Bridgeport, CT-- Basketball is a simple game. All you have to do to win is outscore your opponent. That task becomes simpler when you make shots. Tonight the Huskies had their best shooting performance of the season, beating Columbia 80-65 in Webster Bank Arena.
The Huskies shot a season high 57% from the field. It was the type of shooting display that was missing in games against Texas and Duke. UConn was able to generate open jump shots along the perimeter throughout, finishing 9-16 (56%) from three-point range.
Rodney Purvis was the spark tonight. Purvis set his UConn career high and matched his NC State high with 21 points. He finished 7-8 from the field, and 4-5 from deep. Purvis had been struggling since injuring his ankle against West Virginia, but tonight, he offered a glimpse of how talented he really is.
"Everyone was telling me I was due for a good game," Purvis said. "I'm happy to be back. It was important to just be aggressive and not second guess myself when I was open. I'm a good shooter."
The aggressiveness he talked about was key. Earlier in the season, it was routine to see him and Daniel Hamilton pass up open shots in favor of pump faking and driving to the basket for contested shots. Tonight, it was a different story.
"Our ball movement improved. We passed up good shots to get great shots," coach Kevin Ollie said. "Our shooters stepped up. When Columbia went to zone and we put Daniel at the four, that opened the floor for us. It changed the game at the end."
UConn finished with 18 assists, which is a full 7 more than their season average. That type of ball movement led to open looks, which led to more made field goals, allowing the Huskies to break 80 points for the second time in three games.
Ryan Boatright had a monster first half, finishing with 14 points including a buzzer beating three to give UConn a 39-36 lead. He was more of a distributor in the second, recognizing that Purvis, then Hamilton were feeling it. It was another big game from the captain, who finished with 20 points and 8 assists.
"I need these guys. We need everybody to step up if we're going to reach what we want to achieve," Boatright said. "Everyone's confidence was up. When we're sharing the ball, it seems like it just leads to more offense."
Columbia was right in the hunt for this game, they trailed by three as late as 6:26 left in the second half. The Lions got strong production out of their point guard, Maodo Lo. Lo finished with 24 points on 10-15 shooting.
Eventually, though, the Columbia was just overpowered. Over the final 8:32, UConn shot 8/8 from the field, with back breaking threes from Hamilton and Purvis, and alley oops to Amida Brimah.
This was a nice win for the Huskies. Columbia showed up to fight and pushed UConn for most of the game. That in turn led the Huskies to dig deep and find another level to push past. With big time performances from Purvis and Hamilton, Boatright finally got the help he so desperately needs. This is who UConn has the potential to be every night.
"The hard work is paying off. Our guys are getting better," Ollie said post game. "You all saw tonight how good our team can be when we make shots and play solid defense."