<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Dog House]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/blogs/dog-house http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:18:10 -0500 Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:18:10 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Huskies Begin Process of Finding a QB]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:04:41 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tim-boyle-2014-uconn.jpg

Stop us if this sounds familiar: UConn heads into spring practice with myriad questions about the quarterback position. The names change but the concerns remain. At least that's been the case for the last four seasons.

The 2015 cast of characters: junior Tim Boyle, transfer Bryant Shirreffs, and freshman Tyler Davis.

Boyle is the only player with experience at UConn, but he struggled in spot duty his first two seasons. Shirreffs, meanwhile, played in eight games as a freshman at NC State where he completed 4 of 5 passes for 17 yards and a score, and ran for another 158 yards and a touchdown. And the New Haven Register describes Davis as "at the top of the wish list of the current staff."

"It is important that we raise our level but every position we have to be better," quarterbacks coach Wayne Lineburg told the Register. "Obviously quarterback is a focal point, you get too much blame when you lose, too much credit when you win. It is a big position and we have to do a great job of finding a guy that is going to lead the team, move the team and score points. Who is that guy who is going to protect the ball and do those things. If we can do those things, it will help us out and lead us to better production."

And what does Lineburg think of Shirreffs?

"I have seen him some, but mostly he was on the scout team so I haven't been able to watch him a ton so it will be interesting to see how he does." he said. "He has a good skill set and he is an intelligent guy and he has shown some leadership skills. We will have to see how he does and I'll be able to tell you more at the end of spring of where he is."

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<![CDATA[Larry Brown Likes What He Sees in UConn]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:02:19 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/462056739.jpg

Before Sunday, UConn and SMU last met on Feb. 14, and the Mustangs' version of "would you be my Valentine?" included a 73-55 beatdown. Two weeks later in the rematch, Rodney Purvis scored a career-high 28 points and the Huskies beat 21st-ranked SMU, 81-73.

The Turnaround -- UConn has an uncanny knack for putting it all together as spring approaches -- wasn't lost on SMU's Hall of Fame coach, Larry Brown.

"This is a quality win for Connecticut," Brown said, via the Hartford Courant. "I don't know how they'll look at it. They might just think we're SMU, like SMU was years ago. [UConn is] good, you've got [Ryan] Boatright, you've got a shot blocker [Amida Brimah], you've got a freshman [Daniel Hamilton] who is as good as any freshman around. If Purvis and [Omar] Calhoun can play and their big [men] can come in and take fouls ... and they've got a great young coach [Kevin Ollie] that does things the right way."

That's the hope -- Purvis and just about everybody else not named Boatright can step up. Because as Ollie has been preaching for months, that has to happen for the Huskies to make a run. It's also why, as Boatright has pointed out, UConn needs to win the AAC Tournament to guarantee their ticket to the Big Dance. Brown has first-hand experience with this, too. A year ago, SMU won 23 games and was overlooked by the NCAA selection committee, instead settling for an NIT bid.

"I don't know if anybody knows what conference we're in," Brown said Sunday, via the Courant. "I don't even know what the criteria is, to be honest with you. I never said anything last year about us not going in because I didn't want to not be appreciative of some other team that got in.

"But when I saw Louisville got a No. 4 seed, and Connecticut and Cincinnati got 7s, Memphis an 8, I knew we didn't have a chance. We were 4-6 against top 20 teams, so I don't understand the criteria, I don't know what a BPI is, or RPI. … You ask somebody, they [consider injuries], you ask somebody else, it's how you're doing at the end of the year. I just hope we have somebody in the room that realizes there's some quality teams in this conference."

Brown's not alone.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Purvis Scores 28, UConn Beats SMU 81-73]]> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:06:27 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/purvis-AP905155440152.jpg

Early in the season, when Rodney Purvis was struggling to find his way, coach Kevin Ollie described the NC State transfer as like having a "Ferrari in the garage." We're not sure if Ollie or Ryan Boatright is Ferris Bueller in the metaphor that is falling apart around us, but the Ferrari's out of the garage and speeding through the streets of Chicago like a finely tuned machine.

The latest proof: Sunday night, Purvis hung 28 points on 21st-ranked SMU, giving the Huskies the momentum they will desperately need as they make an NCAA Tournament push. And as Boatright made clear several weeks ago, the only way that happens is if UConn wins the AAC Tournament. Purvis will need to be a big part of that.

“I’ve been waiting on him to prove to himself that he can do it,” Boatright said after the SMU game, via SNY.com. “I knew he could do. I’ve seen him play like that plenty of times in the summer time. When Bazz (Shabazz Napier) and Kemba (Walker) come back, he competes. He stopped thinking so much and let his athleticism and instincts take over tonight. ...

“It’s growing pains," Boatright continued. He really only played one full year of college basketball and he sat our last year, had surgery and saw us make an unbelievable run. He got that pressure from the Ferrari, I think early in the year he had his ups and downs. You have to go through those things. I went through it last year, ups and downs. Last year wasn’t my best year but I stayed with it and we finished strong.”

“It’s been tough,” Purvis conceded. “Just staying patient and staying ready, because it has been a tough time for our whole team, not just me individually. We’ve been struggling as a team. For us to come together at this point of the season when we needed to, there is no better timer to come together. ”

But against SMU, it all came together.

“I came out aggressive,” said Purvis, who scored from everywhere on the court. “That’s been the coaches’ pitch to me, stay aggressive at all times. As long as I am aggressive that is all that matters.”



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Hill]]>
<![CDATA[Stokes Is Dominating Defensive Presence]]> Fri, 27 Feb 2015 12:50:35 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/UCONN13.jpg

Kiah Stokes has a just a few games left in her college career. The 6-3 senior has played in all 28 games this season (3 starts), averaging 19.5 minutes, 4.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per contest.

On Saturday, she along with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, will be honored on Senior Day. The thing is, Stokes almost didn't come to UConn.

“On the way to the airport we found out our flight had been canceled,” Stokes told SNY.com's Carl Adamec about her planned recruiting visit back in Oct. 2010. “My mom goes, ‘Do you still want to go?’ I went, ‘If we can find another flight, sure. But if not it’s all right because I probably won’t end up going there anyway.’”

We know how that turned out. And now, more than four years later, Stokes has won two national titles on the nation's best team.

“Now that it’s near, it’s sad,” she said. “But knowing that we’ll have a chance to play at least one more at Gampel in the NCAA Tournament is a good feeling. I’m trying to keep my emotions off to the side while we’re in-season and when it’s over I’ll be sad. But right now I’m working to stay strong and stay focused to the end.”

Stokes' strength is dominating the lane; she's one block away from 300, and six blocks away from passing former Husky Tina Charles for third on the all-time list.

“I never expected her to have the defensive presence she’s had here,” coach Geno Auriemma told Adamec. “I don’t want to say it came out of nowhere but it’s been way more than I thought she was capable of. And it’s something she takes great pride in.

“I would venture to say that Kiah’s biggest strengths are the things she brings off the court. Some kids have no presence off the court. Their contribution is only what’s on the floor. What she contributes in all the other areas, she has a tremendous impact on her teammates. There’s a lot to be said for a kid that does that.”



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Can Huskies Sustain Momentum?]]> Fri, 27 Feb 2015 12:44:11 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483300299.jpg

We've been here before. The Huskies string together a few wins and we're left wondering if this is the time they put it together ... only to watch them lose a game they shouldn't.

So here we are. UConn beat ECU on the road in convincing fashion and the timing couldn't be better. The regular season is almost over, the conference tournament is nigh and , along with with, any hopes of defending that national title. Because as senior point guard Ryan Boatright made clear last week: the only way the Huskies are getting an NCAA invite is by winning the American Athletic Conference tourney.

But back to point: Has this team finally figured it out?

"It's great," Rodney Purvis said shortly after the ECU game on Wednesday, via the Hartford Courant. "But we're kind of past this now. We got the win under our belts but we've got a huge game on Sunday, so we're going to get back and prepare for that."

Freshman Daniel Hamilton added: "This (ECU win) is real big, especially going into SMU, the No.1 team in our conference. This is a big conference win, and we've been struggling on the road, so this is a good win for us."

And Boatright said; "We learned from our mistakes from our losses on the road and we stayed together and fought to the end."

Meanwhile, coach Kevin Ollie admits that even the wins aren't stress-free.

"It was frustrating, the first half, I'm not going to lie," he said of ECU. "But we stayed in, stayed believing in one another and what we wrote on the board was 'execution' and 'connected' and we wanted to do that for 40 minutes, and I think we did that."

