CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP)UConn needed a pick-me-up after its double overtime loss to No. 18 Xavier on Friday night, perhaps no one more than junior point guard Alterique Gilbert.
Huskies coach Danny Hurley said the whole team was down Saturday and especially Gilbert, the target of social media after he lost control of his dribble on UConn’s final chance against the Musketeers. So no one was happier than Hurley with Gilbert’s steady, solid play in an 80-55 win over Miami on Sunday as the Huskies captured third place at the Charleston Classic.
”I just couldn’t be prouder of how he led this team,” Hurley said.
Josh Carlton had 16 points while freshman James Bouknight continued to make himself indispensable to the Huskies with 13 points. Christian Vital had 14 points while Brendan Adams had 13. Gilbert led UConn with seven assists and directed his teammates throughout.
At one point, Gilbert threw a perfect pass to Akok Akok as he soared high for an alley-oop finish. Hurley was so thrilled with Gilbert he rushed out to bear hug him on the next time out. At the end with 90 seconds and UConn up big, Hurley called time out so Gilbert could hear the cheers of UConn fans as he came off the court.
”After that loss, it was Alterique that helped us bounce back,” Carlton said.
The Huskies capped a week that started last Sunday with a win over then-15th-ranked Florida and continued here with two more wins and that oh-so-close defeat to Xavier.
”I don’t think anyone’s had a week like us in college basketball” this season, Hurley said.
The Huskies might have a few more surprises ahead after handily topping the Hurricanes (4-3) in the first meeting between the former Big East Conference rivals in 11 years.
The Huskies’ youth was on full display, led by Bouknight, the highly regarded freshman who made his debut this week in Charleston after missing his team’s first three games with legal problems.
Bouknight, the 6-foot-4 guard from Brooklyn, New York, led UConn with 19 points against Xavier and continued his solid play in this one. He made six of seven field goals and added three rebounds, two assists and a steal – all off the bench.
Another freshman, 6-9 Akok, had seven boards and six of his team’s nine blocked shots.
Miami dropped its second straight after an opening win Thursday against Missouri State. The Hurricanes fell to state rival Florida on Friday.
Dejan Vasiljevic led Miami with 11 points.
”I don’t think it’s a secret that we’re not there” yet defensively, Miami associate head coach Chris Caputo said.
Miami: The Hurricanes struggled in the second half of their past two losses. They were outscored 33-13 over the final 15 minutes of the Florida defeat and 62-35 the last 25 minutes against UConn.
UConn: The Huskies are returning to the Big East next season and look ready to make an immediate impact with the young talent they’re developing. Bouknight, Akok, Brendan Adams, who also had 13 points off the bench, and Jalen Gaffney are underclassmen who are improving. Christian Vital had 14 points for UConn.
LARRANAGA PLAYING HURT
Miami coach Jim Larranaga dealt with a pulled muscle this week that limited his mobility, including on the bench where he would sit while Caputo filled the role of walking the sidelines, talking to players and officials.
CHANGE OF FORTUNE
The arena interview room has large glass windows to the outside where fans can see coaches and players talking to media. Several pounded the glass and cheered as Hurley began speaking. It wasn’t that way Friday night after Xavier, Hurley joked, ”I was pretty lonely.”
Miami is off next week and plays at Illinois on Dec. 2.
UConn returns home to play Maine on Dec. 1.
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