Basketball plays exhibition with UConn

Michael ApotriaSpecial to the Southern News

The men’s basketball team traveled to Storrs, Conn. on Nov. 5 to play an exhibition game against the four-time NCAA Division I champions UConn Huskies, in what was their third exhibition game in the last four years.

While it is only a friendly game, senior Austin Carter said prior to the game, a win against the Huskies would be immense for momentum entering the regular season.

“UConn is one of the top basketball programs in the entire country,” said Carter, the senior captain. “Winning [against UConn] would give us that mindset that we can beat anyone.” 

However, the Owls fell to the Huskies 94-65, after trailing by only 11 points at halftime.  

Carter said he had a better understanding of what to expect coming into this game after playing UConn in both his freshman and sophomore year.  

“The first time I faced them I was a bit excited and nervous,” said Carter. “The second time was my sophomore year and that’s the season we made the Elite 8. That [year] showed me we could play with anybody out there.”

Southern’s men’s basketball assistant coach, Michael Papale, said the game was a great learning experience for everyone on the team – especially the younger guys.

“Most kids grow up wanting to compete against the highest level of basketball,” said Papale, “this [past Saturday] they got to.”

Freshman guard Noah Miree said prior to the game he was anxious to get out on the court and face the Huskies for the first time.

“I [was] definitely excited and nervous,” said Miree. “There [was] a lot of fans out there. I’ve never had the opportunity to play in front of so many people.”

Southern’s guard Michael Mallory, the Owls’ top scorer from last season (23 point per game), was held to 14 points on 4-for-17 shooting against the Huskies.  The senior captain also had six assists, three bounds and two blocks in 35 minutes of action.  

On the other side, the Owls’ second captain, Austin Carter, recorded 12 points, seven rebounds and one assist in 32 minutes of play.

Yet, it was Southern junior transfer, Jerry Luckett, who led the Owls in scoring with against the Huskies. Luckett recorded 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting, to go along with three rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes of action.  

Southern’s head coach, Scott Burrell, found his team down 44-33 at halftime and reflected on team’s performance.  

“I think our guys competed in the first half,” Burrell said. “I think they were tough the first half. We rebounded well. We didn’t make a lot of shots like we usually do, but they were there for the challenge.”

Despite being down 11 points at the half, Southern got outscored by UConn 50-32 in the second half.  

“The second half – a lot of run outs early in the second half,” Burrell said.  They got down, and I think they might have crumbled under that pressure. They played well. They’re big, they’re long, they’re athletic. Every pass is tough, and every hand off is tough against a team like that.”

UConn has one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and that has allowed them to recruit several players with unique size and skill, which is why they beat Southern in the rebounding battle 40-33.

“They have a lot of young talent and some big guys who are 6-foot 10 and seven feet tall,” said Papale. “That [didn’t] mean we were going to change the way we play.”

Coming into the game UConn was ranked at No. 16 by the USA Division I coaches poll, and Southern was ranked No. 4 in the preseason poll released by the Division II Bulletin.

The Owls’ first official game of the regular season is scheduled for Nov. 12 against Holy Family in Bridgeport, Conn.

Photo Credit: SCSU Athletic Communications

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