At one point during the second half of UConn's obliteration of South Florida Wednesday night, the score was 54-17. USF scored 14 points in the first half. By comparison, UConn scored it's 15th point of the night with 12:35 to go in the first half.
It wasn't the women's team playing a game, where scores like that have become common place. USF, despite obviously being a horrific squad, isn't a Division II school. This was a matchup of two conference "rivals" that didn't really look like much of a match-up at all.
Look, trying to find something wrong with the Huskies eventual 83-40 win would be sorta like complaining about a small freckle on Scarlett Johansson's ... well, you get the idea. This was a near-perfect performance against a team that, about 7 minutes in, clearly had given up any notion of putting up a fight. Everything seemed to work well, so well in fact that UConn barely needed anything from its all-everything guard Shabazz Napier (7 points in 18 minutes). In fact, everyone got plenty of time to rest in this one, and plenty of role players had a chance to figure out what roles they can actually play.
If you're looking for individual performances, you can point to DeAndre Daniels scoring 12 points in 23 minutes of work, and abusing whomever was guarding him at the time. Daniels has that unique ability to look like he's moving in slow motion yet get by his defender when he's clicking on all four cylinders. Last night, he appeared to be exerting the same amount of energy you and I would going to the fridge for another beer. At one point, Daniels was running out on a fast break when he got the pass, took one dribble, was hit by the defender, and banked the ball in while falling to the ground. All of it, even the falling part, looked effortless.
Then there was Amida Brimah. This was one of those "not in my house" games for the big man. He swatted away six shots and had a few Patrick Ewing-esque intimidation goaltends. Brimah patrolled the middle like a shot blocking big man should, and sent most of what came at him back into the stands. His best play was on a block where he kept the ball in play, grabbed it before it went out of bounds, and then passed it to Ryan Boatright for the beginning of a fast break. Just awesome.
Of course, Lasan Kromah was his usual steady-Eddie self. He didn't put up big points (only four) but, as usual, he was in the right place at the right time throughout the game, sparked the team a few times, and played tenacious defense.
And that's really what this game was all about. Sure, USF seemed like an easy team in which to play defense against, but UConn was absolutely unrelenting. Nothing came easy for USF. UConn begged them to take jumpers from the outside, playing swarming interior defense, and grabbed 10 more rebounds than South Florida (41-31). They had 9 steals and 11 blocks. USF 14 first-half points. By comparison, UConn scored it's 15th point of the night with 12:35 to go in the first half.
This was the very definition of a blowout, and it started on the defensive side of the ball.
What that led to was a night with a lot of Terrence Samuel and Kentan Facey.
By halftime, watching these two heralded but rarely-used freshmen get significant minutes for really the first time all year was the only reason to stay tuned in, aside from the joy of seeing UConn dismantle an opponent like that. Samuel looked good, played good defense, made some clear freshmen mistakes, but showed the glimpses of being a good college players that's appeared at times throughout the course of the year.
Facey, who's gotten less court time than Samuel, was more impressive. He scored 10 points in 18 minutes on 4-5 shooting, used his long arms and athleticism to score and rebound, and just looked like a more confident player than he's appeared in the brief opportunities he's gotten this season.
Of course, any success for these two has to be tempered by the woeful play of the adversary. USF looked like a beaten team when they fell behind by 10 points in the first few minutes of the game, and it was hard to see any glimmer of life shine through from then on. However, when you're looking to build young players' confidence, throwing them some red meat never hurt. Maybe Samuel and Facey take this game and turn it into better performances in the future. Maybe not. All I know is, it was fun to get an extended look at two guys who, starting next year, may be integral to UConn's success.
In the end, I'm not sure you can take much away from this game. USF is brutal and Memphis is coming quick on Saturday. However, if there's one thing that's become clear in the last month, it's that UConn has corrected it's issue of playing down to bad opponents and not putting it's foot on the throat of an over-matched team.
Now, let's see if they can beat a few more good teams as we get closer to March.