By Erica Brancato
Thursday's Senior Night game did not go as planned for senior captain Ryan Boatright and his teammates as the Huskies dropped a 54-53 decision to Memphis. However, Boatright says the team is now more determined than ever to play the best and most consistent basketball in the American Athletic Conference tournament, which opens next Wednesday in Hartford. UConn wraps up its regular season on Saturday at Temple.
"I give a lot of credit to Memphis," head coach Kevin Ollie said after the Thursday game. "They came in, they took the game and played with a sense of urgency. We didn't. Right from the tap and I thought the guys just forgot what we did against SMU. We shared the basketball we played together and I just thought it was a little too much selfishness in this basketball game on the offensive and defensive end."
Though Memphis took a quick double-digit lead over UConn in the beginning of the first half, the Huskies were able to even the playing field and tie it at 26 by halftime. Memphis came out tough as tensions were high throughout the game. UConn shook it off and had leads throughout much of the second half.
"This is a tough league. It is Division I basketball. Its going to be physical play," Boatright said. "You have to keep your head and stay poised and hit back the right way, which we did. I think we fought back and we stayed together and did what we needed to do to get back in the basketball game. In the second half we didn't execute well."
UConn came out with energy in the second half to keep it a close game until the very ending. The game came down to the wire as Memphis led by a mere point with eight seconds left and UConn possession.
"We were just trying to get Boatright the ball... and make a play," Ollie said. "That's basically it. You are taking the full length of the court so its not like you can run three down screens. So you put the ball in your senior hands and hope he can make a play."
Though Boatright said he knows could have gotten a better shot off within the last second, this team will use the one point deficit to motivate them further. Without question this team plays with heart and never gives up. The Huskies shot 27 percent yet were able to come back and stay in the game. Though they were not in sync and their shots didn't fall, it was evident that this team had the chance to win.
They never gave up and left it all out on the court. Now it is just a matter of piecing together a consistent game.
"It is frustrating but as the leader of this team I am going to keep encouraging," Boatright said. "People are down, coach is mad at us but I'm going to keep us together and get back to practice and we live to fight another day."
UConn will use this loss as a motivation. Though they need to stay consistent and work together, the Huskies believe their season is not over. It will be a challenge but this team refuses to give up.
"All you can do is learn from your mistakes," Boatright said. "We still have opportunities to do what we want to do and get to the tournament; it is just a tougher task. It can be done though."