CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Brendan Adams had a career-high 20 points and Christian Vital added 16 points and 10 rebounds as UConn held off Buffalo 79-68 at the Charleston Classic on Thursday night.
The win by the Huskies (3-1) sets up a Big East past, present and future matchup with No. 18 Xavier on Friday night as former league heavyweight UConn faces current Big East beast in the Musketeers with the winner advancing the tournament finals.
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.
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
The Bulls (2-2) closed to 65-62 on Davonta Jordan’s foul shot with 4:07 left. But Adams followed with his second 3-pointer of the game and Buffalo could not get closer than four points the rest of the way.
Adams, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, surpassed his previous high of 15 points set in a win over Sacred Heart earlier this month.
Josh Carlton also had a double-double for the Huskies with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
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.
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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