Despite a late scare UConn captured the win tonight against UCF on their horrific dark shaded court in Orlando.
UCF made it a game early thanks to some unsustainably good shooting but UConn pulled away in the closing minutes of the first half, building a 17 point halftime lead. The second half was more of the same until UCF made a run keyed by a very special young man.
The defining story of tonight's game was the emergence of UCF's 6-foot-10, 300+ pound Center, Justin McBride, who was able to score 11 points within five minutes of entering the game. He made Phil Nolan and Amida Brimah look like flagpoles and easily powered through anyone who dared to defend him. I know Nolan, Brimah and the rest of our front court don't present the most formidable challenge, but the freshman could be trouble for opponents down the stretch this season and downright dangerous in the future. His 13 points tonight were his first of the season due to an ACL injury. As you can imagine, the fans raucously cheered every one of his buckets and the energy lifted his teammates, motivating them to cut the lead down to single digits.
Justin McBride is like Wilt Chamberlain/Shaquille O'Neal combined right now. Literally.
For the Huskies, Lasan Kromah was my MVP. He had 11 points after the first half and finished the game with 17 points on 7-11 shooting along with seven rebounds and four steals. His aggressive defense and timely offense were critical for the Huskies tonight- what an extraordinary addition to the team. Kromah was one of five Huskies who finished in double figures. Ryan Boatright finished with 11 after hitting a few late buckets to help UConn pull away. Phil Nolan was a perfect 5-5 from the field in his 10 point performance and DeAndre Daniels had a solid outing in his first game back from injury- going for 16 points and seven rebounds.
UConn outrebounded UCF, 42-31 and held an 18-12 edge in offensive rebounds as well. The first half was defined by some great post play from Nolan and Daniels; while the Huskies mixed it up a little in the second half, they were at their best when they were attacking the basket. Curiously, they go through stretches where they abandon this very successful strategy. But we are certainly more disciplined than earlier in the season and Kevin Ollie's team continues to show improvement in every game.
Omar Calhoun was held to 0 points on 0-1 shooting in 7 minutes... I don't know.
Due to UCF's late run, we didn't see much of Terrance Samuel and none of Kentan Facey. Sadface.
Giffey shot an uncharacteristic 1-7 from the field, including 0-3 from deep. Only had 2 points on the game.
UConn had 13 turnovers, which isn't great, but won the turnover battle- forcing UCF to commit 18
On Deck: UConn hosts USF on Wednesday, February 12th at the XL Center at 7pm.
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