The UConn Huskies men's basketball team came into Saturday afternoon's game having lost four straight games and were without their leader in head coach Jim Calhoun. The Seton Hall Pirates were partially in the same boat having lost five straight games and were without one of their best players in Herb Pope.
So we knew when the final buzzer sounded that one team's losing streak would come at the end.
Fortunately for the UConn men, the light bulbs finally went off and they were able to end their skid with a 69-46 win over the Pirates in front of a sold-out crowd at the XL Center in Hartford, CT.
With the win, the Huskies improve to 15-7 (5-5 Big East) and are now 3-1 (all in the conference) without Calhoun this season. The Pirates fall to 15-8 (4-7).
Ryan Boatright was the spark plug on both ends of the floor for UConn as he had 19 points, five assists and four steals. Jeremy Lamb had 17 points and eight rebound while Alex Oriakhi came off the bench to score 10 points and pull down eight boards.
Shabazz Napier's struggles from the floor continued as he was 1-of-6 but finished with six points, eight rebounds and two assists. Andre Drummond spent most of the first half on the bench with foul trouble but had a great second half. He had seven points, six rebounds and a career-high seven blocked shots for the game.
Aaron Cosby and Jordan Theodore both led the Pirates with 10 points and each had three rebounds with Theodore adding three assists. Fuquan Edwin chipped in with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Just like they did in their loss to Georgetown on Wednesday night, the Huskies got out to a quick start and then fell behind. They got out to a 10-4 lead before Seton Hall responded with seven straight points to take the lead at 11-10. The Huskies retook the lead on an Oriakhi layup and then things got ugly offensively for both teams.
Despite the fact UConn would never trail again in the game, they couldn't get things going in their offense and it looked as though they might not reach 50 points again. Fortunately, Seton Hall wasn't much better on the offensive end and began to turn the ball over.
After Theodore hit two free throws to cut the lead to one at 14-13, someone flipped a switch and the Huskies woke up on both ends of the floor. They played great defense and that led to points on the offensive end. They would use a 10-0 to take control of the game. A Boatright steal at the end of the half gave the Huskies a 30-17 lead at the break.
UConn opened up the second half on a 9-2 run behind Boatright and it looked as though they were firmly going to win the game. But then it looked as though they became disinterested and put things in cruise control. Seton Hall responded with five straight points to get within 15 points.
UConn would wake up again and push the lead to 21 points before they put it back on cruise control and watched Seton Hall wittle the lead down to 14 points. A 7-0 run started by a Lamb three ensured the Pirates would get no closer the rest of the way.
While it wasn't their best of efforts at times, it was great to see the Huskies smiling and playing basketball like we know they can. Now what they need to do is put together a complete game and hopefully this ship will continue to sail in the right direction.
They'll need to be at their best this week as they have two big games against Louisville and Syracuse on the road. They'll get it started on Monday night when they head to Louisville, KY for a matchup with the Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN as part of Big Monday.
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Notes and musings:
Here are the post game quotes from UConn associate head coach George Blaney and Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard.
UConn is now 3-1 without their head coach Jim Calhoun this season.
With Blaney at the helm on Saturday, the Huskies employed a three-guard lineup. The starters were Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb, Tyler Olander and Andre Drummond.
UConn shot 43.4% (23-53) from the floor while the Pirates shot 25.9% (15-58).
The Huskies had just seven assists on their 23 made baskets.
UConn was 2-of-13 (15.4%) from beyond the arc. Both threes were made by Lamb. The Pirates were 5-of-26 (19.2%).
The Huskies were 21-of-26 (80.8%) from the free throw line. Much better effort there!
UConn won the battle of the boards outrebounding the Pirates 43-35.
The Huskies outscored Seton Hall 30-18 in the paint and 9-8 on the fast break.
UConn had 14 points off of 15 Pirates turnovers. Seton Hall 14 points off of 16 Huskies turnovers.
Seton Hall had eight second chance points to four for the Huskies.
UConn's bench had 14 points to seven for the Pirates.
Photo credit: AP Photo