UConn looked like itself again in win over Oregon at PK Invitational

Jalen Adams UConn

Connecticut guard Jalen Adams, center, drives to the basket against Oregon forward Keith Smith, right, during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game at the Phil Knight Invitational Tournament in Portland, Ore., Thursday Nov. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)

Ahem…Joe Tessitore voice.

“UConn is back folks!”

Is it too early to nominate the Huskies for “Who’s Back…of the Week” on “Pardon My Take?”

OK, maybe we’re getting a little carried away after UConn’s 71-63 win over Oregon at the PK Invitational in Portland on Thanksgiving night, but for Huskies fans, any win over a non-bottom-feeding AAC school is a good win.

UConn staggered through a 16-17 season last year, one in which they finished two games behind UCF in the conference standings. Yeah, UCF. It was the program’s worst season since 1987, Jim Calhoun’s first year with the school.

Josh Carlton UConn

Connecticut forward Josh Carlton, right, grabs a rebound away from Oregon forward Keith Smith, left, during the first half in an NCAA college basketball game at the Phil Knight Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore., Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)

So forgive Huskies fans if they go full Tessitore in the aftermath of this one, a self-assuring win on the road over a school that reached the Final Four last year.

The Huskies outrebounded the Ducks, 39-36, and got 16 each from Jalen Adams and Alterique Gilbert and 18 from Terry Larrier. They led by seven at halftime, and endured an 18-6 Oregon run early in the second half before pulling away in the final minutes.

It wasn’t a pretty shooting night (familiar from last year), as Connecticut shot a pathetic 3-for-17 from three-point range and just 22-for-58 overall. In that sense, UConn is very much not back.

But this team looks more physically daunting–they’re huge inside and can actually rebound–than they did last year, and they’re playing confident, together, and more intelligently, despite the fact that Kevin Ollie’s entire offense is a throwback to the mid-2000’s NBA (all one-on-one).

The Huskies look like they’ve got some real players–including 6-9 freshman Josh Carlton, who clogged up the lane and was hard to move underneath, unlike the 7-2 Amida Brimah, who amazingly, couldn’t rebound, and fell over in a stiff breeze.

Point guard Alterique Gilbert, a five-star recruit coming into last season, has played up to his billing so far after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. Same goes for VCU transfer Terry Larrier, who’s leading the team in scoring so far after missing most of last year due to a torn ACL.

And of course, there’s Jalen Adams, who’s a fantastic college player and the team’s heartbeat. Though he’s only 6-3 and needs to improve his jumper, we’ll be surprised if we don’t find him in the NBA.

Connecticut has a lot of areas to improve (they had just 4 team assists—4! I’m not even mad–that’s amazing), but they’re now 4-0 with a quality win and a chance for another one on Friday night, likely against Michigan State.

Win that one, and we’ll be saying it even louder—UConn is back.

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