But can the Huskies do this consistently, night in and night out? We'll find out one way or the other soon enough.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Purvis Shines in Win Over ECU]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:37:44 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rodney-purvis-uconn44.jpg

The Huskies improved their record to 16-11 (9-6 in the AAC) with a 60-49 victory over ECU on Wednesday night in Greenville, NC. By itself, the win means little this time of year; as Ryan Boatright has said for weeks, UConn is going to need to win the American Athletic Conference Tournament to get an invitation to the Big Dance.

But it is encouraging when players other than Boatright, the senior do-everything point guard, see their games grow, and help the team get better in the process. Which brings us to Rodney Purvis, the NC State transfer who has been inconsistent during his first season in Storrs. On Wednesday, however, his development continued; Purvis scored 12 points in 38 minutes, including two big 3-pointers down the stretch. It probably didn't hurt that he was playing so close to his Raleigh, NC home.

"This is great," he said, via the Hartford Courant. "I was happy to see all my family. Even with bad weather they made effort to get down here. I'm not technically home, but this is close as it's going to get. So I'm enjoying this moment and I'll be back next year."

Coach Kevin Ollie has been lamenting for some time about the need for other players stepping up, and it's a good sign that Purvis is finally able to do that.

"He's just getting better and better," Ollie said. "He's getting tougher, mentally tougher. That showed tonight, all the fans were screaming his name. He went 1-for-6 in the first half and came back and had three huge threes. Great penetration, finding other guys, doing the energy things we need. His defense on Whisnant was awesome."

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<![CDATA[Is Byron Jones NFL 1st-Round Pick?]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:33:47 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/byron+jones+uconn+cornerback.jpg

Byron Jones didn't participate in every drill at last weekend's NFL Combine, but what he accomplished in the broad jump and vertical leap was enough to get every scout, coach and general manager's attention.

Not only are NFL teams scurrying to do more homework on Jones, who UConn coach Bob Diaco has been talking up since this summer, at least one mock draft expert thinks Jones could be a first-round pick.

And to be clear, we don't use "mock draft expert" lightly; in this day and age, everybody has a mock draft. But NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah is a former NFL scout, and one of the most knowledgeable draft commentators. It's noteworthy that he likes Jones.

In his Feb. 25 mock draft, Jeremiah has the Eagles selecting Jones with the 20th pick.

"Jones put on a show in Indy, but he's much more than a workout warrior," Jeremiah wrote "He was a four-year starter at UConn with toughness and smarts. That fits the Chip Kelly profile."

This is the first time we've seen Jones mentioned as a first-rounder. The cornerback class isn't particularly deep; Michigan State's Trae Waynes, Washington's Marcus Peters and LSU's Jalen Collins were widely considered the best draft-eligible cornerbacks heading into the combine, but that could certainly change in the coming weeks and months.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Defeats East Carolina 60-49]]> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:56:54 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/215*120/481616597.jpg

Ryan Boatright scored 16 points and freshman Daniel Hamilton grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds to lead UConn to a 60-49 victory over East Carolina on Wednesday night.

Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis each had 12 points for the Huskies (16-11, 9-6 American Athletic Conference), who used a 14-2 run to start the second half to sweep the season series against ECU (12-16, 5-10). Hamilton added nine points and a game-high five assists.

UConn won its first road game since a 62-53 victory at Tulane on Feb. 7 and recorded its third league win away from home this season.

Marshall Guilmette scored 13 points to lead the Pirates, who were hosting a defending national champion for the first time in school history. B.J. Tyson added 11 for ECU, which shot just 32.2 percent from the field, including 3 of 20 from 3-point range.

Brimah's dunk capped the Huskies' game-changing run and made it 38-35 UConn with 12:03 left in the game.

ECU's Lance Tejada hit a 3 to tie the game at the 11:31 mark, but Purvis, a Raleigh native playing about an hour and a half from home, answered with a 3-pointer to put UConn back on top for good, 41-38.

The Huskies took their biggest lead on two Boatright free throws that completed the scoring with 1:05 left to play.

In the first half, the Pirates used a 15-3 run to take a 25-17 lead. Tyson hit consecutive layups in the final minute, including a driving score past Boatright with two ticks left to give ECU a 33-24 lead at halftime.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tulsa Shock Interested in KML With No.2 Pick]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:49:15 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kaleena+mosqueda+lewis+uconn.jpg

Back in December, we first heard that WNBA teams were looking at Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis as a first-rounder. Not surprising, really, just confirmation what most of us expected, even with Mosqueda-Lewis battling injuries for part of her junior season.

As KML's senior season winds down, WNBA eyes will be watching her closer than ever. The Hartford Courant John Altavilla writes Tulsa Shock coach Fred Williams will doing just that on Saturday. Tulsa has the second pick in this spring's WNBA Draft and it sounds like they'll think long and hard about taking Mosqueda-Lewis should she get past the Seattle Storm, who select first.

"Well, it all depends what happens with the first choice," Williams said of Seattle. "Players with her skill set, with the ability to shoot deep threes with a high basketball IQ, are great qualities to have. ...

"If Seattle happens to pass on her, we will deeply consider taking her."

The Shock have Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims; adding Mosqueda-Lewis would give them three of the league's best perimeter shooters.

"You always want to have shooters and those who can really cover the floor [defensively]," Williams continued. "In my career, I have always favored quickness and speed and strength. When you have all those qualities assembled on the perimeter, it only helps your post game succeed even more.

"If you have a player like that on your team, you know the opponent has to practice to stop her and make sure they always know where she is in transition. You can never leave her alone for a spot-up shot."

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<![CDATA[Calhoun Making Best of Tough Situation]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:47:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/omar-calhoun-jan15.jpg

Omar Calhoun's junior season may be going better than his sophomore season, but the bar was set pretty low a year ago. He battled injuries and found himself lost in the mix as the Huskies were making their championship run.

Finally healthy, Calhoun still hasn't had the success he saw as a freshman, when he averaged 32 minutes and 11.1 points per game. As a junior, those numbers are down to 16 minutes and 6 points, but he's done the little things in recent weeks that not only have caught coach Kevin Ollie's attention, they've helped UConn get much-needed wins. On Sunday, he scored 12 points in 28 minutes in the Huskies' 67-60 victory over Tulane. More importantly, Calhoun was solid on defense.

"That was good, that was great," Ollie said, via the Hartford Courant. "Omar came in and what I really liked was Omar's defense down the stretch. That's what I keep stressing with Omar, if he plays better defense he can stay on the court. He stepped up to the plate and showed he could do that down the stretch."

Calhoun agreed: "If I play D I can stay on the court and produce offensively. The coaches liked how I was taking the initiative on defense and trying to do more on that side."

It's an interesting transformation for Calhoun, who arrived in Storrs as a sharpshooter and has evolved into a defensive stalwart. Still, he knows there's room for improvement -- for both him and his teammates.

"We had to communicate even more," he said. "A couple of times in the first half (against Tulane) we didn't communicate getting back in transition and they hit open threes. We did a better job late in the game of communicating, calling our switches, and we put the game away."

The Huskies host ECU on Wednesday in Gampel Pavilion.

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<![CDATA[Byron Jones Blows Up at NFL Combine]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:45:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/byron+jones+uconn+cornerback.jpg

On Monday, the rest of the world got a glimpse of what Bob Diaco has been saying for months: Byron Jones is legit.

At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, working out with other defensive backs, the former UConn cornerback's broad jump measured 12 feet, 3 inches. Not only is that eight inches better than the previous combine mark, but it would have been a world record (12'2" has stood since 1968).

"My personal [broad jump] record was 11-7. That's what I was doing at the training facility, and I obviously broke that," Jones told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It feels good to put a [personal record] up."

There's more: Jones' vertical was 44.5 inches, just a half-inch behind the combine-best 45 inches Chris Conley jumped on Saturday. Jones didn't run at the combine -- he'll likely do that at his pro day on March 31, but NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said he texted Diaco, who thinks Jones will run in the 4.3s.

If that happens, expect Jones to, ahem, leap to the top of the list as one of the draft's best cornerbacks. He wisely points out that while all the attention is nice, at the end of the day, his game film is what matters most. And that's where Diaco comes in. The Huskies' coach has been talking up Jones for months.

