STORRS - Never one to shy away from a confrontation, Christian Vital found himself in three of them Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion.
The UConn sophomore guard got into a pregame shoving match with some Central Florida players before the game, nearly came to blows with another Knight or two after absorbing a hard foul in the midst of the game, then nearly was the centerpiece of another fight during the postgame handshake line.
The first centered around a dispute over space for the teams to warm up, the second involved a Flagrant 1 foul by UCF’s Dayon Griffin while Vital was on a breakaway, and the last seemed to be ignited when Griffin either playfully or forcefully smacked Vital on the head.
Vital didn’t delve into the specifics when asked about the incidents after the game, but clearly was satisfied that his team prevailed in such a hard-fought contest.
“I guess that was maybe part of their game plan. They saw how well we were playing as a team and probably wanted to pick me, to come at me to try and get me out of my game,” Vital said. “But my teammates and I, we just stayed together. We got the win, which we needed. So they can talk about that on the plane ride home.”
The teams will meet again in Orlando 20 days from now, so it’s likely there will be plenty of talk in the interim.
UCF coach Johnny Dawkins didn’t appear to like the display, not that he pointed any fingers at a culprit.
“I talked to my guys. We’re always going to be a class program. We’re not going to do a lot of talking or any of those things. We just want to play basketball,” Dawkins said. “I just made that very clear from my perspective as their coach, what I tolerate and don’t tolerate.”
This is the second straight game in which Vital has exchanges some harsh words, and shoves, with an opponent during the handshake line.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie was of two minds on the subject, it seems.
“We definitely want to keep it in check. We don’t want anybody suspended from our team so we have to do a better job, especially when emotions are high, keeping our emotions in check,” Ollie said. “The other team can’t be an instigator, also. I thought a couple times the other team has been the instigator and we’re just protecting ourselves.”
With a fadeaway jump shot late in his team’s win, UConn guard Jalen Adams scored the 1,000th (and 1,001st) points of his collegiate career. He became the 50th player in UConn history to reach that milestone
“It means a lot just being recognized pretty much forever in the book with all those great scorers,” Adams said. “It’s huge and I’m going to enjoy it for a little bit but I’m not going to stick with it. I’m ready to play the next game and get some wins. I want to be up there with those guys in terms of winning.”
UConn forward Eric Cobb, who was suspended indefinitely by Ollie on Monday, was not in attendance for the game.
When Adams was briefly suspended following his scooter crash earlier this season, he sat on the bench in a suit jacket during his one-game absence.
It’s not clear when Cobb, a 6-foot-8 junior from Jacksonville, Florida, will return to the team.