Saturday, November 15, 2014

UConn Receives Championship Rings, Recovers from 6 Point Halftime Deficit to Beat Bryant

#17 UConn (1-0) 66 - Bryant Bulldogs (0-1) 53

The UConn Huskies opened up their NCAA Championship defense at Gampel Pavilion last night against Bryant University.  After receiving their Championship rings from last season, the Huskies kicked off the season with a very different looking team than last year.

Gone are the likes of Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, and Niles Giffey.  And with them, the majority of their deep threats from last year's roster.  All three of those guys shot better than 40% from beyond the arc last year, which opened up the lane and allowed Boatright to flourish with his in-between game.  

They're going to have to get some outside shooting from a couple of these new faces or they're absolutely going to be seeing a ton of zone defense and could struggle to overcome deficits against stronger competition if they do.  UConn shot 2 for 11 from three in the first half, thus compounding their poor transition defense against the Bulldogs.

This was a tale of two halves for the Huskies as everyone looked as if they were still trying to figure out the chemistry of each other's games and how all the pieces fit together.  Bryant used an 18-0 run at the end of the first half to take a 6 point lead into the locker room but UConn came out with a fire in the second half behind a strong effort from Senior Captain Ryan Boatright to seal the opening night win for the 17th ranked Huskies.

Down by as much as 9 in the second half, Boatright took the team on his back with some big shots and signature dunks, to pull out the win.  Amida Brimah anchored the defense with 5 blocks in the game that felt like he had more than double that.

Some quick notes on the game.
  • Boatright filled up the stat sheet with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals.  He looks like the next stud guard for the Huskies and if he can lead this team deep in March, they should start calling UConn Point Guard U.
  • Brimah already looks more polished than last year and he better try and dunk it any time he's within reaching distance of the hoop.  I hate when he tries to lay it up from in close.  His blocks will start adding up on the season but he still has to learn to stay on his feet with any pump fake.
  • Daniel Hamilton (brother of former Texas Longhorn Jordan Hamilton) looks like he could be the next great UConn player in the making.  He's a bit of a gunner and was definitely careless with the ball at times, but those things come with experience and refinement.  He was picked as the pre-season Freshman of the Year in the conference and that looks like it was a good prediction.  He's a guy who you can tell won't back down from the moment.
  • Is it weird that I already miss Rodney Purvis and he hasn't even played a game for the Huskies yet?  Yeah, I didn't think so either.
  • Kenton Facey looks way taller than I remember from his very, very limited playing time last season.  I'm guessing he's the guy who started who will give up his starting spot to Purvis.  He's long and rebounds the ball well, but I'm not sure if he has an offensive game or not yet.
  • Sam Cassell, Jr. looks like he has an old man game.  It's slow and prodding but yet somehow works.  If he's going to be in love with shooting the three this year, he needs to do better than 2 for 7 going forward.
  • I forgot how much I like Terrence Samuel's game.  Dude goes STRONG to the hole and finishes well.  He's a great change of pace from the rest of the guards.  I'm hoping Purvis' game is a better version of this.
  • Freshman Rakim Lubin is a house.  That is all.
  • They say that Phillip Nolan added 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season.  Hopefully that means he won't miss every shot within 5 feet of the hoop this year.  It's so frustrating when he makes a beautiful move and back-rims the shot, every, fucking, time.  Also, chill with the fouls brah.  No one needs flashbacks to Tyler Olander's game.  At least, unlike Olander, you don't look like you're going to have a heart attack after 10 seconds of running.
  • Oh, and Kevin Ollie is the man.

Next Up, the Huskies head to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rican Tip-Off.  First game is Thursday, November 20th at 12:30 PM against Charleston.