CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Brendan Adams wasn’t afraid of the moment, not when he had to come in and take over for UConn’s injured point guard Alterique Gilbert and not when Buffalo was slicing deep into the Huskies lead at the Charleston Classic.
Adams had a career-high 20 points and played steadily in leading the Huskies to a 79-68 win over the Bulls on Thursday night. The win sets up a semifinal match with between past, present and future Big East Conference members after current league powerhouse in No. 18 Xavier romped past Towson 73-51.
Adams’ play was a big reason why. Besides confidently running the team, the sophomore knocked down a huge 3-pointer with 3:47 to play after Buffalo (2-2) had cut a nine-point lead to 65-62.
“It’s definitely the real me that you’re seeing right now. And I’m going to keep improving,” said Adams, a sophomore who surpassed his previous best of 15 set earlier this year against Sacred Heart. “Confidence is a big part of it.”
The Huskies played like a confident bunch.
Christian Vital had 16 points and 10 rebounds while Josh Carlton also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The schools will soon be league rivals as UConn has announced a return to the Big East.
The Huskies rallied back from seven points down in the opening half and gained control midway through the second with a 15-9 run helped by the debut of Huskies freshman guard James Bouknight.
“I thought that was big,” Buffalo coach Jim Whitesell said.
Bouknight, who missed UConn’s first three games as he dealt with ramifications and charges from a September traffic accident, played some impactful minutes during the Huskies charge. He took a perfect pass from Adams as he skied for a layup, then fought off two defenders to put back a miss and put UConn ahead 58-49
Buffalo led by as many as seven points in the opening half. The Bulls were still up 32-27 with three minutes to go when the Huskies rallied to finish the half on a 7-2 surge. Vital closed things with a close-in bucket to tie the game 34-all at the half.
Antwain Johnson and Josh Mballa each had 15 points to lead Buffalo.
Buffalo: The Bulls will have to wait a little longer for their next win over UConn. It’s been 68 years and counting since Buffalo’s only win over the Huskies. And while that didn’t happen at TD Arena, the Bulls certainly played like a team that will once again contend for the Mid-American Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
UConn: The Huskies showed grit and skill in rallying past Buffalo. Adams and Bouknight are young players that should continue to develop and give UConn coach Danny Hurley plenty to build with going forward.
UConn coach Danny Hurley said it was unlikely Alterique Gilbert would play the rest of he weekend after spraining his ankle. Gilbert wanted the chance to return in the second half, but Hurley and his medical staff kept him on the sidelines.
Buffalo will take on Towson here Friday night.
UConn will face No. 18 Xavier in a winner’s bracket game Friday night.
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