UConn finally comes home from another frustrating road trip, on a losing streak for the fifth time this season. The Tulane Green Wave await in the midst of a stretch where they have lost 6 of their last 7 games, including a home loss to UConn back on February 7th. In the last meeting, Amida Brimah blocked 8 shots despite playing just 15 minutes while the Huskies offense was paced by Ryan Boatright and Rodney Purvis who combined for 35 points, erasing a 3 point half time deficit on their way to a 9 point victory. UConn's defense held Tulane to just 32 percent shooting from the field.
In the Huskies' loss to Memphis this past Thursday, it was the absence of both field goal defense and offensive combination of Boatright and Purvis that kept UConn from secure the victory. Memphis was able to shoot 10 percentage points better than their season average from three-point land in a game that was decided by just three points. Boatright and Purvis combined for just 18 points on on 2-11 from three. Memphis did an incredible job knowing where Ryan Boatright was at all times, so much so that the Boat Show could only get off 6 shots compared to his season average of 12 shot attempts per game.
Purvis, however, is continuing to be the microcosm of UConn's 2014-15 season. He has been wildly inconsistent and unable to live up to what were sky-high expectations. With the NCAA tournament out of the team's mind until the AAC tournament begins on March 12, it is important for the Huskies to try and figure out one last time what works for them and what does not.
And what is it that the Huskies learned works for them when the Huskies have no where else to turn? The answer is Daniel Hamilton. The interesting part about Thursday's game against the Tigers was that in the long run, the outcome of the game was irrelevant, and the only thing that mattered was the rising confidence of this team. Hamilton made everything happen for UConn and has undoubtedly earned his teammates' trust after almost a full season of endless highs and lows. The star freshman had his best game of the season, totaling 25 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. He was nearly unguardable once he got the ball in the middle of the Memphis zone, able to get the rim at will or create for his teammates. This stat line should feel nearly as good as a win when wins are irrelevant to the Huskies' post-season fate, and I cannot wait to see how Daniel Hamilton can build off this performance to help carry UConn back to March Madness.
The key to stopping Tulane defensively is making sure their trio of scoring guards don't get hot from outside. Louise Dabney, Jay Hook, and Jonathan Stark all average double figures, are 6'3 or shorter, and carry the load on offense for the Green Wave. Their inside play is no match for Amida Brimah if he can stay out of foul trouble, but even Phil Nolan locked down Tulane's big men in the last meeting. In Ryan Boatright's second to last game at Gampel Pavilion, expect the Huskies to take out some anger that built up on this past road trip against a less talented Tulane team.
Prediction: UConn 72 Tulane 57