UConn 69, Rutgers 63: Wrapping Things Up At Gampel

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Kevin Ollie, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball

STORRS – Emotional night at Gampel, which we all were expecting. A tough game against Rutgers, which we were not.

Give the Scarlet Knights credit, they did not come to be UConn-fodder. They shot well, out-rebounded the Huskies and had a chance to win until the final minutes.

It’s been a little under the radar, but UConn, after an excellent stretch of rebounding through the middle of the season, is back to getting out-muscled. That’s five of the last six games they’ve been out-rebounded, and the one game they had the edge it was not significant, they lost to SMU.

Their shooting was better in this game, 25-for-53 and 12-for-25 on three-point attempts. But Rutgers, which started 1-for-8 and finished 3-for-14, made 20 of 33 shots in between.

Here is our game story for the Thursday Courant.

Some of Kevin Ollie’s postgame thoughts:

“I want to thank my seniors for providing me with loyalty and being faithful to this program. They could have left. They could’ve transferred. They could’ve done a lot of things. But they said ‘We’re going to stay through the tough times and we’re going to get back to where we belong.’

They kept this program alive. I owe them a lot. I can never repay them for what they gave me – a chance to coach them. It’s just been a blessing.

For Niels (Giffey) to get his career-high [in points] and for all the seniors who played on that 2011 national championship team to go 16 for 25 is remarkable. They saved their best for last.

Rutgers came in and shot very well. They played their type of game and they played their pace but at the end of the day we made stops and we got a win. I’ll take 24 and 6 going into Louisville, but we’ve got to be together and that’s what we’re going to be.

It was just a wonderful, special moment to get this win. Hopefully, like I said [to the crowd] we’ll be back here in April celebrating.

[Napier and I]just talked about that, it’s a great milestone but at the end of the day you have to play basketball. You’ve got to lead this team. And that’s what he did. We’re going to have emotional games coming up where we’re going to have to just continue to play and not get wrapped up in all of the emotion. … He was locked in. He was focused.

We’ve got to get back to our defense. Our defense wasn’t locked in like it was with Cincinnati. We need to rebound better. These are some things that we’re going work on before we get to Louisville.”

Here is the UConn notebook, leading with the ceremony.

Have to admit, I was a little surprise to hear Ollie talk about “coming back in April and raising banners.” It seemed out of character, as like most coaches he is a one-game-at-a-time-guy. But I like it, and respect it. As he asked, “do you expect me to think we’re going to lose?”

The players had to feel some of that confidence, that their coach was willing to go out on such a limb. I asked Ollie to elaborate, and the players what they thought, and that’s what I’ll be writing tomorrow.

Here are some pictures from John Woike. … And your box score and Jeff Jacobs’ take are also coming on our main site.

I know the TV cameras picked up something going on between Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright during timeout late in the game, but I did not see it. Napier said it was nothing, FWIW.

Napier is two points behind Kemba Walker for seventh in school history, and nine assists behind Kevin Ollie for No. 2 in assist. … UConn can finish third in the AAC; they would have to beat Louisville and SMU would have to lose to Memphis.

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