Saturday, January 3, 2015

UConn Finally Wins on the Road, Rallies Back to Beat Florida 63-59

UConn 63 (7-5) - Florida Gators 59 (7-6)

Picture from courant.com
It's official.  UConn OWNS Florida.

The Huskies traveled to Florida to take on the Gators and escaped with a win by the skin of their teeth, making it the third time in 13 months that the Huskies have beaten the Gators.  They now have the trifecta of beating Florida at home last year (on a buzzer beater from Shabazz at Gampel), on a neutral court in last year's Final Four (en route to another Championship), and on the Gators' home court.

UConn desperately needed this win after coming up just short in their last couple big non-conference games against Duke and Texas.  At first glance, the Florida win might not look like anything special.  Florida is obviously down a little bit this year, but so is UConn.  It's hard to be good the year after making a Final Four run with how many players leave early for the NBA draft in today's game (or graduate).

If you look a little deeper, the Gators might not be as bad as their 7-6 record looks right now.  They have losses this year to some good teams; Kansas, UNC, Georgetown, Miami, and they literally beat themselves against in-state rival Florida State with a tip in at the buzzer under their own basket (and some injuries to boot).  Granted, I saw Florida State play in-person against Providence, and they looked fucking atrocious, but this tip-in was a pretty ridiculous way to lose a game.


Finally, a team killed themselves down the stretch of a game with missed free throws and it wasn't UConn.  The Gators shot 8 of 20 from the line, and if they made even a couple of those free throws, the deficit that UConn found themselves in during the 2nd half could have been too much to overcome.

Luckily enough for the Huskies, they were able to rally back and overcome a 13-point deficit to beat the Gators on the road in an absolute must-win game since UConn now plays in a contender-deficient conference for the rest of their games (save for an away game against a pretty good Stanford team).  The story of the game was Ryan Boatright.  He didn't shot the ball particularly well (2-11) but the mere fact that he was playing with an iffy thigh injury that kept him out of the 2nd half of the last game against Temple was a miracle for the UConn offense anyway.  Having a ball-handler who can create and and at least run something resembling a competent offense worked wonders for the Huskies.  

Boatright dropped in 6 assists and 6 rebounds, along with going 8-9 from the charity stripe (another thing the Huskies desperately needed), with a couple of clutch ones coming down the stretch.  The key to the Huskies season, besides a healthy Boat, might just be Omar Calhoun.  The Huskies seriously need some outside shooting and Calhoun has been solid since he came back from injury.  He looks better and better each game that he's in the lineup and chipped in 12 points on 5-8 shooting (2-4 from deep).  He's already taken almost all of Cassell's minutes and I, for one, could not be more fucking pumped about that.

Some quick notes from the game:
  • Billy Donovan must hate Kevin Ollie by now, AmIRight?
  • I love this quote from Ollie about Boat too: "I'm going to go out with my leaders, from Shabazz to Kemba to Ryan.  I just have so much trust in those guys cause we've been through so much together, all the ups and downs. I'm going to go with my guns, and he's the biggest gun in my holster."
  • Samuel finally looked good for once this season.  Let's hope he builds on this.
Next Up, the Huskies stay down in Florida and take on USF on Tuesday at 7 PM.