"I think he will be one of the best players in the country,” Diaco said last summer. "Everyone will see it eventually when they put him in those compression shorts [at combines]. You will see a tall, long, lean and fast and explosive and athletic player. His numbers, with our developmental process, you are going to see at the end of the day one of the best tangibly gifted cornerback players in the country.

"[Y]ou factor in this incredible résumé socially, academically, he's an 'A' student and on all the committees. At that position, he has some intangible traits that are an incredible commodity."



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Routs Tulane 94-47]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 22:56:01 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kaleena+mosqueda+lewis+uconn.jpg

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 21 points and Breanna Stewart added 16 points and 10 rebounds and No. 1 Connecticut routed Tulane 94-47 on Monday night.

Morgan Tuck had 16 points and eight rebounds and Moriah Jefferson added 15 points for the Huskies (27-1, 16-0 American Athletic).

Courtnie Latham scored 12 points to lead Tulane (20-8, 11-6).



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Geremy Davis Has Strong Combine]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:22:23 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geremy-davis-catch.jpg

Geremy Davis' 2014 season didn't go as planned, but that had more to do with the lack of consistency along the offensive line, at quarterback and in the running game than anything else. Still, Davis, who caught 165 passes for 2,292 yards in 46 career games, did enough to earn an invite to the NFL Combine over the weekend and he made the most of his opportunity.

He ranked seventh among 20 wide receivers in the 3-cone drill (6.86 seconds); third in the 60-yard shuttle (11.28); eighth in the broad jump (10'4") and managed a 36.5-inch vertical, which was about average.

But Davis was at his best during "the gauntlet," the pass-catching drill in which balls are fired at receivers from two different directions as they make their way from sideline to sideline. Davis was flawless in the drill, not dropping a pass.

The UConn standout didn't run the 40-yard dash, which he plans to do at his pro day. on March 31.

"I just want to take everything event by event, so if it starts with the bench press, I want to have my mind-set to where all I'm doing is focusing on bench press ... shuttle, so forth and so on. I don't want to think big picture," Davis told the Hartford Courant before the combine. "I want to think of each individual one as I'm competing in the drills."

Mission accomplished.

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<![CDATA[UConn Outlasts Tulane, 67-60]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:19:32 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/482962317.jpg

The Huskies' roller coaster-ride of a season continued on Sunday when they bounced back from Thursday's loss in Memphis to defeat Tulane, 67-60, at Gampel Pavilion. The win moves UConn to 15-11 overall (8-6 in the AAC) but the point senior point guard Ryan Boatright made last week still holds: the team is going to have to win the conference tournament to get into the Big Dance.

For now, they're enjoying the victory, one that saw sophomore center Amida Brimah score 19 points on 8 of 8 shooting. Boatright added 12 points and Omar Calhoun went for 12 more on a night when the Huskies shot 53 percent from the floor while holding Tulane to just 38 percent.

"It wasn’t an easy win, but we’ll take it," coach Kevin Ollie said afterwards. "Ed (Conroy) does a great job with that team. They never get blown out, they’re always in the game. They’re a scrappy bunch and they’ve got three great guards. We just grinded it out, and they make you play that way.

Every possession, every cut, they’re not taking bad shots. They run their offense real well. It was a great test for us. I think we passed it. Hopefully, we’ll get some momentum on our side going to ECU.”

Ollie shuffled his lineup and it paid off; big man Phil Nolan got the nod over guard Terrence Samuel. And Calhoun, who is still looking to regain the form that saw him have so much success as a freshman, took advantage of his minutes.

"We had a talk about what we're committed to, these last five games, and what we need to do to win," Calhoun said. "[Ollie] wants me to commit on defense, and that will help me stay on the court where I can produce offensively."

Freshman Daniel Hamilton, who might be the second-best player on the roster after Boatright, added: "We're playing with a sense of urgency, and I like the ball in my hand a lot, because I can make plays, not just scoring. I can make passes, I can do different stuff. Whatever is available, whatever the defense gives me."

Next up: UConn travels to Greenville, North Carolina to face ECU on Wednesday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Football's 2015 Schedule Released]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 13:17:28 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+temple.jpg

Bob Diaco enters his second season as the Huskies coach and he desperately wants to improve on his inaugural 2-10 mark. On Thursday, the American Athletic Conference unveiled UConn's 2015 schedule.

The highlights, via the news release:

The Huskies' 12-game slate includes eight league match-ups and six home contests at Rentschler Field. Kickoff times and television information will be announced at a later date.

The American will feature divisional play for the first time this season. The Huskies square off against each of the other five members of the East division as well as three crossover opponents from the West. The East Division includes UCF, Cincinnati, UConn, East Carolina, USF and Temple. The entire West Division is Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa.

The Huskies' 2015 schedule features games against eight teams that played in bowl and playoff games last season.

2015 UConn Football Schedule

Thu., Sept. 3 Villanova
Sat., Sept. 12 Army
Sat., Sept. 19 at Missouri
Sat., Sept. 26 Navy *
Fri., Oct. 2 at BYU (ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU)
Sat., Oct. 10 at UCF *
Sat., Oct. 17 USF *
Sat., Oct. 24 at Cincinnati *
Fri., Oct. 30 East Carolina * (ESPNU)
Sat., Nov. 7 at Tulane *
Sat., Nov. 21 Houston *
Sat., Nov. 28 at Temple *

* American Athletic Conference Game



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Memphis Drops UConn, 75-72]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 13:15:29 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2013season.jpg

Senior point guard Ryan Boatright didn't mince words in the days leading up to Thursday's AAC showdown with Memphis when he said the Huskies were going to have to win the AAC Tournament to get their invite to the Big Dance.

By Friday, those sentiments were truer than ever after the Tigers outlasted the Huskies, 75-72 at the FedEx Forum. Boatright, the conference's leading scorer and UConn's unquestioned leader, scored just seven points on 2-of-6 shooting.

"They were playing a box-and-one on him," coach Kevin Ollie explained, via the New Haven Register. "If he’s gonna take bad shots all night, I don’t want him to do that. They weren’t focusing on Daniel, and Daniel played a tremendous game."

That would be freshman Daniel Hamilton, who scored a career-high 25 points, but this last shot -- a three-pointer at the buzzer -- didn't connect. Still, Ollie was impressed with what he saw.

“He had a tremendous game, almost a triple-double, had some rebounds, had some bad turnovers, though," Ollie said of the freshman. "He got in that four-hole, he was aggressive, he was shooting, still had great vision with seven assists. We want him to keep playing like that, and hopefully Boat can come back and play his type of game. ...

"We’ve all seen Daniel do things like this -- not to this capacity yet in his career -- but he’s a wonderful player," Ollie continued. "I just like how he gets to the boards. He’s about 185 (pounds), and he’s leading the conference in rebounding. Hopefully this is a confidence-builder for him. Hopefully Ryan can come back and play a great game. Hopefully this takes a little pressure off Ryan.”

Memphis 58 percent in the first half and led by as much as 13 before a late UConn rally cut the lead to 39-33 at the break. The Huskies kept it close over the final 20 minutes, and Amida Brimah's two free throws with 19 seconds to go made it 72-70.

"Amida came in and played tremendous," Ollie said. "They had three guys on Ryan most of the night. We don’t want him forcing shots. We’ve got to get him out on the fast break.”

This has been a theme all season, and one that has to change if the Huskies are want to play in the NCAA Tournament.

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<![CDATA[Auriemma Explains Williams' Playing Time]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 12:49:22 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP884776180431.jpg

Coach Geno Auriemma is forever preaching consistency and earning his trust when it comes to playing time. We've seen it with Breanna Stewart, arguably college basketball's best player, and we've seen it with Saniya Chong, who has seen her playing time increase in recent weeks.

But it doesn't fully explain why freshman Gabby Williams, who has played important minutes for much of the season, only saw four minutes of action against then-No. 1 South Carolina last week.

"It's a tough thing," senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said, via the Hartford Courant. "Gabby had been playing so well. She was feeling as if she was ready to go. But sometimes in a game like that, it's not so much about physical ability, how you have performed in the past, but where you are mentally at that moment. The South Carolina game was one where you needed to be mentally prepared.

"Coach needs to feel he can trust you on a consistent basis. And it's just hard, at this point of the season, for him to feel like he can trust everyone in a game like that one. When you are playing an opponent as competitive as South Carolina, I can understand Coach perhaps feeling iffy about whom he wanted in the game."

It wasn't lost on Auriemma that Williams was sitting on the bench, but he says her presence there had more to do with how the game was unfolding.

