Hartford-- Well, for all those who thought the Huskies were doomed, this game should be a stark reminder of the potential this team has. Hosting the first place Tulsa Golden Hurricane, the Huskies had revenge on their mind. Tulsa beat them by 8 in January. But tonight was all UConn, right from the opening whistle.
Tulsa coach Frank Haith summed it up best.
"They whipped us in every aspect of the game."
In a twist, UConn started the game with a small lineup. Terrence Samuel took Kentan Facey's usual starting spot, to accompany Ryan Boatright, Rodney Purvis, Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah. That decision turned out to be a stroke of genius. The smaller lineup opened the floor for UConn's speed to take over the game, on both ends.
"Daniel really spread the floor and allowed us to attack...It just gives us a lot more spacing, a lot more creativity in the package we have offensively," coach Kevin Ollie said.
This game was all about the defense. Terrence Samuel and Amida Brimah set the tone early, going all out on every possession. A 10-0 run to start the game pushed UConn and they never looked back. Brimah finished with 7 blocks, one shy of his career high. He challenged a ton of others and generally served as a massive deterrent to the Tulsa offense. Playing most of the game with a 3 guard set, Daniel Hamilton and Brimah, the Huskies were flying around, harassing Tulsa's guards. UConn forced 6 turnovers, converting them into 8 points. Tulsa shot just 31% from the field.
"Our defense got us going," Hamilton said. "We used our defense to get into our offense and run. It's really fun playing together, sharing the ball. Our defense made our offense go."
Offensively, UConn got strong production up and down the lineup. Ryan Boatright, as per usual, led the charge with 23 points. He's been on fire recently and to carry that over tonight was huge. Rodney Purvis chipped in 17 points, 13 of which coming in the 2nd half.
A big standout from today's game was the way they started. All year long, UConn has struggled to come out of the gate strong, but when they do, they capitalize. Tonight's victory improved UConn's record to 8-0 in games where they lead at halftime.
"It's always better to play when you're up than when you're having to come back. We've been in that position a lot, so we're trying to change that. We want to get out, get a lead, and just play sound and continue to share the ball and do the small things to keep the lead," Purvis said.
All in all, this was a dominant performance from the Huskies. "This was our most complete game of the season, offensively and defensively," Ollie said. "We won by 25. It was a really good chance for our guys to see how good we can be."
They controlled the flow, pace and structure of the game on both ends. Start to finish, the Huskies have not played a better game all season. To beat the top team in their conference, in this fashion, is a message sent loud and clear.
"We've just got to keep going. Guys are getting in the gym and putting in the extra work, and that's what it takes to get to the next level and to be a great team," Boatright said. "We've been playing with a sense of urgency. We control our own destiny."
For all of those who buried the Huskies, look out. This team is ready to go.