Danny Hurley turned around programs at Wagner and Rhode Island before taking on his newest challenge, returning a tarnished Connecticut brand to national prominence. Hurley claimed "there won't be a harder playing team," when he took the job in March, and Huskies fans will see that team firsthand Thursday when Connecticut hosts Morehead State.
Hurley took over a five-win team at Wagner in 2010-11, won 25 games two years later and posted three 20-plus win campaigns in his final four seasons at Rhode Island before joining UConn, which was in the middle of an ugly divorce from former coach Kevin Ollie. After two losing seasons, Ollie, who led the team to a national title in 2014, was fired for "just cause" which led to the former UConn player threatening a lawsuit against the school. Now with Hurley guiding the way, senior guard Jalen Adams will have to play a big role if the Huskies are going to outplay their fifth place preseason prediction by the coaches. "You get held to an even greater standard when you're the best player because you set the pace of the pack. You've got to do everything right," Hurley told the Hartford Courant about Adams. "Culture is something you have to fight for every day. Our culture is not where it needs to be, overall. When you win 30 games in two years, it's not just a talent issue, it's not just one thing."
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ABOUT MOREHEAD STATE (1-0): The Eagles, who finished last in the Ohio Valley Conference with a 4-14 record last season, opened the 2018-19 campaign with a 102-82 victory over NAIA Kentucky Christian on Tuesday. Malek Green scored a career-best 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting and fellow sophomore De'von Cooper also registered a career best with 16 points. Jordan Walker (12.2 points per game in 2017-18) scored 13 and fellow 6-0 guard A.J. Hicks (11.0 points, 4.2 assists) chipped in 10 points and six assists.
ABOUT CONNECTICUT (2017-18: 14-18): The 6-3 Adams averaged 18.1 points, 4.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds last season, but Hurley wants him to understand that "a great player plays every possession both ends of the court," and that he needs to improve upon his 3-point shooting (32.4 percent). Christian Vital (14.9 points, 5.4 rebounds), a 6-2 junior, also returns after considering jumping to the NBA, and the backcourt could also get a boost from a healthy Alterique Gilbert, a 6-0 McDonald's All-American who has played in just nine games over two seasons due to serious shoulder injuries. Josh Carlton, a 6-9, 240-pound sophomore (4.4 points, 3.7 rebounds) is the top returner in a front court that is very thin on experience.
1. The Huskies defeated Division II Southern Connecticut 96-64 in their only exhibition game as 6-4 freshman Brendan Adams scored 17 points and Jalen Adams added 16. Jalen Adams sat the first six minutes due to violation of team rules.
2. Adams joined SMU's Shake Milton as the only players in the AAC to average at least 18 points, four rebounds and four assists last season. Only 10 others around the country were part of that list.
3. Connecticut ranked among the bottom fifth in the country in scoring (68.2 points), shooting (41.6 percent) and 3-point shooting (32.6 percent).
PREDICTION: Connecticut 74, Morehead State 51 Bet Now
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|Richard Feagin Jr.|