Storrs, Connecticut-UConn men’s basketball team knocked off No. 15 Florida 62-59 Sunday night and improved to 2-1 for this young season.
Christian Vital scored 15 points and made a key steal at the end of the game to seal it.
Prior to the win, the Huskies were 1-16 vs. AP top 25 opponents in the past five years.
Tyler Polley also scored 15 points and Josh Carlton chipped in 13 points for the Huskies (2-1) who led by five points at halftime and never trailed after break.
Early in the game the Gators switched to a 1-3-1 on defense and started feeding Kerry Blackshear Jr. on the blocks which UConn had no answer to his down-low presence. The Huskies applied some court pressure that sped up Florida’s guards, and UConn was able to get some baskets in transition.
Blackshear scored the game’s first two baskets, but the Gators made just four of their first 13 attempts from the floor.
“Anytime you play on the road, you’re dealing with the stage and 10,000 fans screaming at you and you’ve got to step up with poise and confidence and mental toughness and make a shot at this level.” Florida coach Mike White said.
Gator Keyontae Johnson’s layup with just over a minute left in the game cut the Huskies’ deficit to 60-59, but those would be the last points that Florida would put on the scoreboard.
The Gators had a chance to tie after Vital hit two free throws with 17 ticks on the clock. But Alterique Gilbert tipped a pass from Johnson and Vital grabbed it and dribbled away to close out the contest.
“A think a year ago, we would have folded, easily,” said Gilbert. “These are the games you come to UConn to play and I think we have a great group of guys now who just want to win.”
Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Gators (2-2), falling two rebounds shy of a fourth straight double-double. Blackshear fouled out with 4:37 left in the contest and his team down 53-49. Andrew Nembhard had 14 points, including a 3-pointer that brought Florida within a point at 54-53.
Both offenses struggled from downtown. The Gators shot 40 percent from the floor but made just 5-20 from 3-point range. UConn was just 4 of 22 from behind the arc.
The bottom line UConn turned up the defensive pressure when they had to and made key stops in crucial situations for the win. Next up, UConn travels down south for the Charleston Classic.