NEW YORK –The game was physical right from the start and both teams knew the game would be an outright battle as soon as they stepped on the court.
Sloppy play by UConn helped Indiana squeak past them 57-54 in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden. With the win, the Hoosiers improve their record in the Jimmy V Classic to 3-1. They also avenged IU’s last loss to UConn, the 2013 national champions, who won a 59-58 contest at the Garden.
The Huskies jumped out to a 15-2 run, and the Garden exploded and was on their feet. It was jumpstarted by Akok, who put everybody on notice that you can’t party on the blocks with three left-handed blocks, three rebounds, and a three-pointer, all before Indiana’s first timeout.
The Hoosiers wanted a low-scoring second half so they could control the tempo so they could run their half-court offensive sets. Indiana attacked the glass and that was the difference in the ball game.
IU forced 21 turnovers was able to settle down which wasn’t the case in their previous outing. The defense turned into easy transition buckets on offense until both teams lost their touch shooting touch in the half.
“There were probably 25 different ways we could have won that game,” coach Dan Hurley said. “But we just kind of reverted back to playing the way that isn’t going to allow you to beat good teams. It will be a season filled with excruciating losses if we don’t take better shots, take care of the ball better. If we want to have a great season, we have to win games like this.”
The Huskies (6-3) lead much of the first half, leading 26-16 with a few minutes before the break. But the Hoosiers’ defense picked up, and UConn started to get careless with the ball. Five of UConn’s 14 first-half turnovers occurred in the final four-plus minutes, and IU outscored the Huskies 18-3 heading into the break.
The Huskies and Hoosiers both made some adjustments in the second half and battled. It was game of runs and the team who had the last run without committing turnovers will eventually win the game. UConn had a 15-2 spurt, Indiana answered with a 15-1 run late in the half to take a five-point lead.
The second half was a defensive battle, neither team shooting nor handling the ball well, but the UConn slowed the tempo down and got within five points with Sid Wilson tying the game. Then it became a back-and-forth battle down the home stretch.
“We knew Indiana was going to come out desperate for a win because they just came off a bad loss in their conference,” said Josh Carlton, who had 18 points and five rebounds. “It really was a lost opportunity, we really beat ourselves rather than them beating us.”
Connecticut regained the lead on a Carlton basket, Indiana’s Joey Brunk answered. Tyler Polley tied the game at 45 with a 3-pointer, and so it went. Indiana led 49-47 when Carlton was called for a flagrant-1 foul with 3:29 to go, and the Huskies were down five again before they got the ball back.
The Hoosiers’ bench outscored UConn’s 17-5. UConn held Indiana — who was eighth in the nation in field goal percentage — to 37% shooting, and its eight blocks.
The Huskies have a break before their next game to figure out their shooting problems. They take on Saint Peters in the XL Center on Sunday, Dec. 18 in a game that tips off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on SNY and ESPN3.