Ollie Continues to lead Huskies
Under new head coach Kevin Ollie, the UConn men's basketball team got off to a 7-2 start. Over winter break the Huskies went, 5-3, hosted the No. 1 team in the country and Ollie agreed to a contract to be the men's basketball coach for the next five seasons.
Connecticut started with two home wins over Maryland Eastern Shore and Fordham. Sophomore Ryan Boatright scored 47 points, making 17 of 24 shots. Seven of 12 were made from three-point land in the two games. Junior Shabazz Napier and freshman Omar Calhoun averaged 15 and 19.5 points, respectively, over the same stretch.
Before the 84-50 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore on Dec. 17, the entire men's basketball team helped form a circle at center court in honor of the victims in the Newtown shooting tragedy. The team, coaching staff and Jim Calhoun visited the Newtown Youth Academy.
"We know that this community is coming together and will prevail and we just wanted to go there and show our support, show them that our team and the whole state of Connecticut is behind them," Ollie said.
The team will also wear patches honoring Sandy Hook for the remainder of the season.
News broke on Dec. 29 that Ollie had agreed to a contract worth seven million dollars over five years. A press conference was held to announce the contract before the final non-conference game of the season against the Washington Huskies.
Later that night, as a snowstorm pounded the northeast, the UConn Huskies defeated the Washington Huskies 61-53. Napier, Boatright and Calhoun all scored in the double digits. Napier also grabbed eight rebounds and is second on the team in rebounding (4.3 rebounds per game) behind sophomore DeAndre Daniels (4.4 rpg).
The Huskies opened up the Big East slate with a controversial 82-76 overtime loss at Marquette. Boatright knocked down a 15-foot jumper to give the Huskies a three-point lead with less than five seconds remaining. Marquette's Junior Cadougan weaved through the UConn defense and made a buzzer beating three to force the game into overtime. At the beginning of overtime Napier took advantage of a wide-open lane to the basket and had his lay-up goaltended togive UConn an early 71-69 lead.
Then one of the oddest things to ever happen in a basketball game happened. The officials realized that the teams were lined up and were playing in the wrong direction. They ruled that Napier's bucket did not count and Marquette was awarded the ball. The Golden Eagles outscored the Huskies 13-7 in overtime to deny the Huskies its first Big East win. Official Karl Hess would later admit that UConn should have been awarded the basket.
UConn would clinch its first conference win a week later in a 99-78 blowout over DePaul behind Daniels' career-high 26 points.
On Jan. 12, UConn went to Notre Dame and defeated the Irish 65-58. Junior Tyler Olander had the best game of his career as he outperformed Notre Dame's Jack Cooley. He scored 16 points and made eight of nine shots in 31 minutes.
Two days later, the Huskies received more good news as Miami big man Amida Brimah committed to UConn as the third member of the 2013 class.
Later that night, Rick Pitino's Louisville squad came into Hartford as the top-ranked team in the country. UConn grabbed an early ten-point lead and held a 34-28 edge heading into halftime thanks to Louisville's Peyton Siva's early foul trouble. The second half was a completely different story. The Cardinals took the crowd out of the game and outscored the Huskies 45-24 and won 73-58. Calhoun was not intimated by the No. 1 team in the land, he scored 20 but Napier injured his left shoulder early in the first half and was ineffective for the rest of the game.
The Napier injury carried over into the 69-61 loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 19. UConn's 22 points in the first 20 minutes was of the worst halves of basketball this season. They fought back in the second half behind Boatright's 20 points but ran out of gas near the end.
The Huskies will look to end the two-game skid Sunday at 2 p.m. when they host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the XL Center.
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