"(Williams) did not deserve to not play in that game. Her performance was not an issue. It was never a situation where I determined that she did not deserve to play. It wasn't even close to that.

"It was just that those guys (starters) had it going so well, they were in such a rhythm against South Carolina, that I wasn't sure I wanted to disrupt it. So it wasn't a knock against Gabby as much as it was a vote (of confidence) in those who were already there. We had something special going and I just didn't want to mess with it."

Either way, Williams understands where her coach is coming from.

"I don't know if disappointed is the right word because your team had just beaten the No. 1 team in the country who was undefeated," Williams said. "I feel like we all won. But it was a wake-up call. I've been going great, but it still hasn't been enough. I need to do better. That's just how it is in this program.

"I didn't talk to him about it. I don't think the right way to go is to beg him for playing time. That's not the kind of behavior this program wants. All I can do is find a way to get him to trust me. I understand you have to wait your time, make way for the experienced players.

"But at the same time, I'm not going to be satisfied to just sit on my butt and wait for it to happen. I'm going to do what's necessary to change it."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Verducci: Diaco Can Rebuild Huskies]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 12:46:15 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+pumped.jpg

Bob Diaco hired offensive coordinator Frank Verducci earlier this month, but the two men go way back.

"I have known him since he was 15 years old and it's almost, I wouldn't say a father, but a big brother and uncle watching him rise through the ranks," Verducci said of UConn's second-year coach, via the New Haven Register. "We share a common vision. For me to be able to come in here and mesh that vision with his and carry that vision to the offense, I am excited about that.

"His father and my dad were best friends, his older brothers played their entire high school career for my dad so I have known his family forever it seems like. I have watched his career and I couldn't be more proud of him."

Diaco is coming off a two-win season, and the Huskies have had one of the worst offenses in FBS for several years now (dating back to before Diaco's tenure in Storrs began in Dec. 2013). Still, Diaco has been preaching patience as he rebuilds the program, and Verducci has every expectation that Diaco will pull off this turnaround.

"He is the most sincere guy I have ever worked with," Verducci said, via the Register. "He is going to tell you the good and the bad, now it is up to you to digest it and move forward from there. He has tremendous energy and he has what all the great coaches have, he has tremendous passion. He has, for a lack of a better term, the complete package. We all share his vision and our job is to impart the message.

"He is truly a self-made man. He got started as a graduate assistant when I was at Iowa. I had hoped in some way that we would work together at some point and this is just a wonderful situation to share in his vision. I was aware there were going to be some changes on the staff and I followed the season closely, I understood what the difficulties had been so we talked about it. Coach is very big on chemistry and it was evident when I came here."

We're get our first look at the Huskies in Year 2 under Diaco next month when spring practice starts.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright: We're Going To Have To Win the AAC Tourney]]> Thu, 19 Feb 2015 12:37:49 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/217*120/AP1201238715.jpg

From here on out, every game is a big game for the Huskies. At 14-10 (7-5 in the AAC) and with six regular-season matchups remaining, there is no margin for error. This development isn't news to senior point guard Ryan Boatright, who said Wednesday, "It's no secret, we're going to have to win the (AAC) tournament."

Cue the Sam Elliott voiceover of "The longest journey starts with the first step..." because we've seen this movie before. The only question is how will this one end. As it stands, UConn look like the longest of shots to do what they did with Kemba Walker in 2011 and Shabazz Napier last season.

“It’s irritating, it’s frustrating," Boatright said of the season to date, via the New Haven Register. But it’s my job, as the captain of this team, to stay with it and stay positive.

 “I’m always confident going into a game," he continued. "It’s gonna be a tough game. You can’t look past anybody. They haven’t had a great season as well. They’re hungry to get a win, just like us. We’re on the road, where we have trouble. It’s gonna be a tough game. We’ve got to go in there and have the right mindset.”

The Huskies face Memphis at the FedEx Forum Tuesday at 9 p.m.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Juniors Reach 100-Win Milestone]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 13:12:11 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-AP967109896261.jpg

Another game, another blowout win for the Huskies, this time an 85-26 decision over Houston. The victory moves UConn to 25-1 on the season -- the 22nd consecutive season the team has won at least 25 games -- and it also gives the junior class 100 career victories in Storrs.

That means Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson -- three of Geno Auriemma's most important contributors -- have been part of 100 wins since arriving on campus in the summer of 2012.

“With Stewie, Moriah, and Morgan, you’re talking about three of the best players in the country coming out of high school and three of the best players in college today,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “It goes with the territory. If you look back and say, wow, these guys won X-number of games, it probably traces back to when they were in high school they were pretty good. They won a lot of games in high school, they won a lot of games in AAU, and they won a lot of games with USA Basketball. They’ve won a lot of games everywhere they’ve been. I’m proud of them because they’ve been pretty consistent every year they’ve been here.

“We had this celebration a little while back about 900 wins. Those two things kind of go together, don’t they? You have a lot of really good players that win a lot of games year after year after year. The thing is, and we talk about this all the time, is the consistency that we have day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out. Things don’t waver that much at Connecticut. We try to live up to a certain standard that we set a long time ago. Every class that comes in here as freshmen get to see it. It doesn’t mean everyone will be able to do it, and I’m sure they’ve had some help along the way. It’s no coincidence that all those junior classes had a lot of help along the way.”



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn, Syracuse Spar Over Twitter]]> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 12:53:42 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+snow_1200.jpg

Syracuse and UConn have a lot of history between them, almost all of it coming when they were both part of the Big East. Now the Huskies are in the American Athletic Conference and the Orange are in the Atlantic Coast Conference ... but that doesn't mean that can't engage in a little good-natured trash talk.

UConn got the proverbial ball rolling with this tweet from Tuesday morning:

Obviously, Syracuse wasn't going to let that slide.

And UConn, seeing an opportunity, pounced.

Okay, that was cold. That said, there's no chance the two teams will get a chance to meet on the court this postseason to solve their differences; UConn is still struggling with consistency while the Orange have already declared themselves ineligible for tournament play.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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<![CDATA[Chong Earning Auriemma's Trust]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 13:07:57 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Saniya+Chong.jpg

Back in the summer of 2013, Saniya Chong was UConn's only incoming scholarship freshman. She got lost in the mix last summer when the class included standouts Courtney Ekmark, Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams and Sadie Edwards.

Edwards has already transferred, and Nurse and Williams see plenty of playing time. And Chong, who averaged 4.7 points and 2.2 assists in 39 games as a freshman, continues to earn coach Geno Auriemma's trust while flying under the radar.

I was talking to this year’s freshmen and some of the other guys about what it’s going to take to play in the NCAA tournament, what kind of mindset you have to have to play in the NCAA tournament or in games like South Carolina,” Auriemma said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “I said if you don’t believe me or you don’t think I’m telling the truth … Then I went, ‘I’m not kidding, am I Saniya?’ And she said, ‘No, you’re not.’ Because if you’re not ready for those big moments in the NCAA tournament, I’m not going to play you just because you’re a nice kid. My daughters, Jenna and Alysa, are really nice kids but I wouldn’t want them on my team. ...

“If I don’t think you can handle the stuff that we throw at you in practice, you’re not going to play,” Auriemma continued. “Everybody gets the same opportunity. I love when people say, ‘What does practice have to do with it? Just put them in the game and let them play.’ Well, good. That’s why they don’t do what I do. That’s why we win big games. That’s why every big game, we play big, because the guys I have on the floor are guys that are trustworthy. You can count on what they are going to do, how they are going to do it and handle the big moment. I put them in those big moments in practice.

Over the last three games, Chong is averaging 9.7 points while shooting 72.7 percent from the floor and a blistering 81.3 percent from behind the arc. But the highlight of her sophomore season came last week when Chong shut down one of the best players in the country, South Carolina guard Tiffany Mitchell. The No. 2 Huskies blew the top-ranked Gamecocks out of the building.

“That meant a lot to me,” Chong said. “Even though I didn’t bring the scoring, I thought that I brought other things like getting in my stance defensively and just assisting my teammates.”



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Jefferson Honored, Tuck Flies Under Radar]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 13:04:41 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/moriah+jefferson_1.jpg

It doesn't take long to realize that Moriah Jefferson is the engine that drives UConn's offense. The junior point guard sets the pace, usually while defenses are scrambling to stop her. As one of the quickest players in the country, she pressures opponents into mistakes, which often leads to easy baskets for the Huskies.

