Storrs- UConn was able to turn a seven point half time deficit to an 13 point victory behind the strong play from senior guard Ryan Boatright. His 23 points were the catalyst for UConn snapping their two game win streak. The victory improves UConn to 12-9 (5-4 AAC) on the season. East Carolina falls 9-13 (2-7 AAC).
The Huskies opened the second half on a 14-0 run to take control of the game. Eventually, ECU worked their way back into it, but UConn hit them with a 17-0 run later in the half to take a 60-44 lead, which would hold for the rest of the game.
"That was our best 2nd half we've played this season, defensively and offensively," coach Kevin Ollie said. "That 2nd half is UConn basketball. No one cares who scores, we're moving the ball. Getting back on defense, playing UConn basketball."
Boatright has been on fire over the last three games from downtown. He's made 17 of his last 32 three point attempts. "I don't know what Boat's been doing, but I like what he's doing," Ollie said.
"We were moving the ball and getting the shots we wanted," Boatright said. "When guys are guarding me, they're afraid I'll drive by them so they back off, go under screens, so that gives me room. It makes the game easier."
UConn started this game with a weak offensive showing. They finished the first half 10-25 and trailed 34-27 at the break. They came out firing in the second half, going on a big run to take the lead and they never looked back from there. Boatright, Terrence Samuel and Rodney Purvis combined for 26 second half points.
The addition of Samuel to the starting lineup opened up the floor for the Huskies. His presence gave the team an additional ball handler and shot creator. He finished with 9 points and 5 assists. It was one of the best games Samuel has had this season. Don't be surprised if he gets more opportunities to start. Ollie mentioned in his post game press conference that playing Boatright off the ball got him easier looks.
A key adjustment was moving Daniel Hamilton to the power forward position for stretches of the game. Hamilton finished with 9 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 0 turnovers.
"Getting Daniel to the 4 changed the flow of the game. He can rebound like a 4 and when he's out there, that gives us four guys who can make plays off the bounce," OIlie said. "It looked a little like last year, with DeAndre (Daniels) out there. Daniel gives us a similar option."
The Huskies really ratcheted up the defensive intensity in the second half. ECU shot a blistering 13-24 from the field, 8-13 from three in the first half. UConn held them to 7-21 from the field, just 3-8 from three, in the second. Ollie, Boatright and Hamilton all discussed post game how the goal for the second half was to run the Pirates off the three point line and hold them to under three makes from deep. They executed perfectly. When the Huskies are able to swarm like they did tonight, they make a formidable defensive unit.
East Carolina got a strong performance out of freshman guard B.J. Taylor. He finished 8-11 from the field for 21 points, leading the Pirates. At times, he looked in complete control, able to get to any spot on the floor with impressive speed. This kid has a chance to be a special player in the AAC. Along with Hamilton, he should be a member of the AAC All Freshman team at year's end.
The victory was important for UConn. Going forward, the Huskies need to continue taking care of the teams they need to beat in order to get a high seed in the conference tournament. A bid in the national tournament is still available. UConn will need more performances like this to get it.