Christian Vital leads UConn men to rout over Boston University

HARTFORD — Christian Vital prides himself as a sparkplug off the bench, a guy who can come in and immediately generate energy and production for UConn.

So, when he misfired on 10 of his 12 shots over the Huskies’ first two games and watched most of the final minutes of both contests from the bench, he wasn’t happy.

“I’m leaving my teammates out there by themselves,” he noted. “I told them I felt bad about it.”

So Vital initiated a talk with coach Kevin Ollie in his office last week, looking to find a way to snap out of his funk and help his team more.

“It was a positive conversation,” Vital said.

Apparently.

The sophomore guard responded in a big way on Sunday night, pouring in a career-high 30 points to lead UConn to an 85-66 win over Boston University before 6,308 at the XL Center.

“We had a good talk in my office, and he was like, ‘I’ve got to be humble, I’ve got to play my game,’” said Ollie. “He can’t expect things given to me like last year to this year. Everything he said in my office, that’s what he did. I’m very proud of him.”

Vital caught fire early, scoring 17 points in the first half. At one point, he had 10 of UConn’s 12 points as it turned a 17-16 BU lead into a 28-24 Husky advantage.

“He was all over the place, and I think that led to him having a good game,” Ollie remarked. “He took it to the basket, did things that he wasn’t doing the first game and the second game.”

Added Vital: “I was in a little bit of a slump the first two games. Stats don’t lie. But, I was able to relax, sit down, talk with my support system, get my mind back on track, and I was able to help the team tonight.”

UConn got off to one of its typical slow starts, missing its first nine shots and trailing 8-1 out of the gates, but owned a 39-31 lead at the break after Antwoine Anderson canned a 3-pointer at the buzzer, then broke the game open in the latter half as it furiously attacked the offensive boards. In one stretch, four of the Huskies’ five baskets came on putbacks by Terry Larrier, Tyler Polley, Josh Carlton and Kwintin Williams (his first collegiate points).

Perhaps the most impressive of the night came with about eight minutes left. David Onuorah set a screen for Alterique Gilbert out on the top of the key, and Gilbert launched a 3-pointer that missed. Onuorah grabbed the rebound, spun and put it back.

UConn outrebounded the much-smaller Terriers 52-32. The Huskies had 16 offensive boards and scored 17 second-chance points — 12 of them in the latter half.

Jalen Adams added 12 points for UConn and Larrier and Anderson added 11 apiece.

BU fell to 0-3.

Now, UConn is off to the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon. The Huskies will face one of the home teams, Oregon, on Thanksgiving Day, and could face powerhouses like Michigan State and North Carolina in their other two games.

“We’ve got to put our big-boy britches on,” said Ollie, “and go out there and play hard.”

RIM RATTLINGS

Eric Cobb suffered a right ankle sprain in the first half and didn’t play the rest of the way. The 6-foot-9 junior forward will get X-rays on Monday, but it doesn’t appear serious.

Freshman forward Isaiah Whaley has an impacted wisdom tooth, but will likely have to play through it in Portland. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to get it pulled before the Huskies leave after practice on Tuesday afternoon.

Adams’s hearing for charges that he left the scene of an on-campus scooter accident two weeks ago is scheduled for Tuesday, but he is expected to be on the team’s flight to Portland.


New Haven’s Walter Whyte never really got it going for BU, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds in 22 minutes. Still, BU coach Joe Jones is happy with the freshman wing.

“I don’t think he played his best tonight,” said Jones. “But he’s a talented kid, and he’s a beautiful kid. What a great kid. He’s the reason why we love coaching. He’s a winner, he wants to win … He’s got to learn to play harder and use his athletic ability to make plays for us, whether it’s rebounding or getting to a loose ball. But he gives us another dimension that no one else right now can give.”

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UCONN 85, BOSTON U. 66

BOSTON U. (0-3)

Scanlon 5-11 0-0 12, Havener 7-11 1-4 16, McCoy 1-6 0-0 3, Hankerson 6-15 3-6 20, Whyte 2-6 2-2 6, Mahoney 1-2 0-4 2, Mathon 0-1 2-2 2, Petcash 0-0 0-0 0, Chambers 0-4 0-0 0, Johnson 0-3 2-3 2, Goff 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 23-61 10-21 66.

UCONN (3-0)

Polley 2-4 0-0 4, Onuorah 1-1 0-0 2, Adams 5-14 0-0 12, Larrier 5-12 0-1 11, Gilbert 3-9 1-4 9, Whaley 0-0 0-0 0, Cobb 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 1-1 0-0 2, Carlton 1-3 0-0 2, Diarra 1-1 0-0 2, Foxen 0-0 0-0 0, Vital 9-15 8-11 30, Anderson 3-6 4-4 11, Noyes 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-67 13-20 85.

Boston U.

31

35

66

UConn

39

46

85

Halftime—UConn 39-31. 3-Point Goals—Boston U. 10-27 (Hankerson 5-11, Scanlon 2-6, Havener 1-1, Goff 1-2, McCoy 1-3, Johnson 0-1, Whyte 0-1, Chambers 0-2), UConn 10-30 (Vital 4-10, Gilbert 2-5, Adams 2-7, Larrier 1-4, Anderson 1-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Boston U. 30 (Havener 10), UConn 43 (Larrier 7). Assists—Boston U. 14 (McCoy 4), UConn 13 (Gilbert 6). Total Fouls—Boston U. 18, UConn 19.

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