So it's not surprising -- even on a team with Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Morgan Tuck -- that Jefferson is recognized for her contributions. Earlier this week, she was named AAC Player of the Week. It was the first time in her career that she had received the honor. Jefferson also earned the espnW National Player of the Week.

Details via the press release:

The Husky point guard averaged 16.0 points on 68.4 percent shooting in the Huskies' 2-0 week, dishing out 11 assists against only one turnover. The Glenn Heights, Texas native was nearly unstoppable from beyond the arc, converting on 71.4 percent from three-point range.

Jefferson, who is averaging 11 points in 26.8 minutes per game this season, has been one of the Huskies' most consistent scoring options in In total, she ranks first on the team in assists (115) and steals (61) and is one of seven Huskies shooting over 50.0 percent from the floor (56.2). She provided a spark in UConn's 87-62 victory over No. 1 South Carolina on Feb. 9, notching 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with a game-high six assists.

Meanwhile, Tuck continues to play like one of the nation's best players that no one is talking about. She, along with Jefferson, Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis, finds herself on the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy watch lists.

“Morgan may be the most unsung really good player in the country,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, via SNY.com. “I don’t know who is paying attention to Morgan when people are talking about our team. I know that Stewie, and K and Moriah for sure get all the attention. I don’t know if anybody is talking about Tuck. But for our team, what we need and as well she shoots the ball, passes it, plays defense, rebounds, inside/outside, she is one of those kids that it’s like having more than one player when you have somebody like that. For our team, she is perfect. I don’t know where she would fit in with the big picture all over the country the country but for our team she is perfect and maybe as important if not more important than anybody we’ve had this year.”



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Returns to Top of Polls]]> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 12:57:04 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/stewart-uconn-creighton.jpg

Geno Auriemma's Huskies were the top-ranked team to end the 2013-2014 season (going undefeated and defending your national title will do that), and it wasn't a surprise that they began the 2014-15 season atop the polls.

That lasted a grand total of one game. Then they faced Stanford on Nov. 17, lost in overtime, and have been the nation's No. 2 team through the first two weeks of February. Then the No. 1 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks came to town on Feb. 9 ... and were promptly blown out of Gampel Pavilion, 87-62.

This week, the Associated Press again had the Huskies as the nation's best team. At 24-1 (13-0 in the AAC), UConn is one win away from its 22nd consecutive 25-win season. Barring one of the biggest upsets in sports history, the team should reach that milestone Tuesday night against Houston.

Meanwhile, South Carolina falls from No. 1 to No. 2, followed by Baylor, Notre Dame and Maryland. The rest of the Top 10 includes Tennessee, Oregon St., Louisville, Florida St. and Duke.



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Hill]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Get Toughest Test in Practice]]> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 11:44:54 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

UConn has had one close game this year: it's overtime loss to Stanford back in November. The other 24 games on their schedules have been, by any measure, blowouts. It's not an uncommon phenomenon for a well-coached Geno Auriemma team that also happens to be wildly talented. But all that success means experience in close games against good teams is hard to come by.

But that's what practice is for.

"One of the reasons we go to practice, believe it or not, is for us to find out who we can trust and not trust," Auriemma said, via the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "You have two hours every day to pretty much earn the trust of the coaching staff and the other players.

"So we go [to practice] every day and we try to put players into situations that will test them in ways that tell us whether or not a player can be trusted. If you come up big in those situations, we will find a way to get you on the floor in big situations. If I don't think I can trust you, then you are not going to play in those big moments. I told the players that and they know it. If I don't think you can handle the stuff we throw at you in practice, you are not going to play [in games]. Everyone gets the same opportunity."

Auriemma often has male practice players and this year's group is among the best to work with the program.

"It's all about accepting the challenge," said Morgan Tuck, who scored 14 points with eight rebounds in 21 minutes. "The practice players are very hard to play against. They were hitting every shot they tried on Friday. [Auriemma] wants to make sure that we take the challenge they present seriously knowing we aren't going to play anyone [during the season] as athletic as they are. If we can perform against them, we can do it in games."

So far, Auriemma's strategy seems to be working flawlessly.

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<![CDATA[SMU Rolls UConn, 73-55]]> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 10:58:35 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2013season.jpg

It's again time to pump the breaks on the "UConn is back!" conversations. It certainly looked that way when the UConn won three straight, but then the Huskies traveled to Dallas and were promptly blown out of Moody Coliseum by SMU, 73-55.

On one hand, UConn, at 14-10, is still in the mix. On the other hand, this all looks very familiar in that the Huskies' lack of consistency doesn't bode well for their postseason plans.

To be fair, the Mustangs aren't some homecoming cream puff; they're now 21-5 overall and are coached by Hall of Famer Larry Brown. Still, the Huskies are the defending national champs, and know a thing or two about winning tough games, especially this time of year. But this season seems to be different.

"We're just a little too fragile sometimes," senior point guard Ryan Boatright said, via the Hartford Courant. "It's frustrating for me. I try to express as much as I can to the team, you play hard all the way to the end. It's one thing when a team beats you, it's another thing when you let up and give up and let them do alley-oops and have a dunk fest. You're supposed to play hard to the end. They're not supposed to get dunks, you foul 'em hard and make them go to the free throw line."

With 88 seconds to go and the game long decided, coach Kevin Ollie cleared out his bench. This is not a good look anytime, but certainly worse in mid-February than mid-November.

"No, the effort wasn't there," the coach said, "not at the championship level, not to beat a team like this. So we've got to take the challenge. All the 50-50 balls they got, points in the paint, second-chance points. You can go down the list, the effort wasn't there to win a game like this. ...

"They took it to us," Ollie said of SMU, "and they've been taking it to every team they've played, but we can't just lay down and settle for that. We've got to come back and we've got to punch, too. A big game like this, we didn't come with the focus and composure we should have."

We often say something like, "Well, there's always the next game," but that only holds five more times. Then it's on to the AAC Tournament. If the Huskies are going to figure this out, it has to happen, like, yesterday.

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<![CDATA[Top-Ranked UConn Crush Tulane, 87-39]]> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 10:43:57 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/moriah+jefferson_1.jpg

Now atop the national rankings as the country's best team, Geno Auriemma's Huskies continued to do what they've done for months: dominate opponents. The latest group of unfortunate souls to cross their path: Tulane, who was on the receiving end of a 87-39 beatdown, on Valentine's Day, no less.

Moriah Jefferson led all scorers with 16 points, and five of her teammates ended the night in double figures: Morgan Tuck (14 points), Kia Nurse (12), Gabby Williams and Breanna Stewart (11) and Saniya Chong (10).

UConn, who led 42-12 at the break, outrebounded Tulane 45-30, shot 49 percent from the floor for the game, and held the Green Wave to 31 percent shooting.

“We’re trying to get to the point where we treat every team the same,” Tuck said, via SNY.com. “Everyone knew we would be ready to go and get  hyped up for the South Carolina game. But we wanted to make sure that we didn’t have a letdown today and we did a pretty good job of that.”

Auriemma added: “I thought we did a lot of good things. There were a couple stretches where our transition stuff was so good and we made some great plays. I think Moriah added to what she did Monday night. Everybody’s doing what they’re good at. We’re playing well as a team. It starts with our defense as it does all the time. For the most part, we did what we normally do — play good defense, share the ball, and get ready for the next one.”

Next up: Houston comes to the XL Center on Tuesday night.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright Eyes Tourney]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 13:41:12 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304023.jpg

It is, as they say, go time. After an 11-9 start, the Huskies have reeled off four straight wins, the latest a 70-45 thumping of Tulsa. So has coach Kevin Ollie and his young, mostly inexperienced team finally found themselves in time for another tournament run?

That's the hope.

"We've got seven games left," senior point guard and team leader Ryan Boatright said after the game, according to the Hartford Courant. "We know we've got to win every single one of these games for us to get to that tournament. Ain't nobody gonna give us nothing. Ain't nobody gonna give us the benefit of the doubt. We've got to go out and take it if we want to be in that tournament."

It seems naive to think that this team has a chance a defending it's national title but a year ago such talk would have been considered just as silly. Then the Huskies, led by Shabazz Napier, caught fire and by the first week of April UConn had won it all.

"Me and (Ollie), we believe in our team," Boatright continued. "We believe in the guys we've got in the locker room. We believe we can do it. As long as we say we can do it and we take care of business, we can do it."

