It wasn't pretty, but the UConn men's basketball team pulled out a win
That is the sentiment echoed by Coach Kevin Ollie and the UConn men's basketball team after a night in which they were far colder than the bitter air surrounding the XL Center. The Huskies shot 1-14 from behind the three-point line, but were able to get enough stops to fend off the upset-minded New Hampshire Wildcats and hang on for the 61-53 victory.
Fortunately for UConn and their dismal shooting night, UNH was even worse, knocking down only 30.6 percent of their shots from the field and falling to 2-4. They had previously lost to Bryant, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Holy Cross, and Coach Bill Herrion knew that his team missed an opportunity to erase all of that with what would have been a resounding upset.
"For a team at our level to beat a team of this level, you need some guys to step up and make shots," said Herrion. "We just didn't make that big shot that we needed."
For the Huskies, freshman Omar Calhoun was impressive yet again, scoring 16 points and, more importantly to Ollie, pulling down eight rebounds. UConn has struggled on the glass all season long and were without their leading rebounder, Tyler Olander, for much of the game as he was plagued with foul trouble. Despite only 16 minutes from Olander, UConn succeeded in outrebounding UNH by a margin of 43-40.
"I like [Calhoun's] rebounding, and that is how he is going to stay on the court," said Ollie on playing Calhoun for 38 minutes. "I like his aggressiveness, I like him getting 16 points and getting to the free throw line. He still has to play a lot better, though, because the competition in the Big East, as everyone knows, is tough."
In addition to Calhoun's 16, UConn benefitted from 19 from Ryan Boatright, who led the team in scoring on 5-10 shooting from the field and 9-11 from the free throw line. The two guards helped to compensate for an off night from fellow backcourt mate Shabazz Napier, who entered the game averaging 20.2 points but was held to just 5 on Thursday night on 2-9 shooting. Despite his lackluster statistics, Napier and the rest of the team were able to make plays down the stretch to hold off a late-game surge by UNH.
"My guys didn't perform the way that we wanted them to perform, but we found a way to get the win," said Ollie. "Our point guards have to do a better job, I have to do a better job as a coach, our coaching staff has to do a better job, and we all are going to get better. I'm not going to have a pity party, because that's not who I am. We got the win and I'm not going to apologize for it."
The Huskies will need a much more impressive night shooting the basketball when they are next in action on Tuesday night.
In one of the most highly anticipated contests of their schedule, the Huskies will be travelling to Madison Square Garden to take on North Carolina State as part of the Jimmy V Classic. That game starts at 9 p.m.
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