By Erica Brancato
Despite a slow start against East Carolinaa, the UConn men’s basketball team bounced back and played a dominating second half on Wednesday night in a 65-52 win over the Pirates.
“East Carolina really took over the game with their three point shooting, so I challenged the guys in the second half to limit their three point shooting,” head coach Kevin Ollie said as the Pirates had a 34-27 intermission lead. “It was just a good overall game. That second half was probably the best second half we’ve played defensively and offensively.”
Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah’s alley-oop in the beginning of the second half helped the Huskies start the stanza with a 14-0 run that completely changed the momentum of the game.
UConn also went on a 17-0 run later in the second half, which held the Pirates scoreless for seven minutes. Communication and defense was key as the Huskies improved their record to 5-4 in conference play and 12-9 overall.
“I thought we just played a great second half,” Ollie said. “I’m just going to keep it positive, we are going to keep going to the drawing board, but I’m not worried about the first half. I just really love our second half effort… of course I want to start off fast, but I would rather start off great in the second half and finish the game like we did any day.”
Ryan Boatright stole the show as he racked up 23 points and was seven for 10 at the three-point line.
“I know that teams are scared of me beating them off the dribble and getting in the paint, so a lot of guys are going under screens on me and giving me a little too much room,” Boatright said. “I’ve been in the gym putting up a lot of reps and shots from the three just because I know they are the shots teams are going to give to me. I make the game easy and take what the defense gives to me.”
Hamilton also played a key role for the Huskies as he grabbed 11 rebounds in 33 minutes on the court. His dominance in the past few games at the four spot has been similar to former forward DeAndre Daniels of last year’s NCAA national championship team. With Hamilton at the four, Ollie said it felt a lot like last season.
“It isn’t exactly the same,” Boatright said. “DeAndre was pretty good, but you know Daniel is a great player. I think when Daniel gets the experience under his belt he has the opportunity to be better than DeAndre, but he definitely has the same kind of feel.”
With 16 assists and seven turnovers the Huskies were able to distribute the ball equally among players throughout the game. Terrance Samuel helped the Huskies at point guard for some of the night, as he took pressure of Boatright and gave other players good looks. ECU went seven for 21 in field goal attempts in the second half, as the Huskies held the Pirates to a mere 44 percent in field goal shooting for the game.
“That second half is UConn basketball at its finest -- guys moving the basketball, playing together, playing unselfish,” Ollie said. “Nobody cared who got the shot -- they were just passing to the open UConn player. Then we got down and guarded. We played some great defense. If you can go on a 14-0 run and a 17-0 run that’s pretty damn special. I thought our guys did that and really dug in the second half. They played with passion, they took the challenge from our coaching staff and it was great.”