UConn freshman forward Abdou Mbacke Thiam tallied his third game-winning goal of the season Saturday night on a penalty shot in overtime to defeat the South Florida Bulls 2-1.
Thiam finished the regular season with a team-high eight goals. He started in all 17 games, and his impact on the field has not be questioned.
“Abdou was dangerous tonight,” UConn head coach Ray Reid said after the game. “We challenged them for 60 minutes. It was a chess match.”
However, Thiam was not the only hero of the night for UConn. Redshirt-sophomore Andrew Geres scored in his first career start on a beautiful through-ball from junior co-captain Kwame Awuah. Geres was able to bury the shot in the top left corner of the net at the 16-minute mark.
“The goal was open and it was a good find by Kwame (Awuah),” Geres said. “I made a run like that a couple minutes earlier. I tried to cross it, so I learned. I took the shot that time and scored.”
However, USF retaliated in epic fashion with nine minutes remaining in the contest. Junior forward Nazeem Bartman notched his team-leading seventh goal of the season off a pass from teammate Lindo Mfeka.
“It is hard when you have a goal and they know it and we know it,” Reid said. “We are not getting five goals a game. We try to get the second, without giving them one. They are a good team.”
Saturday’s win earned UConn a home game in this Saturday’s American Athletic Conference quarterfinals against Temple. The win also improved UConn’s all-time record against USF to (10-2-3).
It was the second straight game where UConn dominated ball possession at home. The Huskies outshot the Bulls 13-9 after 90 minutes despite leading 9-1 at the end of the half, finishing the regular season with an overall (7-5-5) record.
The win was certainly a morale win for the Huskies. The team has won four of their last five games, as they start to prepare for the AAC tournamanet next week.
“We are not dead,” Reid said. “We have a lot of pride. We may be a little injured, maybe a little thin, but we are not backing down to anybody. We have great experience for next year.”
Saturday’s quarterfinal against Temple is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.