The Huskies didn't win tonight, but they looked better than a reasonable fan could have hoped for.
Losing isn't fun. No one likes losing. But if you were going to walk away from a loss, any loss, feeling good, you have to feel pretty good about UConn's loss to NC State tonight. Make no mistake, NC State is a good team. They are a very good team. Could UConn beat them? Sure, the Huskies lost by four and if they hit a few more layups in the first half this game might have ended very differently, but NC State is good. The Wolfpack were picked to win the ACC and that wasn't an accident.
CJ Leslie is going to the NBA and Richard Howell pulled down a double-double in the second half. You should expect them to dominate an incredibly undersized and thin UConn team. And they did. But the good news for the Huskies is that they didn't dominate them the whole game and UConn fought hard enough to stay with it, even though they could never quite push past the Wolfpack in the second half.
This was easily the best played game UConn has had since its opening win over Michigan State. I certainly would have liked to see more from Shabazz Napier in the second half, or Tyler Olander at any point (he went scoreless tonight), but I'm still feeling good. Adding RJ Evans back into the mix makes a clear difference, and more importantly Enosch Wolf is really starting to emerge as a threat down low. He's not much more than a competent big man right now, but he's starting to show flashes of being a real threat and tonight, for the first time, I found myself watching the Huskies and wanting to see more of him. That's a big step in the right direction.
UConn lost tonight, but they didn't lose badly, and this was a game that could have easily gone very, very badly. I'm walking away feeling very good about the Huskies -- if they continue to play like this they should be 10-2 by the end of their non-conference schedule -- and especially about Kevin Ollie. The man has proven he can coach and his team is obviously responding to him. He deserves a contract and I hope Warde Manuel gives it to him as soon as possible.