Sometimes, it just is not your night. Now, that seems like a bit cliche, but in this case, the UConn Huskies must just be shaking their heads and asking what went wrong. For many fans, this game will quickly be remembered as a disaster on many fronts. In crunch time, UConn made an inspiring 8-0 to cut the lead to just 5, but a series of comic errors on the defensive end gave Tulsa the victory, 66-58.
With tip off delayed until 9:40 pm, this was a contest that went off the rails immediately. UConn played perhaps their sloppiest game of the year, being whistled for 23 personal fouls and committing 15 turnovers which resulted in 17 Tulsa points.
With all the Husky mistakes, all Tulsa had to do was show up, and they would have won. Unfortunately for the Huskies, Tulsa brought a big time effort. UConn simply had no response to the play of Tulsa's dynamic backcourt of Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard. The two combined to slice up UConn's defense for 33 points. Woodard, in particular, was fantastic. The lefty guard was able to get to any spot on the floor and shot the ball with confidence. He came in averaging just over 14 ppg and he finished with a game high 21 points.
For the Huskies, this game was a disaster on almost every level. Only Amida Brimah and Terrence Samuel finished with a shooting percentage over 50% and almost all of their attempts were layups. Daniel Hamilton had a solid breakthrough game, leading the team with 16 points and 12 rebounds, but that came on 6-15 shooting and paired with some very freshman mistakes. Ryan Boatright struggled against Tulsa's guards, scoring just 8 points. Offensively, UConn had little continuity and flow, they looked sluggish and sloppy all night long.
That is the concerning aspect of tonight's loss: the sloppiness of it all. UConn came out with low energy and generally looked uninterested in the proceedings. Committing a higher than average amount of turnovers, allowing Tulsa to get bailed out at the end of shot clocks with dumb fouls, and allowing 7 offensive rebounds amounted to a lethal dose of factors which cause losing.
When the Huskies made their run late in the second half, they created a real chance to steal the game. With under 2 minutes to play, trailing by 5, Ollie instructed his team not to foul and to play out the possession. The UConn defense swarmed and played aggressively for 33, 34 seconds, forcing an off-balance three point attempt from D'Andre Wright. That was exactly what UConn needed, force a miss, grab the rebound, get a score, and get right back in it.
Problem: Shaq Harrison grabbed the offensive rebound. Once again, UConn opted not to foul. They forced a late shot clock attempt again. And again, Tulsa came up with the offensive rebound. That sequence, that right there, is a microcosm of this brutal season for UConn. They'll do just enough to make it tough, but just cannot push it over the top.
This loss drops UConn to 9-6 on the season, 2-2 in the American. They had a chance to grab a share of first place and win a big time conference road game. Instead, they find themselves on a long, miserable flight to Palo Alto and are once again asking themselves what went wrong. It seemed like UConn had turned the corner and established an identity. Well, it's time to go back to the drawing board for this team.