It almost felt like 2009. Two classic Big East programs, duking it out in the physical style the conference was known for. During the years of the Big East, UConn and Georgetown tied with the most conference tournament titles, and this game had that kind of feel. The crowd, immune to the impending snowstorm, was rowdy, and definitely helped the Huskies battle until the end. When that final whistle blew, it was the Huskies who prevailed, posting a 68-62 victory.
Rodney Purvis netted 17 points, including going 7-8 from the line, to lead four Huskies in double figures. Sterling Gibbs added 16 points, while Daniel Hamilton had 11, including a pair of triples in the first half. For the Husky offense, it was a tale of two halves. UConn shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, while hitting five of ten threes, pacing the team to a 40-33 lead. However, the Huskies shot an atrocious 4-21 from the field for 19 percent after the intermission. If it wasn’t for the play of Shonn Miller, who had 15 points over the entire game, the second half could have gotten well out of hand. However, the free throw line allowed the Huskies to carry the day, as they went 20 of 25 in the second half, and 29-36 for the entire game. The defense was solid for the entire game, holding the Hoyas to under 40 percent from the field.
For Georgetown, who jumped out to a 9-4 lead early in the game, the three point arc, not the post, was a major source of offense, as the squad hit nine for the game. Leading scorer Reggie Cameron hit three shots from deep, while posting 13 points in total. Other key players for Georgetown were D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and L.J. Peak, who scored 12 points apiece. The points in the paint statistic was actually not in favor of the Hoyas, something coach John Thompson will likely come to regret, given the advantages Georgetown had in their frontcourt. However, it wasn’t enough to withstand the Huskies.
As previously noted, Georgetown jumped out to a quick lead, as the Huskies couldn’t grab their first advantage until 12-11 with thirteen minutes left on the clock in the first half. From that point, the Huskies maintained a small but constant lead, with a highpoint coming off a Gibbs layup with 3:33 left in the half which pushed the Husky lead to seven. That was the same margin at halftime, with the Huskies up 40-33.
Georgetown started the second half impressively, hitting a bevy of triples early on to comeback and tie the game at 49 with 11:50 left in the game. At the same time, though, a multitude of early fouls allowed the Huskies to reach the bonus just six minutes into the second half, and put several key Hoyas in foul trouble. Still, the horrid shooting of the Huskies didn’t allow them to reclaim the lead. However, the free throw line and some solid defense kept the game close, and the Huskies retook the lead for good on a pair of free throws from Phil Nolan with 2:44 left in the game. Nolan would also draw a crucial charge with under 30 seconds to play in the game to help solidify the victory for UConn.
The game had a very nostalgic feel to it, with two teams from the old Big East meeting in a game with national implications. The competitive spirit also brought a tinge of sadness, because of this being a non-conference game instead of a Big East battle. It is indeed a shame that money and greed broke up the greatest basketball entity ever established.
Despite the omnipresent threat of snow, the seats at the XL Center were nearly full. The game was sold out, but the blizzard definitely forced a few unfortunate fans to stay home. They missed out on an electric atmosphere, one that in the past had only been reserved for UConn home games at Gampel. Therefore, it was nice to see such a good basketball setting at the off-campus home of the Huskies.
Local high school team Putnam Science Academy was among the fans who braved the winter weather. The team features Mamadou Diarra, a four-star caliber high school senior who has signed with UConn and will be a talented Jeff Adrien-type power forward for the Huskies. Also on the team is Hamidou Diallo, arguably the top shooting guard in the junior class. The five-star player is not committed to Coach Ollie’s program, but is considered a UConn lean by most people in the recruiting business.
UConn’s next game is also at the XL Center, and will be another heavyweight battle. On Thursday night, the Huskies will welcome the Cincinnati Bearcats in a crucial American conference game. A win in that clash, combined with a likely win against Central Florida next weekend, would definitely help put UConn back on the national map.
University of Connecticut