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UConn falls on the road to West Virginia

According to Hurley, this loss was a product of poor discipline and poor shooting, no argument here. 

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The UConn Huskies came up short Wednesday night, losing 56-53, in their first true road game of the season against West Virginia. As most predicted, this game was an ugly one, but it was winnable. According to Hurley, this loss was a product of poor discipline and poor shooting, no argument here.

Poor shooting happens. Poor discipline shouldn’t happen, but at least it can be corrected.

The defensive game plan going in against West Virginia should be to slow down Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil, make the rest of the team beat you. Easier said than done, of course.

Sherman poured in 23 points, while McNeil started off hot in the first half, and finished with 16 points. The rest of the team scored just 17 points on just 6-19 from the field. That doesn’t sound like a winning formula, but it was just enough for the Mountaineers.

For the Huskies, RJ Cole finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 turnovers. Isaiah Whaley chipped in 15 points. Andre Jackson scored 10 points on 4-5 from the floor, but was at times a bit out of control, resulting in 4 turnovers.

A bit out of control is probably an apt description for the UConn offense this game. Yes, they’re a team that needs to push tempo and play in transition, but within reason.

As a team, the Huskies shot just 39.3% from the floor, including 14.3% (3-21) from beyond the arc. The offense looked sped up by the West Virginia defense and sloppy play and some poor shooting resulted. The effort was there. The execution was not.

All that said, UConn was able to hang around and had plenty of opportunities to win the game late. What more can ask for on the road against a good team like West Virginia, especially down two starters?

However, the Huskies didn’t do themselves any favors down the stretch, including 10 second half turnovers. Despite poor shooting and turnovers, UConn gained momentum in the second half following back-to-back RJ Cole three pointers, both assisted by Jalen Gaffney, to take a 39-38 lead with just over 12 minutes to go.

RJ Cole headed to the bench for some rest before the under 8-minute media timeout and the Huskies were able to hold serve, maintaining a 47-43 lead. Curiously, Hurley decided to keep Cole out after the media timeout only to see WVU quickly tie the game at 47 apiece.

The momentum was shifting. Hurley had to burn a timeout to get Cole in before things got out of hand. It’s dangerous to let a crowd back into a game late, but both teams seemed to tighten up after this.

Still, the Huskies had yet another chance as they took a late lead, 49-48, on an Andre Jackson steal and fastbreak dunk with 4:35 remaining. UConn would not score a field goal the rest of the way until Isaiah Whaley tipped back a missed shot with 12 seconds to go. In that 4-plus minute span without a field goal, UConn compounded their offensive issues poor fundamentals and basic situational basketball.

Time to learn from their mistakes and move on. The season is still young, and the team is still growing. The Huskies didn’t have it tonight, coaches and players, but they get another chance for a quality win against St. Bonaventure on Saturday. After that. Conference play.