STORRS, Conn. — Christian Vital says it’s much easier for UConn to win when the team is having fun.
The Huskies enjoyed themselves Thursday night. Vital scored 20 points and Jalen Adams added 18 to lead UConn to a 63-52 win over SMU.
Josh Carlton added a season-high 12 rebounds for the Huskies (11-9, 4-3), who used a 19-4 second-half run to secure much-needed conference win after losing back-to-back games, each by at least 20 points.
They outscored SMU 14-0 on the fast break,
“When we’re all having fun, we play a different style of basketball,” Vital said. “I think everyone sees that. It’s noticeable.”
Shake Milton scored 18 points and Jimmy Whitt had 14 for SMU, (14-7, 4-4) which was coming off wins over No. 17 Wichita State and Tulane.
The Mustangs shot just 28 percent from the floor, making only seven of their 29 shots in the second half, including just 3 of 14 from 3-point range.
“Tonight it was pretty simple,” said SMU coach Tim Jankovich. “We rebounded well enough to win. We turned the ball over few enough times to win. We shot enough free throws to win. We made enough plays to win. And we shot beyond horribly.”
It was 40-36 SMU, when a drive by Adams led to a 3-point play that sparked the Huskie big run. UConn scored 10 straight points to take a 46-40 lead.
The Huskies shot 41 percent for the game and 46 percent in the second half. They also outscored SMU 21-5 off turnovers, despite getting just one more giveaway (10-9).
“We finished a lot, which was great,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “Just finishing our layups. We worked on that a lot in these last couple practices because we’ve been getting them, we haven’t been finishing.”
SMU: The Mustangs dressed just eight scholarship players. They lost second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Jarrey Foster to a left knee injury in their upset win at Wichita State last week. Everett Ray, a 6-7 freshman, also went out for the season when he broke a foot warming up for Saturday’s game against Tulane.
UConn: The Huskies found out Thursday that they had lost their appeal to have forward Sidney Wilson declared eligible this season. The highly touted 6-foot-7 freshman transferred to UConn after briefly attending summer school at St. John’s. Wilson will have four year’s’ of eligibility beginning next season and will be allowed to continue practicing with the team. UConn also played Thursday without Terry Larrier, who underwent surgery this week to repair a fractured sinus wall. The 6-8 swingman, who had been averaging just under 15 points a game, is expected to miss at least a week.
ON THE GLASS
SMU outrebounded UConn 23-13 in the first half. UConn turned that around in the second half, outrebounding the Mustangs by 10. Carlton said that came from a change in defensive strategy.
“We started out in a zone and switched to man late in the shot clock,” he said. “So, when the shot went up we each had our man and just needed to box out and we did our job. I think that helped out a lot.”
A BETTER RATIO
UConn came into the game with 64 more turnovers than assists. They had 13 assists and nine turnovers on Thursday.
SMU: The Mustangs head home for a Sunday game against East Carolina
UConn: The Huskies travel to Philadelphia for a game on Sunday against Temple