Things did not start off very well for the Huskies in the first half. They were down 7-0 quick and then with about 8 minutes left in the game had only scored 4 points, down double digits to the top overall seed in the tourney field.
Then, UConn hit a couple of quick threes, freshman Terrance Samuel pushed the action and scored a quick basket on a turnover, and the Huskies were quickly back in it. UConn ended the half on a 21-6 run and now hold a three point lead at the half.
The Huskies got back into the game when their defense picked up the aggression and shots started falling. We seem to be catching an offensive rhythm and reminding ourselves that we belong in this game. UConn put out a 3 guard, small ball lineup which payed immense dividends and Niels Giffey did a great job as the de facto Center of this team.
Once again, I can't help but be thrilled with a three point lead given how this whole thing started. Kevin Ollie is a master motivator, and we're a second half team. We played like absolute crap for about 12 minutes and yet somehow have a lead. I like our chances in the second half.
There are very few people on this earth who do not #BLEEDBLUE who also think UConn has a chance to win tonight. Good. That's just the way Kevin Ollie and the players in his locker room want it. It's the way it's been throughout March Madness.
In the Round of 64 many thought the A-10 champions from St. Josephs would force an early exit for the Huskies. To their credit, they almost did- taking UConn to overtime where the Huskies ultimately prevailed.
Then in the Round of 32 they faced a Villanova team which was ranked in the Top-10 most of the season and was given a lot of respect by the selection committee coming out of the "big east", earning a 2-seed in the East Region. In that game all the Huskies did was overcome a double digit deficit and Shabazz Napier foul trouble to comfortably pull away and win just as Kevin Ollie predicted at halftime.
Nobody thought the Huskies had a shot against Michigan State in the Elite Eight. The Spartans were a popular National Champion pick, but Kevin Ollie's team played the defensive game of their lives- holding Sparty to 6 points in the paint.
Experts say that the Florida team we beat in December is remarkably better than the one we play tomorrow without considering that this UConn team has improved dramatically since early December. Kevin Ollie has his team playing incredible defense, and has DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright playing with consistency- something we really hadn't seen all season. Terrance Samuel has emerged as a valuable asset, bringing size and aggression to our back court rotation and our big men have proven competent. Those of us who really know this team know that anything is possible these next three days.
Win or lose, it has been an incredible run for Kevin Ollie and the UConn Huskies. After losing to Louisville badly a few times, it was hard for most to fathom the Huskies making it to the NCAA Tournament's final weekend. But the Husky faithful knew all season that this team had something special, if we could just get all the pieces of this team working together in unison, we can win it all.
This team is peaking at the right time and at this point they're playing with house money. An entire nation believing in Florida puts the pressure squarely on Billy Donovan's team as the unquestioned favorite. They have hardly been challenged all season and definitely not in the tournament, where their smallest margin of victory was actually in the Round of 64 against Albany.
The Huskies need to get off to a good start, maintain the elite level of defense they have been playing (especially in the paint) and they need to shoot well- or at least better than they did against Michigan State. Shabazz Napier has a sense of the moment, and has been able to score at will when necessary; if this game comes down to the final minutes I like our chances, especially given our prowess from the free throw-line.
I love this team, I even predicted they would win it all before the season started and I was dead serious. Right now we stand two games away from making that happen and completing one of the most unpredictable runs in the history of organized sport. KenPom, Nate Silver and whoever else can run all the simulations that they want, but the one stat that stands out to me is "Shabazz Napiers" which we lead 1-0. I believe we can shock the world one more time.
LET'S GO HUSKIES!!