I did not see the game yesterday, so this isn't a recap in the "here is what the Huskies did well and this is what they did poorly and Alex Oriakhi needs to get more rebounds*" sense. Rather, this is a recap in the "blindly assuming things about the Huskies based on a game I didn't see sense."
I wasn't near a computer and my phone was dying yesterday so the only way I was able to follow the game was through periodic updates on ESPNNEWS. This was fine early on when UConn seemed to be building momentum. If memory serves they had something like a 21-14 lead and I felt pretty good. Perhaps our two-game funk was just that, we'd dispatch Seton Hall with ease and I could rest easy knowing my UConn Huskies weren't imploding.
Then, of course, I saw that we were trailing at the half and I had the exact opposite reaction. A winless February seemed like a distinct possibility and I started to get depressed in anticipation. As any good Syracuse fan will tell you, good basketball teams do not lose to Seton Hall, and well, we seemed to be on the verge of losing to Seton Hall.
That building depression turned into complete devastation when I saw there were about eight minutes left and UConn was down something like 54-46. I assumed Jeremy Hazell - who know seems to be in his 7th year of eligibility - had found a new and interesting way to torment me.
But then something miraculous happened: Seton Hall stopped scoring. My only research for this piece was a cursory look at the AP recap** and box score so I don't know if they got cold or our defense got hot, but every time UConn's score came up on the television the Huskies had more points than they did before and Seton Hall was stuck on 54.
The powers that be mercifully simulcast the last minute of the game on ESPNNEWS so I saw Roscoe Smith's clutch free throws and Oriakhi's lovely block, and then, well, we won.
I'm not sure how much to celebrate that comeback, but I do know this: a loss yesterday would have been devastating to this team. The losses against Louisville and Syracuse were rough, but losing three games in a row in this conference would have been a crushing blow to a team this young. I don't know when or how we could have recovered from that and I suspect that we would not have at all.
It is tough to put things in context mid-season, but I suspect we'll look back on this in one of two ways. The first, which is very possible, is that this will be a seen as a relative high point in a slow decline brought on by the twin burdens of Kemba Walker's fatigue and the team's youth. The second, which is what I actually feel (because I'm a homer), is that this is the moment when the season could have fallen apart but didn't because the team all but shut out a Big East team for the last eight minutes of a road game.
After two hard-to-take losses you have to believe these guys will get a huge momentum boost going forward into what should be a relatively easy portion of the schedule. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I'm incredibly excited to see how these guys come out for their next game, because I think we might see something special.
One final note: This team has now won 18 games. Last year's team won 18 games. The difference is that these guys are going to win a 19th, and perhaps many more after that.
*While I did not see the game, I did see a box score. Oriakhi had six rebounds, which, while a nice start, is not enough. I can't help but note that Shabazz Napier also had six rebounds. I appreciate that effort from Bazz, but if those two ever have the same amount of rebounds on a night when Shabazz is not putting up a triple-double or we're not playing Seton Hall, we will lose. One other, unrelated, box score note: Kemba appears to have shot a bit better, but his free throw shooting was dreadful. The man is tired and I hope we crush someone soon so he can come out of the game and have a rest.
**The AP story had a Jim Calhoun quote for the ages: "I didn't want to hear a damn excuse - I didn't use that word exactly. ‘I hear one excuse and I will put you on the bench so hard that you'll still be here when we come back here next year. This game is winnable.' And then they did it."