And just like Napier -- and Kemba Walker before him -- Ollie (and Jim Calhoun) have benefitted from great point guard play during their title runs. If the improbable is going to play out again, it will be because Boatright continues to carry this team. This fact is not (nor has it ever been) lost on Ollie.

"I just want him to keep being composed, the coach said of his point guard. "When it's time to take over the game, he's starting to get that switch, 'It's my time.' And when it's time to pass the ball … he's doing a wonderful job."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Here Come the Huskies]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 13:37:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/217*120/AP1201238715.jpg

If the script looks familiar it should. The Huskies, after an unremarkable first two-and-a-half months of the season, suddenly look like a very dangerous team. Except that the transformation hasn't been sudden at all.

As Kevin Ollie would no doubt attest, it's been a gradual transformation to get his players on the same page, and more importantly, take some of the pressure off senior point guard Ryan Boatright. On Thursday, a month after Tulsa easily beat UConn, the defending national champs returned the favor -- and then some -- with a 70-45 shellacking at the XL Center.

We don't know if it was a signature win, but it was UConn's third straight, repeating a theme we've seen played out in February, March and April as recently as last season.

The Huskies jumped out to a 10-0 lead and never looked back; exactly what Ollie has been preaching for weeks now. Freshman Daniel Hamilton pulled 11 rebounds and transfer Rodney Purvis, who has been much more consistent recently, scored 17 points. Boatright, not surprisingly, was good for 23 points to go along with eight assists.

“He’s just getting better every day,” Ollie said of Boatright, according to the New Haven Register. “He’s learning how to talk to his teammates. With Ryan, he says the right things, but sometimes it doesn’t come out the right way. And now, he’s really just talking to them, explaining what he wants.”

“When it’s time to take over a game, he’s starting to get that switch where, ‘Alright, it’s my time.’”

And that's bad news for the rest of the American Athletic Conference. And like any great leader, Boatright isn't one to live in the past. He's already moved on to SMU, UConn's next opponent.

“They play tremendous defense, great team defense," he said. "They communicate extremely well, they’re physical, they’re balanced, they’ve got great guards. They’ve got guys in the frontcourt that can produce. They’re a tough team.”



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Routs Tulsa 70-45]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 21:39:24 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/215*120/481616597.jpg

Ryan Boatright scored 23 points and dished out eight assists as UConn won its third straight game, upsetting Tulsa 70-45 on Thursday.

Rodney Purvis added 17 points for the Huskies (14-9, 7-4 American) and Daniel Hamilton had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Marquel Curtis had 15 points to lead the Golden Hurricane (17-7, 10-2), who have now lost two in a row after a 12-game winning streak.

James Woodard, who scored 21 points in an eight-point win over the Huskies a month ago in Oklahoma, was held scoreless, missing all seven of his shots.

UConn scored the game's first 10 points and never trailed. They were up by nine at halftime, went on a 7-0 run to open the second half and won by 25.

The Golden Hurricane came into the day with a half-game lead in the conference over SMU, which played later Thursday night.

The Huskies shot 51 percent from the floor and outrebounded Tulsa 39-30.

Hamilton opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers from the left of the key and the Huskies led 15-4 before going into a five-minute scoring drought.

But Tulsa shot just 28 percent in the half, made just 1 of 10 first-half shots from 3-point range and never threatened to take the lead.

UConn shot just 38 percent from the floor, but went into halftime up 26-17. It was just the eighth time this season the Huskies have led after the first 20 minutes.

They came out strong in the second half as well. A 13-foot jump shot by Amida Brimah from the right of the lane gave UConn its first 20-plus point lead at 41-20. The 7-foot sophomore finished with nine points and blocked seven shots, giving him 165 in just 63 career games.

UConn, which turned the ball over 15 times in the first meeting, had just seven turnovers in this one.

Tulsa came into the game with an RPI ranking of 44. UConn was ranked No. 97 and the defending champions need to continue winning just to get back on the NCAA Tournament bubble.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kevin Ollie on Dean Smith, Jerry Tarkanian]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 15:55:38 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP090714021004.jpg

College basketball lost two greats this week. Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith died Saturday at the age of 83, and four days later, former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian died. He was 84. Both men had long battled health problems.

On Wednesday, UConn coach Kevin Ollie was asked about Smith and Tark.

“I knew Jerry Tarkanian a little bit more than Dean," Ollie said, via the New Haven Register. "I didn’t ever really get a chance to talk to Dean Smith. The latter part of his career, I was still in the NBA. I had a chance to get recruited by ... UNLV, had a chance to talk to Tark. It’s unfortunate. I love those guys to death. They’ve done a lot for our profession and really allowed us to do what we do now. They paved a great way for us. And they always cared about their team and their student-athletes. It’s two guys we’re really gonna miss in the game, and my heart goes out to their families.”

Earlier in the week, before Tarkanian passed away, former UConn coach and Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun spoke about Smith's influence -- in basketball and beyond.

"His work with desegregation and women's rights showed what an equally incredible person he was. What he means to the people of North Carolina is immeasurable. Dean Smith was the epitome of what a college basketball coach should be and he will be greatly missed."



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Feels Good Ahead of Tulsa Rematch]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:30:36 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconnj.jpg

It's been a month since UConn went to Tulsa and was outplayed, 66-58. The loss dropped the Huskies to 9-6 and coach Kevin Ollie was desperately trying to figure out how to bring balance to a team that relied so heavily on senior point guard Ryan Boatright.

Everything still runs through Boatright, but UConn seems to be finding its identify. And when the teams meet again, this time at the XL Center, the Huskies feel good about their chances.

“We’ve got to keep them off the free throw line, gotta cut down our turnovers, got to be more efficient on the offensive end," Ollie said Wednesday, via the New Haven Register. "I could keep going down the list. We can’t have live turnovers, and we’ve got to do a better job boxing them out. They had 17 offensive rebounds. That’s the combination for a loss, with stats like that. Hopefully, we’re a better team, and we can correct some of those things that are just effort plays -- boxing out, rebounds, 50-50 balls, eliminating the turnovers. Those are the small things we’ve got to do for us to win against good competition.”

Transfer Rodney Purvis continues to grow into his role, one that will be important as the Huskies make their way through the final part of the schedule and look ahead to the conference tournament.

“It’s been really, really, really tough for me," Purvis said of his up and down season. "I’m one of the guys who really gets down on myself when I’m not doing so well. He stays in my ear all the time. The main thing is staying focused, through the highs and the lows."

Boatright, meanwhile, has been down this road before with previous UConn teams.

“It’s the last home stretch, we’ve got to win all our games. We’ve got a huge two-game stretch right here coming up. We want to be in that tournament, we’ve got to take care of these wins. ...

“I didn’t come back to play in the NIT. I know what it takes to be where we were at last year. I know what it takes to get into the tournament, with the predicament we’re in right now."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Face Tough Road This Season]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 12:47:43 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

The 2014-15 season hasn't gone according to plan -- at least not yet -- for Kevin Ollie's Huskies. Trying to defend a national championship is never easy, especially when you lose someone like Shabazz Napier to the NBA.

On Saturday, UConn returns to the national stage, even if briefly, when they face SMU as part of ESPN's GameDay. Former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, who is now an analyst for ESPN, will cover the game. This week he talked about the unrealistic expectations facing this UConn team given last year's title run.

"The senior class they had, as a whole, was under-appreciated," Greenberg said, via the Hartford Courant. "Everybody talks about Shabazz, but Niels Giffey and DeAndre Daniels were as much a part of their success as Shabazz. Now, you have guys in different roles, and when you change roles, now guys who were getting the third-best defender are getting the best defender."

"Amida [Brimah] is a work in progress. Rodney Purvis is an athlete, still getting a feel for the game. Daniel Hamilton is an interesting prospect, but he's a prospect. They've got a chance, they have what I call 'suspects,' guys who have a chance to get better. … Do they have the toughness you need to deal with adversity, play-to-play, game-to-game? You see some guys that show potential. The light bulb goes on for different guys at different times."

Ollie understands this all to well. It's why the team is 13-9.

"[UConn] is a work in progress," Greenberg told the Courant. "You can't lose guys that are vested in the program, high-character guys, toughness, chemistry, role players, skill players, and not take a step back. Very few schools can do that. Connecticut, Florida, other teams are going through a transition season."

Still, there are reasons for optimism; the Huskies have won two straight and if we've learned anything from these UConn teams in recent years, it's that they know how to play in March and April.

