- UConn Fast Break
- Notes & Quotes: A close loss in a rough performance at Kansas
Notes & Quotes: A close loss in a rough performance at Kansas
The Huskies were not firing on all cylinders, but still had a late lead and a chance to win.
Photos by Ian Bethune
Tristen Newton scored 31 points but nobody else on the No. 4 UConn Huskies was clicking Friday night in the Allen Fieldhouse, as Kevin McCullar Jr. scored 21 points to lead No. 5 Kansas to a 69-65 victory.
The hosts hit 50 percent of their shots and finished an astounding 9-of-14 (64%) from behind the arc. Alex Karaban added 10 points for the Huskies (7-1), who had nobody else in double digits as they saw their 24-game non-conference winning streak end.
The Huskies were 11-of-28 (39%) from three, with Karaban and Cam Spencer struggling from deep, going a combined 3-of-14. Playing through an injury, Spencer missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the corner with two seconds remaining.
Spencer’s three-point attempt at the end of the game.
“We don’t do the moral victories or silver linings,” head coach Dan Hurley said after the game. “Tristen carried us tonight…it was a virtuoso performance.”
KJ Adams added 18 points and five rebounds for the Jayhawks while Hunter Dickinson had 15 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks.
It was a meeting of the last two national champions in a roaring Phog Allen Fieldhouse, where many UConn fans made the trip. The hosts took an early lead but it was a tightly-contested game throughout the second half.
“Just an awesome environment,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “Credit Kansas, they made all the plays late.”
Kansas (6-1) raced out to a 16-5 lead and dominated much of the first half; UConn was lucky to be trailing just 38-31 at the break given how well the home team was shooting. KU hit 54 percent of its field goal attempts in the half and finished at 50 percent.
The Huskies would chip Kansas’ lead down to two points four times in the second half before finally taking their first lead, 47-46, with 10:36 to go, after a Newton 3-pointer. They led by as much as five points despite the many ways things weren’t going in their favor.
The Jayhawks managed to win it by hitting five treys in the final 8:09, including three from McCullar, the last one coming with 1:10 left to push their lead to six.
Newton and the Huskies kept fighting. The fifth-year guard was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws to close back in. The two teams traded turnovers and then Kansas missed a free throw after a Newton lay-up to give UConn a chance to tie or win with the ball, down two.
Newton took the ball up and passed it to Spencer, who had a good look. It just didn’t go in.
Here’s a closer look at Friday’s game:
What Went Well
Newton Ready: Another big stage and Tristen Newton steps up, almost carrying the Huskies to victory on his own. He shot 10-of-18 from the field, including 6-for-9 on 3-pointers, burying several as the shot clock was about to expire to lead the comeback charge.
Kansas head coach Bill Self: He was the best player in the game.
Tristen Newton: We’ve been in the national championship game so I feel no crowd can faze us…I’ve been in college for five years so I’ve been a part of games like this, especially for UConn.
Competing hard under adversity on the road: The Huskies dug an early hole for themselves. Cam Spencer played 36 minutes on a bad foot. Alex Karaban’s shot was off. The road fans were relentless. Some close or questionable calls didn’t go their way. The Huskies withstood it all, without Stephon Castle, and were a bucket away from taking the lead in the final seconds.
Hurley: I thought the program and our guys showed a champion’s heart by putting us in a position to have a three to steal it and get out of here with a win … I do think this year’s team has a chance to be as good as last year’s team when we’re fully healthy and we’re playing in March.
What Needs Work
Freebies: In a close loss, UConn can look at its free-throw shooting as a reason this one slipped away. The Huskies shot just 53.3 percent (8-for-15) from the foul line to Kansas’ 70 percent (14-for-20).
Not Yet Road Warriors: Except for Newton, UConn was extremely out of sorts in the early going. Hurley attributed that to the environment.
Hurley: We don’t go to many places this organized with fan involvement, so it was a heck of an environment and I think it rattled us for a while.
Alex Needs to be Greater: The sophomore has struggled from the field, hitting just 4 of 11 shots over the last two games, and hadn’t hit a three in two games going into Friday. Against Kansas, Karaban hit 2-of-7 threes and also ran into foul trouble, fouling out with 2:53 remaining and his team down four points.
At least this was an interesting one.
KenPom had predicted a one-point Kansas win, so UConn nearly met expectations. Right now the site projects a three-point win and 60% win probability for the Huskies in their next game against North Carolina at Madison Square Garden.
Freshman Stephon Castle traveled with the team and spent some time in pre-game warmups but missed his sixth straight game with a knee injury. … This was UConn’s first visit to Allen Fieldhouse. The previous “at Kansas” meeting between the schools took place in Kansas City. … The Huskies are now 0-4 all-time against the Jayhawks. … UConn women’s hoops legend Sue Bird was in attendance, sitting next to KU celebrity fan Jason Sudeikis.
Tuesday, vs. No. 17 North Carolina, at Madison Square Garden, 9 p.m. (ESPN)