It was ugly at times, but UConn survived a scare from Tulane Sunday at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies (15-11, 8-6) got a big game (again) out of Daniel Hamilton. The freshman had seven points, nine rebounds and nine assists, setting up five alley-oops in the last eight minutes to help UConn hold off the Green Wave.
Hamilton is dominating this month, and he looks to be established now as the No. 2 option for the Huskies after Ryan Boatright. He is taking some pressure off Boatright, who had 30 percent of UConn's points between the UCF game Jan. 22 and the SMU game Feb. 14.
Our experts, Tim Fontenault, Matthew Gionfriddo and Elan-Paolo DeCarlo, are loving Hamilton's production of late, and the freshman was the centerpiece of their discussion after Sunday's win.
Elan-Paolo DeCarlo: Well, wins are wins. As Kevin Ollie said to open his press conference, "It wasn't an easy win, but we'll take it." There were lots of good signs. Amida Brimah didn't miss a who en route to putting up his 2nd straight 19 point game, Ryan Boatright didn't sit and looked healthy, but most importantly, we might finally be seeing the Daniel Hamilton that is going to be a UConn star next year. He's a legitimate threat to post a triple double every night and is becoming more confident each passing game. Defensively, he's figuring out how to use his size and speed to impact the game. Except for the deadly shooting, he's everything we wanted from DeAndre Daniels, and he's just a freshman. It's great to see the young fella take the leap.
Tim Fontenault: The Daniel Hamilton Show is in full swing. What a player. This guy puts up a modest scoring night (seven points) after dropping 25 and still finds a way to be the star. He's a scorer when you need a scorer. He's a rebounder, a facilitator, the complete package. Boatright was raving about him Sunday, saying he thinks he's now the No. 2 guy. Hard to argue.
Matthew Gionfriddo: Having Hamilton do what he has done in the past two games has been fantastic not only from a fan perspective, but from a team perspective too. With the way he's been playing, roles are starting to be more defined which is huge if this team wants to make a run. We need a consistent number two guy and Hamilton has to be the option from here on out due to his playmaking ability. When he gets the ball at around the free throw line, he can be devastating for opposing teams.
And not only is the talent there but, along with Brimah, he is playing extremely hard and the two of them are clear difference makers when on the court. Yesterday, when the two of them were out in the first half, Tulane made their run to get back in it but then they most definitely put the nail in the coffin late in the game. If Hamilton and Brimah both play like that, we are an extremely different team.
DeCarlo: I love what we're seeing out of Amida lately. Whenever he gets the ball, he's looking to score, over the last two games he's averaging 7.0 field goals and 9.5 free throw attempts. That type of aggressiveness is huge for this offense. Early in the game, there is a concerted effort to get Brimah the ball in the post. If he can keep up any semblance of this scoring pace, he offers the Huskies a valuable scoring option.
We need to talk about Rodney Purvis. Is this just who he fundamentally is? A streaky, hit or miss guard who can only play when he's at peak confidence? He has regressed back to his early season form and looks tentative to let his jumper fly. He's hit just three of his last 16 three point attempts over the last three games and generally looks lost on the court.
Fontenault: I’m trying to come up with an explanation for Purvis’ game lately, but I have none. What the heck is happening out there? If he continues like this, it is going to be a problem.
Did Kevin Ollie err by putting him back in the lineup? He was playing well off the bench. He even said he liked that role. I think there needs to be a discussion about bringing him in off the bench and maybe going with a Boatright-Samuel-Hamilton-Nolan-Brimah look against ECU. Maybe even Omar instead of Nolan.
Gionfriddo: Oh Rodney Rodney Rodney Rodney. He actually played pretty well in the first half against Memphis, and I'm not sure if him falling on his wrist early in the 2nd half has had some effect on him, but obviously the theme with him is his inconsistency. I'm not going to use this as excuse for his play this season, but he has faced some enormous pressure in his short time at UConn. From Ollie to the fans, everybody hyped him up like he was going to be the next great player to step foot on UConn's campus which he has obviously not been (there's still time though!). He was immediately thrusted into the role of needing to be one of our main scorers, which he has been on occasion.
Again, I'm not trying to make excuses here for him, but my point is that there is still time for him. Next year, with another year under his belt, he could potentially still make the jump and turn into the player that we expected him to be this season. Also, if we didn't have such a lack of three-point shooting at times, I really don't think he would shoot as much from behind the arc. But, he did just watched us win a National Championship with absurd three-point shooting, so I don't know if he's trying to make up for that, but he should probably stop and just attack the hoop or even hit that midrange jumper that he's been knocking down of late.
Fontenault: That truth about the three is made worse when you throw in Ollie's comments about not wanting to live and die by the three. When Rodney gets inside and either goes to the hoop or pulls up for a mid-range jumper, he's usually money. When he gets cold is when he starts getting trigger happy from deep.
SMU comes to Connecticut for a neutral-site game Sunday. The Huskies need all hands on deck, and that includes Rodney.
DeCarlo: It's time for the huskies to display some old school Big East toughness. Backs against the wall, gotta come out swinging.