STORRS – This was a clunker, and it hurt UConn.
The sound of basketballs hitting iron was prevalent at Gampel on Sunday. The Huskies shot 29 percent, their lowest of the season, worse even than the Stanford game (31.7). They didn’t score the first 6:14 and it went downhill from there.
And it hurts in several ways. UConn, ranked 21st, probably will fall out of the rankings again on Monday. They were in real good shape in RPI at 25th, but losing at home will probably drop them some. And it now seems certain they will not finish in the top three in the AAC and have to start the league tournament with the 4-5 game against the host, Memphis.
Then there is the sting of losing on the day the 1999 champs were honored. Just a bad, bad day.
“It’s a setback because we lost,” Ryan Boatright said. “I don’t think we played a bad game as far as things we really need to work on. I think we did everything well. We just didn’t make shots. We even executed our plays. We just missed the shot at the end. . We were off as a team. We were missing shots but even after all of that we were only down two points at halftime. We can’t make other excuses. We just have to make shots.”
The Huskies were 16 for 54, and didn’t get many open shots. They missed too many of the ones they did get. They outrebounded SMU, though that seemed impossible from watching the game, and played pretty good defense, especially in the first half.
But SMU used the key to success against UConn, forcing the Huskies to play in the half court game and the Huskies could not execute, did not move the ball side to side – first side, second side, back to third side, back again to fourth side, as Kevin Ollie describes it.
“We should have cut better to give ‘Bazz and ‘Boat more options,” Niels Giffey said. “… Our offense was stationary at times.”
This is where UConn needs to get better, or more consistent, and do it against the better teams. The Huskies are 7-1 against the AAC’s bottom half, but 2-4 against the top half. Next up, at South Florida on Wednesday.
Here is the main game story for the Monday Courant.
Some of Kevin Ollie’s take
“Tough game [for] us. Coach Brown had those guys ready to play. They loaded up the first and second side. I told the guys the whole time we were preparing “we’ve got to get to the third and fourth side.” We just didn’t have enough discipline to do that and we didn’t stay solid enough to do it.
We out rebounded them, but you can’t shoot 29 percent. I’m looking at our starters, Shabazz 5 for 16, Ryan 5 for 16, DeAndre 2 for 10. Man, there were a lot of missed shots. You just can’t win like that.
We’ve just got to play more solidly on the offensive and defensive end. That’s about all you can do from this type of game. We’ve got to be a tougher-minded team. We just weren’t that today.
They’ve got a good group of guys over there, and they play hard and they play together. They were tough defensively, but you just have to move the basketball. We made them even tougher by staying on the first side. But they are tough defensively. They’re long and aggressive. Nic Moore is a tough-headed point guard. And they go 10 deep. Everybody who comes off is long and athletic. They play hard and they know [Brown’s] system. And they trust each other. We’ve got to get to that point where we trust each other.
We’ll get there. We do it in spurts. But you have to do it 40 minutes to beat a good team like SMU, you can’t play in spurts, which I thought we did today. We came out lackadaisical in the first half. In the second half, they kind of went on a run and put us back on our heels. That’s when you have to have even more trust in one another.
We have to play better. We put ourselves in a good position and we have to keep going. Hopefully we’ll learn from it. We won’t shoot 29 percent ever again, hopefully and if we face them in the tournament we’ll be better prepared.”
Rip Hamilton looks to be in great shape and he is hoping to land with a team for a playoff push. Larry Brown said he has been calling teams and will do some more of that. It’s not hard to figure out what Hamilton, waived by the Bulls last summer, wants:
“I just want to go to the right team,” he said, “I want to be on a team that has an opportunity to win it. I want to be in a situation where I have an opportunity to get another ring, that’ show you build your legacy. If I get an opportunity to do that, it would be great.”
Hamilton won titles in college and in the pros, with Brown and the Pistons in 2004.
The sellout crowd at Gampel made a lot of noise and enjoyed the ceremony honoring Jim Calhoun, Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin and others of the 1999 team – Jake Voshuhl, Souleymane Wane, Richard Moore, Beau Archibald, Kevin Freeman, Ricky Moore, Karl Hobbs, Tom Moore, among them. That part of the day was nice.
“Coming back into Gampel with that hardware, it was the high point of my coaching life,” Calhoun said. “It was like, ‘we’re here.’”
All the titles are different, special in their own way, but there can be only one first. And for UConn, after all the near misses, that first one was unforgettable.
One Husky had a good shooting day – the dude in the wool cap who made the halfcourt shot for the $1,000 gift card at Bob’s. Seems like you should get something more for that, just sayin.
Larry Brown and Dee Rowe were assistants together on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team that was caught in the boycott of the Moscow games. Brown on Kevin Ollie: “I don’t think he got enough credit for what he did last year, when UConn had nowhere to go [in the tournament].”
Brown called Ollie as good a teammate as he ever coached. “And he is here for the right reasons, a lot of coaches today are not here for the right reasons.”
Brown also had high praise for Amida Brimah: “He’s getting better by the minute.”
Oh, here’s one thing we can say for sure: Brown, at 73, still has it.
The Huskies had a recruit at the game, 2015 big man Jessie Govan.
Here are some great pics from our Mike McAndrews
And your box score.