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<![CDATA[Jim Calhoun on Dean Smith]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 12:43:14 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jim-calhoun-be-careful.jpg

Dean Smith, the man who built the University of North Carolina's program, died last Sunday after a long illness. He was 83.

Smith's legacy, which extended beyond basketball and included fighting for desegregation and equal rights women, will live on indefinitely. Earlier this week, former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun remembered Smith.

"Like the rest of the college basketball world, I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dean Smith, who was not only one of one of the greatest coaches of all time, but a true innovator of the game," Calhoun said in a statement released by UConn.

"Dean was a father figure to many, many young coaches and taught a lot of us what it means to build a program, not just a team. As a young coach in my first few years at Northeastern, I had the opportunity to visit his camp for a few days and learn how a real program was run. He was incredibly generous with his time and his advice and he remained so throughout many years.

"Dean's influence, however, went far beyond basketball coaching. His work with desegregation and women's rights showed what an equally incredible person he was. What he means to the people of North Carolina is immeasurable.

"Dean Smith was the epitome of what a college basketball coach should be and he will be greatly missed."

Smith and Calhoun faced each other once, in 1990, with UNC winning 79-64.

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<![CDATA[USA Basketball Announces Auriemma's Olympic Staff]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 12:30:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-usa.jpg

Hours before the No. 2 Huskies blew the top-ranked Gamecocks out of Gampel Pavilion, USA Basketball announced that Geno Auriemma's coaching staff from the 2014 World Games will be unchanged for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

That means DePaul coach Doug Bruno, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and Minnesota Lynx (WNBA) coach Cheryl Reeve will all return.

"There is certainly a comfort level that we have," Auriemma said Monday, via the Hartford Courant. "We know a little bit about each other now and have been able to work together in the FIBA World Championship and I'm very comfortable with them and confident in them. Obviously I've known Doug the longest but I've had coaching relationships with Dawn and Cheryl too and we've worked really well together. The more time we spend together, the relationships are going to grow and we are going to be even more effective than they were in the World Championships. ...

"We've been told on numerous occasions that regardless of what happens [the administration is] with us win or win," Auriemma continued. "That's USA Basketball's philosophy; we're behind you all the way as long as you win because that's the only thing USA Basketball has known.

"We happen to represent the best team in the history of team sports at the Olympics. No other team has won as many consecutive gold medals as the USA has won in basketball."

Team USA will train at various camps over the next two seasons before heading to Brazil in early August 2016 for the Olympics.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Moriah Jefferson Loved Big Game Atmosphere]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 19:46:57 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Moriah_Jefferson_Loved_Big_Game_Atmosphere_1200x675_397026371766.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[Mosqueda-Lewis, Stewart Lead Huskies in Win]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:05:18 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn-AP967109896261.jpg

South Carolina led 18-15 in the first half, and cut the lead to 10 points shortly after the break. But the reality is that UConn was in control pretty much from the opening tip to the final whistle, looking every bit the No. 1 team in the country.

When it was over, the Huskies cruised to an 87-62 victory, snapping the Gamecocks' 22-game winning streak in the process. Senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis played like the nation's best shooter, draining 5 of 6 looks from beyond the arc and finishing with a game-high 23 points, while Breanna Stewart looked like the nation's best player, scoring 22 points and pulling 8 rebounds against a South Carolina defense helpless to do much about it.

Morgan Tuck added 17 points and 6 boards while point guard Moriah Jefferson went for 16 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds.

“South Carolina is a great team, they are hard to play against, really hard to play against, but when you get four guys playing the way those guys played," coach Geno Auriemma said afterwards, "it’s hard to play against us ... really hard, especially in the atmosphere we were able to feed off. We fed off our crowd a lot.

"In the second half, we came out up sixteen and they cut it to ten right away. I remember going to the bench at one point and Breanna Stewart said 'That’s it, they are done, that’s their run,' and that’s the way it played out. Usually Stewart doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t say anything."

Auriemma also spoke to the magnitude of the spectacle, which was arguably the biggest game in the country -- in any sport -- on Monday night.

“I tell kids all of the time when we are recruiting players this is what they want," he said. "This is the game that they want to play in, a game like this. I guess this was a slow night in the sports world because I guess this was the biggest thing on television tonight. The point of coming to Connecticut is to play in these games. Whether its January, February, March, April, it doesn’t matter, these are the games you come to Connecticut for, these are the games we practice for, games like today.”

Stewart added: “We want to play the best team in the country. If we could have a schedule where we could play the top 25, we would love to have that. We all have our own conferences, and we have to do as best we can within those conferences.”



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Verducci Named New Offensive Coordinator]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 11:36:11 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconn+diaco+temple.jpg

UConn has named Frank Verducci as its offensive coordinator. The former NFL assistant and Notre Dame run-game coordinator spent last season as the tight ends coach/offensive tackles coach at Northern Iowa. He has also coached in the CFL, SEC and Big Ten.

"Frank brings 31 years of coaching experience on the offensive side of the ball to our UConn football program with a laundry list of personal and team accolades that are very special," head coach Bob Diaco said in a statement.

"Another aspect of Frank that separated him from others is his experience on coaching the offensive front. I now have great balance on my offensive staff with three experts in the passing game and two experts in how to attack a defensive front. I thought it was important to have that balance rather than adding someone who specifically knows wide receivers or quarterbacks.

"Frank and I have a long-standing relationship because of the type of person he is. We come from the same coaching tree and we have the same philosophies on the development of young men."

Verducci will have his work cut out for him; the Huskies' offense was among the lowest rated in FBS a season ago and questions remain at the quarterback position.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Geremy Davis, Byron Jones Get Combine Invites]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 11:33:59 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geremy-davis-ecu.jpg

There were few positives in Bob Diaco's first season -- at least in terms of wins and losses -- but as UConn's football coach has preached on what seems like a weekly basis, turning around this program is a process. It started last year and continues through the incoming class into 2015.

But if you're looking for a bright spot from 2014's two-win effort, here you go: Wide receiver Geremy Davis and defensive back Byron Jones have earned invitations to the NFL Combine, which begins later this month. It will be a chance for both players to showcase their talents along with some of the country's best players.

Davis caught 165 posses for 2,292 yards in 46 career games, despite playing in some of lowest-ranked FBS offenses in recent years. At 6-3, 216 pounds, he's has the physical attributes NFL teams are looking for in pass catchers.

"God has given me an opportunity to perform in front of all 32 teams and scouts, doing something that you love and feel blessed to do," Davis told the Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner.

"I just want to take everything event by event, so if it starts with the bench press, I want to have my mind-set to where all I'm doing is focusing on bench press, on to the 40, shuttle, so forth and so on. I don't want to think big picture. I want to think of each individual one as I'm competing in the drills."

Jones, meanwhile, played in just seven games last season after suffering a shoulder injury. He's not sure if he'll be healthy enough to take part in all the combine drills but he will likely remain on the radar of NFL teams looking for help in the secondary because he can be a special player. Here's how Diaco described him this summer:

"I think he will be one of the best players in the country,” the coach said before the 2014 season. “Everyone will see it eventually when they put him in those compression shorts (at combines). You will see a tall, long, lean and fast and explosive and athletic player. His numbers, with our developmental process, you are going to see at the end of the day one of the best tangibly gifted cornerback players in the country."

And while Jones didn't get a chance to showcase his talents for the entire season, he still has plenty of football in front of him.

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<![CDATA[ESPN Not High on UConn's 2015 Chances]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 23:12:01 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob+diaco+uconn+pumped.jpg

Bob Diaco signed 21 players to letters of intent this week. And while none received the fanfare we were inundated with from ESPN on signing day, the second-year coach sounds excited about bringing his players into a program he's trying to rebuild.

"We have 12 states represented in our 22 players," Diaco said last week. "We have signed the best rated corner in Illinois, the best player in New Hampshire, the best player in Maine, the two top rated defensive tackles in New Jersey, the top rated defensive tackle from Pennsylvania, the top rated quarterback, the top rated specialist and wide receivers all from the state of New York and finally the top rated defensive player from Delaware."

All the players also come from winning programs, which is important when trying to change a culture of losing.

"We have this culture built now," the coach continued. "We have this culture, it was a challenge but it was built. The floorboards and the foundation have been laid and it was a challenging venture but it has been done. And is it still fragile? Absolutely. And is it still raw? Absolutely, but we have a language of winning. So this collection of guys that's going to show up that's going to show up and be inserted into the locker room is going to be a tidal wave of positive energy and an understanding of winning because they are already talking about winning."

