee injury.

    g.keefe@theday.com

    Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen, left, is presented with a plaque by coach and fellow Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun, right, in a halftime ceremony during which Allen's number was retired to the rafters at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday in Storrs. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
    Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen's number is retired to the rafters during a halftime ceremony on Sunday at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
    South Florida's Antun Maricevic (34), of Croatia, vies for a rebound with UConn's Brendan Adams (10) and Josh Carlton (25) during the second half of Sunday's game at Storrs. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
    UConn's Sidney Wilson (15) shoots at the basket as South Florida's Antun Maricevic (34) tries to block him during the second half of Sunday's game at Storrs. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

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