STORRS - Age is just a number, except perhaps when it comes to college basketball players.
That’s what Dan Hurley believes, anyway.
The UConn coach, whose younger players made huge contributions during the Huskies’ trip to the Charleston Classic and in general over the last few weeks, appreciates their quick development.
But Hurley is an old-school coach in the sense that he believes young players aren’t enough in this game to make seasons truly impressive.
“To have great teams and have great seasons, you have to get old and stay old,” Hurley said. “If we didn’t have quality older players we would have lost.”
Hurley made that claim soon after his Huskies beat Iona 80-62 Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion, and he was seemingly correct.
His young breakout stars, James Bouknight and Brendan Adams in particular, were quiet offensively against the Gaels. On the other hand, four of UConn’s starters, all juniors and seniors, scored in double figures. Starters accounted for 84 percent of UConn’s points.
“We need to ready. Our older guys need to play like older guys and our young guys just need to fill in when they get their turn,” said UConn senior guard Christian Vital after he had 16 points and nine rebounds. “It really shouldn’t be too much of a drop-off. That’s why it is kind of frustrating or surprising when they don’t do it but it’s a long season. The young guys will, we’ve definitely seen great moments from them.”
Vital just wanted some greater moments from his teammates as a whole after Wednesday’s game. Staring at a printout of the box score after the game, Vital shook his head.
“We should have got these guys by 20,” Vital said “Or more.”
The Huskies weren’t far from that mark, mostly because of their “old” guys.
Bouknight, who was off to an especially impressive start since being suspended earlier this season, nearly went scoreless. He netted his only two points when Alterique Gilbert found him cutting along the baseline for an easy layup.
Gilbert scored 12 points, Josh Carlton 19 and Tyler Polley 14. Adams came off the bench to score five, though all of those points came in the final minute-and-a-half with the outcome of the game not in dobut.
UConn (6-2), which has now won three straight games, returns to action Tuesday night against unbeaten and unranked Indiana (8-0) at Madison Square Garden in New York.
If the Huskies are to beat the Hoosiers and continue to improve, Hurley is fairly certainly he’ll need a mix of young and old players contributing.
Most of the Huskies have come around to his way of thinking, which is why practice and preparation has been easier for everyone this season, the coach says. But it’s far from perfect, especially as far as the younger players’ efforts are concerned, giving Hurley ample justification to preach to his players about what it takes to be good or perhaps even great.
“We’re trying to go from being a bad team the last couple years to being a good team,” Hurley said. “In order to do that, you have just be consistent. You have to be consistent in terms of how you play on both ends of the court, knowing what a good shot is, taking care of the ball, understanding the defensive principles, understanding the game plan, understanding scouting.
“As a program, we’re still immature. We’re better. We’re more talented. We’re trending in the right direction. But it takes time to be consistently good,” Hurley added.
And, the coach reiterates often, it takes “old” guys on top of their games.