They said the AAC was a defensive conference. Well, the opener for UConn has lived up to that. The two teams slogged through the opening 20 minutes shooting 18/56. Read that again. The two teams have shot a combined 18 of 56. My eye balls are bleeding.
It was a slow, stagnant half for much of the 20 minutes. But there were some good signs. Daniel Hamilton's coast to coast attacks following a rebound have led to UConn's best highlights, an Amida Brimah dunk and a Hamilton layup. Hamilton has been the Huskies best offensive player so far, both as a passer and a finisher.
Boatright and Purvis, who both entered today on hot shooting streaks, have struggled agains the Owls tough defense. They have combined for 4 points on 2/9 shooting. The two makes came on layups towards the end of the half, so that could be a confidence boost going into the 2nd. Boatright in particular has looked poor. I don't know if it's fatigue or injury, but his jumper has been flat and short, he's been unable to elevate on his shot. The key for UConn in the 2nd should be to take the ball out of Boat's hands, and let Hamilton run the offense.
The Owls have lived up to their reputation as a grind it out, defense first team. Jaylen Bond and Jesse Morgan, each with 5 points, have been the focal points on both sides. They've been physical defenders and have forced the action on offense. Temple's offense as a whole took a step back as the half went along, finishing just 8/30 from the field. The reason they lead, though, is they hit 4/12 from three point range and were able to capitalize on 6 offensive rebounds, leading to 4 2nd chance points.
Expect another low scoring 20 minutes coming up. Let's see what adjustments Kevin Ollie cooked up during the break.
Hartford, CT-- The University of Connecticut will open up conference play this afternoon against Temple. The Huskies are riding a two game winning streak, having defeated Columbia and Central Connecticut State over the past week. Shooting has improved as of late, at 55% in the last two games.
In the preseason, UConn was selected as top team in the conference. Temple came in at 6th in that same preseason poll. To start the year, though, the two team's have played at a similar level. The Owls' biggest win this season came a week ago when they knocked off the then No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks. Temple is riding a three game win streak and sports a 20-12 all time record in conference openers since 1982. At 9-4, Temple is off to a fast start. The Owls are currently the AAC's highest rated RPI team. They are led by reigning conference Player of the Week, Jesse Morgan.
As for the Huskies, the story remains quite similar. These last two games have seen in uptick in production, across the lineup. In particular, the elevated play of Rodney Purvis has been a difference maker. He has notched 21 and 14 points in the last game while shooting 11/15. That type of production, especially next to Ryan Boatright, has elevated UConn's offense to a new level. Can this trend continue against a more competitive team?
The Huskies, with just two more non conference games on the schedule, look to build upon their third place finish from a year ago. They went 2-0 against the Owls and hold a 6-3 all time series lead.
So, here we are folks. Play in the American is set to open up. Temple has been a surprise early in the season, which benefits the conference as a whole, especially given the poor start. UConn and Temple are ready to go here at the XL Center.
Follow me on Twitter @ElanDeCarlo and check back here at half-time and after the final whistle for some updates.