At first it looked like we were in line for another disappointing performance. A large chunk of the first half saw UConn look a lot like the team that blew a ten point lead to Stanford on Wednesday. Shots weren't going in, offensive ball movement was poor and Washington didn't seem to be having too much trouble finding open shots or capitalizing on UConn mistakes. Huskies-B were up 28-15 with 7:22 left before UConn finally shook off the jet lag- at least I hope that's what was ailing them.
Keyed by an 18-4 run, UConn was able to claim the lead with under 2 minutes left on a Boatright three. The first half ended with UConn on top 43-39. Boatright had 16 points to go along with 5 rebounds and two steals. Shabazz Napier led the team in both points and rebounds, with 20 and 6 respectively.
My MVP vote, however, goes to Lasan Kromah. The veteran transfer was the catalyst for the first half run, earning him the right to start the second half in place of Omar Calhoun. He started the second half by being the best two way player on the court for about five minutes and ended with 14 points and an impressive 5 steals. Commence Lasan Kromah nickname sequence.
UConn was able to hold Washington at bay for most of the second half even though at times it looked like the other Huskies were threatening to come back. Somebody always came through for UConn though, which was my biggest takeaway from the game. At different stretches it was either DeAndre, Kromah, Boatright or Napier making a play to help the Huskies hold on to their cushy lead. Those four players scored double digits and Phil Nolan came close with 8 points to go with 5 rebounds off the bench. Ball movement was crisp for the last twenty-seven minutes of the game and instead of forcing contested shots, UConn was attacking the basket.
It was important for Kevin Ollie's team to follow up Wednesday's home loss with a solid performance on the road. It didn't matter how far they were flying, this was an inferior team that should easily beat. UConn can't expect to overcome a start like that against Louisville, Memphis or Cincinnati, so hopefully Ollie knows what moves he needs to make.
Amidah Brimah got the start over Phil Nolan but had a modest 4 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks; on the stat sheet it looks like Nolan may have been the better player but I liked the athleticism and intensity that Brimah brings on the defensive end. Lasan Kromah and Niels Giffey have proven that one of them might deserve consideration for the starting role over Omar Calhoun, who just can't seem to find his way offensively. I'll be interested to see if Ollie tries out anything new for the next game against Eastern Washington.
This is not a very good Washington team, so it's really good that this didn't get as close as some other games have been in the past. We have been clamoring for UConn to put inferior opponents away all season, and finally they did today. With the emergence of Lasan Kromah, I continue to be encouraged by UConn's balance and the variety of ways we can beat other teams. After the Stanford loss Kevin Ollie mentioned that his team did a poor job of going to alternate options when their primary scorers weren't available. Today it looked like they did a good job of spreading the ball around and putting teammates in a position to make plays. Good.
UConn will be ending 2013 with a game in Bridgeport's Webster Arena against Eastern Washington and then a road trip to open the Amer-Con slate against Houston on New Years Eve. They'll stay in Texas for a game at plucky SMU to kick off 2014.