Photo: Bill Kostroun / Associated Press
NEWARK, N.J. — Dan Hurley is as Jersey as Bruce Springsteen, but his return to “his hometown” on Saturday night was a far cry from his “glory days.”
Florida State’s superior size and athleticism was just too much for UConn to overcome, and the 11th-ranked Seminoles pulled off a 79-71 victory in a Never Forget Tribute Classic game at the Prudential Center that was, well … rather forgettable.
In the Jersey-born Hurley’s return to his old stomping grounds, a seemingly endless array of referees’ whies and replay reviews turned the game into a somewhat unwatchable slog that took nearly 21/2 hours to complete.
FSU led by as much as 16 midway through the latter half, and though the Huskies mounted somewhat of a comeback, led by the hot hand of Alterique Gilbert, it was too little, too late.
Gilbert finished with a team-high 21 points and three 3-pointers, and Kassoum Yakwe had his best game as a Husky, with four points, a team-best six rebounds, two blocks and a pair of charges.
But a subpar game from Jalen Adams, who finished with 18 points but shot just 5-for-14 and turned the ball over four times, was too much for UConn to overcome.
FSU’s Terance Mann led all scorers with 19 points, including the 1,000th of his career.
Florida State led 39-33 at halftime, but quickly upped it to a 15-point bulge within a disastrous first few minutes of the latter half for UConn.
Mann began the half with a 3-pointer, and over the next 21/2 minutes, Josh Carlton picked up his third foul, then Tyler Polley his third and fourth. Mann mixed in a pretty reverse dunk in transition, and when he scored an inside buck with about 17 minutes left, the Seminoles were up 15.
UConn could do little against FSU’s big frontline, too often driving into traffic and flailing up wild shots — or getting them rejected. The game slogged on, with an array of whistles and replay reviews. Even when FSU’s lead had been sliced to 11, it felt like 20.
The Huskies had one last burst of hope, as a trio of Gilbert 3-pointers — the latter two on consecutive possessions — got them to within seven, and the largely pro-UConn crowd got loud.
But the Seminoles quickly countered with an Anthony Polite 3-pointer, followed by a Christ Koumadje dunk. The Huskies got to within five a couple of times within the final 90 seconds, but no closer.
UConn came out of the gates with boundless energy, as Vital started the game with a steal and dunk to spark a 7-0 Husky start. However,Vital quickly picked up his second foul (on a technical) and Carlton, Eric Cobb and Polley would also have a pair of fouls before the half was over.
Meanwhile, the Huskies turned the ball over 11 times — four by Adams and three by Gilbert. That helped negate a surprising, 23-16 first-half rebounding edge — including eight on the offensive end — for UConn, and some rare contributions from Yakwe (four points, three boards).
Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, the two key cogs on UConn’s 2011 national championship team, were at the game, seated in the front row across from the isitors’ bench. Walker and Lamb are current teammates on the Charlotte Hornets, who play the Knicks on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Florida State is now 5-3 all-time against UConn. Leonard Hamilton improved to 6-11 all-time against UConn — 1-1 at Florida State, 5-10 at Miami. UConn is now 4-2 inside the Prudential Center.
The Huskies now have a week off for final exams before hosting Manhattan on Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion.