An abundance of drama highlighted No. 22 Connecticut’s first two games at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Before departing for home, the Huskies would like to experience less drama and do enough to solve VCU’s tough defense Friday in the third-place game at Paradise Islands, Bahamas.
UConn (5-1) barely missed advancing to the championship game when it fell short in a 64-60 loss to Michigan State on Thursday. The Huskies erased a 14-point deficit in the first half and held a five-point lead with 1:41 remaining but allowed the game’s final nine points by missing nine of their final 10 shots.
“We made some execution mistakes down the stretch in the game,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort. It wasn’t a lack of guys giving their best.”
Connecticut’s late-game collapse occurred a day after it survived an epic 115-109 double-overtime thriller against 19th-ranked Auburn.
Adama Sanogo totaled 18 points and 10 rebounds vs. MSU after scoring 30 points against Auburn. Tyrese Martin added 16 and 12 rebounds after nearly getting a double-double against Auburn — and he did so while nursing a sprained left wrist.
The Huskies were without Isaiah Whaley, who played 43 minutes against Auburn and suffered a brief fainting spell shortly after the win. He did not play Thursday and it is unclear whether he will play Friday.
“We knew we had to take care of our bodies,” Martin said. “Every team had to play three games in three days, so we can’t sit here and use that as an excuse.”
VCU (3-3) has yet to allow more than 69 points and any opponent to shoot higher than 40.4 percent, heading into its second straight game against a ranked team.
“I’m excited to see how our guys are going to respond,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said.
The Rams held Syracuse to 29 percent shooting in a 67-55 win Wednesday and then limited No. 6 Baylor to 40.4 percent Thursday in a 69-61 setback.
VCU’s difficulties against the defending champions were due to its inability to consistently compete with Baylor inside. The Rams were outrebounded 42-33, allowed 17 offensive boards and 15 second-chance points to negate a game in which it shot 42.1 percent.
Vince Williams scored 17 after being held to four points against Syracuse while Levi Stockard III added 13 after scoring 15 on Wednesday.
“I thought at times we put Baylor on their heels, and we got our style of play going,” Rhoades said after VCU trailed by two at halftime and allowed the first nine points of the second half. “I just thought at times we sort of shot ourselves in the foot.”
–Field Level Media