This is what the Huskies are capable of. For a long stretch of the second half, UConn played with edge and looked like a team with aspirations beyond a tournament in November.
Going up against a team like Dayton was a big test. Although not the most physically gifted team in America, Dayton is well coached and is unafraid of big moments. A year ago, they reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and boast a veteran laden team with a star coaching prospect on the sideline. Dayton came into today absolutely expecting to win the basketball game, and in the first half, they matched up well.
The Huskies were led by their guards. Ryan Boatright (20), Rodney Purvis (19), and Sam Cassell Jr (8) were the driving forces, on both sides of the ball. It is a program staple to have tremendous guard play and this year looks to be no different. They combined for 47 points, on 15-31 shooting.
Boatright led the Huskies with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. It's becoming redundant, even this early, but Ryan Boatright is on a mission this season. He's been the best player on the floor in all 3 game's UConn has played in.
The referees were the dominant party in the first half of the game. They called a combined 21 fouls, with 14 going against the Huskies. Six UConn players were whistled for 2 fouls in the half, which killed their defensive flow. They were able to withstand Dayton's attack for the first 30 seconds of the shot clock, but would collapse at the end, giving the Flyers a boost. Dayton ended up shooting 18 foul shots in the half, which balanced out their horrid outside touch. Over the course of the game, UConn committed 6 "and-one" fouls. That type of sloppiness will kill the Huskies. Dayton's Jordan Siebert paced the Flyers with 13 first half points. At the end of the half, the game was knotted at 41-41, an impressive display from both sides.
In the second half, the defenses took over. It was a classic UConn performance. The true mark of defensive intensity is proved by how low Kevin Ollie gets into a crouch. At times today, KO looked like he wanted a pair of shorts and check himself in.
Amida Brimah, Kentan Facey and Daniel Hamilton combined for 8 blocks on the afternoon, effectively walling off the paint to the Flyers. Dayton scored 26 points in the paint in the 1st half. In the 2nd, that number fell to just 6. Brimah specifically got into their heads. Playing 15 minutes in the second half, Brimah was able to impose his will on the game, specifically with a monster 3 blocks on one possession.
Although the Coliseo Roberto Clemente was sparsely filled, the atmosphere was intense. The second half crowd brought good intensity making the game feel bigger than a late November semifinal. This was UConn's biggest test to start the season, and the Huskies passed with flying colors.
UConn improves to 3-0 and will play the winner of Boston College-West Virginia on Sunday in the championship of the Puerto Rico Tip Off.