There's plenty to be excited about if you're a UConn fan -- especially given how far the program has fallen in recent years -- but skeptics remain. Take, for example, ESPN's computer preseason power ratings. It ranks the Huskies' 117th overall -- the offense comes in at 128, the defense 72 and the preseason FBI, an estimate of team strength, is -13.8.

Put in perspective, the Huskies are 11 spots out of last place.



Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Huskies Host No.1 South Carolina on Monday]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 23:12:47 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/stewart-uconn-creighton.jpg

Way back in November, in the second regular-season game of the season, UConn faced top-5 Stanford ... and lost. The Huskies have won 21 games since and are the No. 2 team in the country. On Monday night, they'll face one of two remaining unbeaten teams in women's basketball: South Carolina, now ranked first in the country. (Princeton's the other unbeaten team.)

“It’s huge for us to come out with energy just because we’re going to be battling them for 40 minutes,” junior All American Breanna Stewart said on Sunday, via SNY.com. “It helps that we’re playing a home game in front of a sold-out crowd. We have to be prepared to take their punches. As long as we are always on the attack, they have to defend us.

“We have to punch them first and attack them first and send the message of, ‘This is how the game is going to go.’ It’s fun just because you know they are a team that’s not just going to lay down and die. It’s going to be a battle for 40 minutes, and that’s what you want. You come here to play these type of games. We are really looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley will rely on depth when they come go Gampel Pavilion.

“I think it’s one of our biggest strengths,” the coach said. “It’s not because we have one player. It’s because we have four players who are 6-foot-4 or taller on our roster. A lot of times most teams don’t have that. And they are all so different. They bring something totally different to the table, and you do have to spend a little bit of time prepping for us and prepping for the various ways that we play and the various skill sets that we do have.”

But Staley, taking a page out of the Auriemma playbook, makes it clear that one game doesn't make a season.

“This game won’t define us us at all,” Staley said. “It’s not the national championship game. It’s another game against a tremendously quality opponent on their home court.”

And Auriemma pretty much echoed those comments.

“The danger of (trying to keep the game in perspective) is why a lot of coaches don’t want to play these games,” he said. “They don’t want to play these games in February because they’re afraid of the aftermath. Me? I look forward to the aftermath. I am going to be a lot happier Tuesday morning that I am going to be Monday night.

“It might be a night you have to grind it out. They’re pretty physical and they are pretty tough and they are way bigger than we are. But come Tuesday morning, I think that’s what a coach’s job is. I think that is what coaching is. Coaching is making your players understand what the significance of every game is. We treat it exactly like that. That might be one of the reasons we have had a lot of success in these games. If we win, we have to remind our players we didn’t win anything, we just won a game on Monday night. They didn’t give us any trophies for it and we’re not having a parade after it. And if we lose, we have to remind our players the season isn’t over.”



Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jessica Hill]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Back on Track With 2nd Straight Win]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 15:03:00 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP429070821574.jpg

Last week, UConn was 11-9, losers of four straight on the road, and coach Kevin Ollie was desperately trying to find someone -- anyone -- to help share the burden along with senior point guard Ryan Boatright.

On Saturday, the Huskies won their second straight -- this time in New Orleanes against Tulane -- and while Boatright again led the team in scoring with 18 points, transfer Rodney Purvis and freshman Daniel Hamilton also did their parts (17 and 11 points respectively). Hamilton added eight rebounds and UConn has put themselves in a familiar position as we head down the stretch for the conference tournament.

"I just want the guys to stay with it," coach Kevin Ollie said via the Hartford Courant, "and sooner or later we'll come through it. The common thread, the common goal, is us. When we get kind of out of whack, we start thinking about things we can't control — the outcome. We just want to play every possession hard, compete on every possession, and go out there and try to win the game together."

It sounds like, well, coachspeak, but it's happened so often in recent years that you have to take Ollie seriously.

"I have a group that's coming together now," the coach continued. "Everybody's seen us, we've had our struggles, we've had our ups and downs. But those guys are playing better, they're feeding off each other, they're understanding where they can get points in our offense and they're pressuring the ball a little bit better. That's what I want to do — play with energy, but I want them to play with pleasure, don't let pressure take away the pleasure of the game. I thought we were doing that earlier, everybody was pressing to make plays, this and that. Smile out there, enjoy the moment."

Next up: Tulsa comes to the XL Center on Thursday.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Rallies to Beat Tulane]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 10:20:54 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/uconnj.jpg

Rodney Purvis could have gotten down on himself after missing a couple of layups in the second half against Tulane. Instead, he took out his frustrations on the Green Wave, hitting two big 3-pointers down the stretch.

Ryan Boatright scored 18 points with nine rebounds, Purvis finished with 17 points and Connecticut rallied to beat Tulane 62-53 on Saturday.

Trailing 44-39 with 6:40 left, the Huskies (13-9, 6-4 American Athletic Conference) went on a 16-2 run to take control and snap a four-game road losing streak.

Purvis started the spurt with a 3-pointer. Daniel Hamilton hit a jumper from the foul line to tie the score at 45. Boatright gave UConn the lead for good, 48-45, on a drive to the basket and free throw after being fouled with 4:40 left.

Purvis then drained another 3-pointer to make the score 53-46 with 2:57 left.

"We normally don't really respond too well to adversity, but it was a great time to respond today," Purvis said. "I had to let those two plays go and move on."

UConn coach Kevin Ollie and Boatright admitted they were worried about how Purvis would react to his two easy misses.

"When he plays with confidence and he's aggressive like that, he can make those shots all the time," Boatright said. "He just needs to not get robotic out there and go out and play."

Louis Dabney had 13 points for Tulane (13-10, 4-7), which dropped its fifth in a row. Jay Hook added 11 points.

Tulane, which led 27-24 at the half, endured two long droughts in the second half, going more than five minutes early without scoring and failing to make a field goal for nearly six minutes after Dabney's 3-point play at the 6:49 mark.

"The last five minutes were exceptional," Ollie said. "We wanted to not play in so many spurts, but I really like our guys coming together and playing with effort and intensity those last five minutes and just turning it up to a level five."

UConn seven-foot center Amida Brimah, who had blocked 18 shots in his last five games, had a career-high eight blocks and was dominant defensively in the first half.

He swatted away two shots on one possession, one at the rim and the second on the perimeter, leading to Purvis's transition layup.

A little later, he intimidated Tulane's Josh Hearlihy into passing the ball outside from under the basket. The Huskies intercepted it, and Brimah finished that fast break with an emphatic dunk.

Tulane still managed to take the lead by halftime, getting offense from unlikely sources as nine players scored but none had more than five points.

Hearlihy, a sophomore averaging 1.5 points, matched his career high with five points on a reverse layup and a long-range shot.

Reserve forward Payton Henson fed reserve guard Kajon Mack with a perfect bounce pass that led to a 3-point play. Freshman center Dylan Osetkowski scored a quick basket after an inbounds pass with one second left on the shot clock. Backup point guard Keith Pinckney cut to the basket along the baseline and scored off a nice pass from Henson.

Tulane, which last played on Jan. 31 in a 55-37 loss at Temple, did not get the same contributions in the second half.

"We really tried to manage the minutes to keep our energy up," Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. "But I don't think there's any doubt we looked a little fatigued down the stretch."

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TIP-INS:

UConn: This was the 14th time this season the defending national champions have trailed at the halftime. The Huskies are now 5-9 in those games. UConn hit 22 of 44 shots. The Huskies committed 10 turnovers in the first half but had only four in the second half.

Tulane: Point guard Jonathan Stark, who led Conference USA in minutes played last season, sat out the last 13:11 of the first half with two fouls. The Green Wave used freshman Keith Pinckney, Louis Dabney and Josh Hearlihy to fill his minutes and outscored UConn 20-13 while Stark sat.

BOATRIGHT FACTOR

Boatright, who had hit 25 3-pointers in his last five games, had only one trey but hurt Tulane in other ways. His nine rebounds were a game high, as were his five assists. He also hit all five of his free throws. "Some of us half to realize this is our last shot," he said. "We can't afford to lose any more games or it's NIT action."

SHOOTING SLUMP

Tulane, which had shot 32.4 percent in its last four games, connected only 32.7 percent this time, finishing 18 of 55. The Green Wave was 8 of 28 in the second half.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies host league-leading Tulsa on Thursday.

Tulane: The Green Wave travels to Cincinnati on Feb. 14.



Photo Credit: AP]]>