March 6, 2020 / 2:42 AM / a month ago

UConn upends No. 21 Houston behind Vital’s 26 points

EditorsNote: 2nd update: deletes extra word in 5th graf

Mar 5, 2020; Storrs, Connecticut, USA; Houston Cougars guard Caleb Mills (2) warms up before the start of the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UConn senior guard Christian Vital had 26 points in the last home game of his career, leading the Huskies to a 77-71 upset of No. 21 Houston at Storrs, Conn.

UConn withstood a Houston barrage that included three 3-pointers — including two by Quentin Grimes and another basket — in the last 49 seconds, with Vital making eight straight free throws in that span.

The Huskies played their last home game in the American Athletic Conference. UConn (18-12, 9-8 AAC) will rejoin the Big East next season after last playing in that conference in the 2012-13 season.

Houston (22-8, 12-5) is now one game behind Tulsa atop the AAC standings with one game remaining in the regular season. Grimes led the Cougars with 24 points and added six rebounds, and Caleb Mills had 20 points and six boards.

UConn, which built a 66-55 lead with 3:11 left in the second half after a 15-2 run, also got 17 points and seven rebounds from James Bouknight. Isaiah Whaley added 13 points and five rebounds.

The teams remained within three points of each other from 18:29 remaining to the 6:02 mark. Vital’s steal and layup at that point put UConn ahead 58-53.

Vital also made a jumper as part of a 9-0 run that gave the Huskies a 62-53 lead with 4:54 left. The game was close until then with nine ties and five lead changes.

Houston closed the first half on a 10-0 run to take a 37-30 halftime lead.

In the last 4:38 of the half, UConn did not make a field goal. Grimes compiled 10 points, including two 3-pointers. Mills also had five of the 12 points he scored in the first half in the last 1:59 of the half.

UConn opened the second half with a 6-2 run to get back into the game.

The Huskies regained the lead, 47-45, with 12:42 left in regulation on a pullup jumper by Jalen Gaffney.

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