UConn 86, Memphis 81 (OT): Wrapping Things Up At XL …

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, AP Top 25, Kevin Ollie, Omar Calhoun, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball
Date:

HARTFORD – Great college basketball game. Really, the AAC can produce them.

The top five teams in the conference, all of which are ranked, are enough to make this first year of the new conference rather interesting. It will take time for rivalries to develop, and take time for some of the programs now at the bottom to build up.

And, let’s face it, UConn doesn’t really want to hang around long enough for that to happen. … But if you live in the moment, enjoy the moment, these two UConn-Memphis games have been pretty good. UConn-Cincinnati was ugly, but good. Cincy and SMU are still to come to Connecticut, so those should be good games, too. This was the first sellout at XL in two years, BTW.

For UConn, it was a great win. The Huskies will stay in the rankings now, should move up several spots and are now just about assured to be in the NCAA Tournament.  They’re clawing their way back up the league standings now, tying Memphis now. A second-place finish seems do-able now, and if Cincinnati fades, who knows?

All in all, a good day for UConn. Here’s some Kevin Ollie:

“The stat sheet is not pretty, but I’ll take a win any day. They stayed in the middle of the ring.  We didn’t knock Memphis out until the end of the game, but we kept throwing body blows, body blows, body blows.  Finally in overtime we got that lead and we didn’t relinquish it.”

They outrebounded us, they shot 55 percent., but we got to the free throw line, we kept putting pressure on them, defensively, and when we needed stops, we got ‘em. I just tip my hat off Ryan, to Shabazz and everybody. They kept grinding, it was a great game for those two and a great game collectively. What we did, we stayed in the game at the free throw line, and we stayed in the game with turnovers, we had six turnovers and they had 18. And that was the game.

It was a Connecticut win. It wasn’t the prettiest game on our end, but at the end of the day, we found a way. That’s why I love this team. They may be small, or whatever you want to write, but you can’t measure their heart. They got the greatest heart ever. I’m very proud of them.

The crowd was absolutely great. When we were down, they just willed us. That’s what we need each and every day. They were that extra guy on that bench that we didn’t have. They just kept pushing us and pushing us and pushing us. They weren’t going to let us lose this game.

I wanted Phil in [Nolan]. Shaq Goodwin was very aggressive, and they brought David Pellom in and they go small sometimes. I just wanted to keep Phil in, he did a great job. Amida [Brmah] is going to have his day just like all our guys. Tyler came in and was productive.

We got snowed in the other day and everybody came in and shot. Those are the t hings you don’t see, that I see. These guys are committed to each other. We cancelled practice, but everybody shot. I know they’re together, and  I want to coach guys who go out and do the extra thing

[Shabazz Napier]  is a great player.  He’s an All-American player.  I know I might be biased, but he’s the best guard in America, to me, hands down. He just keeps focusing in on the things we need to do to win.  He knows when it’s time to take over the game, or when to get DeAndre in the game, get Boat in the game.  He’s just a heady basketball player.”

[Ryan Boatright] might not be shooting well, but I can never question his heart and his effort and his enthusiasm to win…Ryan has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever been around…It showed today in this game. And I want to congratulate him [on being one of 48 players to get 1,000 points at UConn].”

*****

 Boatright cited Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie for giving him the chance to play at UConn, and get his 1,000th point.

Josh Pastner is a gracious guy. First thing he did was thank Connecticut for its hospitality. And despite the 36-9 disparity at the free throw line, he wouldn’t blame officials. Actually, UConn didn’t foul much – Memphis ran by them a lot for easy shots. Memphis played tougher defense, and sent UConn to the line “Shabazz, man he made some tough shots,” Pastner said, “tough, contested shots.” … Omar Calhoun [concussion] gave it a shot, but ended up watching in street clothes.  

UConn’s staying in the AP Top 25, we can safely say.

Lots coming on our main website, including the main game story, notebook, box score, pictures and Jeff Jacobs take. … Want to head home before the snow gets worse.

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