By Erica Brancato
The UConn men's basketball team snapped its two-game losing streak as it defeated Tulane 67-60 on Sunday before a partisan crowd at Gampel Pavilion. Though it wasn't an easy win, the Huskies were able to outlast the Green Wave and pull away in the last five minutes of the game.
As captain Ryan Boatright continues to say, UConn controls their own destiny for the postseason and looks to use this win to keep the momentum up as March approaches.
"It was extremely important to just get back on the winning side of things," Boatright said. "We dropped two straight, with a bad loss at SMU and a road loss at Memphis. Anytime we get in front of our home crowd it is important to get a win."
The first half started smoothly for UConn as they kept Tulane at bay for a solid nine minutes. Daniel Hamilton and Amida Brimah kept the offensive pace early on and as the half continued, Boatright began to heat up.
Though Boatright didn't get a point for the first 10 minutes, he was a key factor throughout the court recording 16 points and four steals during the game.
UConn outscored Tulane in points in the paint 34- 12, Tulane's Dylan Ostekowski and Louis Dabney kept the Green Wave in the game with 31 combined points. The teams were both equally matched as the game was very back and forth in nature.
"We just grinded it out and they make you play that way because every possession, every cut they are not taking bad shots," head coach Kevin Ollie said. "They run their offense really well so it was a great test for us. I think we passed it now hopefully we get some momentum on our side."
Despite UConn's solid start, Tulane was able to come back and take the lead with less than 10 minutes left in the game. The Huskies were able to regain a solid lead with a little over five minutes left in the contest, it was vital for each player to stay composed and make smart defensive decisions as Kentan Facey and Phil Nolan were in foul trouble.
UConn remained calm and composed throughout the last stretch of the game. Tulane stayed tough, but UConn's combined nine steals and eight blocks on the Green Wave helped them in the long run. UConn's determination and sense of urgency throughout the game helped the Huskies outlast their opponent for the win.
Hamilton and Brimah were key factors in those last few minutes as well, as they were the anchors to both the offense and defense. Both players have had stellar back-to-back games and have matured into a better player as the season kicks into a crucial time.
Brimah led the team with 19 points and four major blocks in his 31 minutes on the court. He also went eight for eight in field goals as he helped both the defense and offense tremendously against Tulane. Hamilton racked up a total of nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals for the Huskies.
With a career high 25 points last game against Memphis and his stellar defensive performance against the Green Wave, Hamilton has proved to be a key versatile player for UConn.
"Whatever we have to do to win that's what I'm going to do," he said. "If it's scoring, if it's passing or rebounding, it doesn't matter. Whatever we have to do to win, I'm going to try to go out there and do it."
Though both Brimah and Hamilton had stand out games separately, together with their three huge alley-oops they were unstoppable. Hamilton said it started during summer league pick up and it has translated over into the game and has worked well for both of them - and the Huskies.
UConn showed their ability to stay level headed and determined in high pressure moments. They played with a sense of urgency to win in order to keep their post-season hopes alive, however that may not be a bad thing for the Huskies.
Boatright believes that if the team can take care of business and win the final four reaming regular season games, that momentum would carry over into the American Athletic Conference tournament, which will take place at the XL Center in March.
"Anything can happen once you get in the tournament so I think we are in a corner and we are fighting our way out."