HARTFORD — When UConn and Tulane played each other for the first time this season on Jan. 2, the Huskies blew a 19-point lead and the Green Wave actually took the lead late in the game. However, UConn escaped an epic collapse and eventually pulled it together down the stretch to come out victorious.
Sure enough, the Huskies found themselves up by 19 in the first half against Tulane on Tuesday night. The Green Wave would get as close as seven points, but this time UConn wouldn’t let the lead slip.
UConn ended the game on a 17-6 run to beat Tulane, 60-42, in front of 9,516 at the XL Center.
“We came out, we wanted to play tough, play together and just play with a lot of effort and energy,” Shonn Miller, who scored 18 points, said. “And then we started getting stops, started scoring and we just got into a good groove offensively and defensively.”
It wasn’t pretty by any means for both teams. UConn shot 36 percent from the field and Tulane shot a season-low 26 percent and committed 16 turnovers. Forty-two points was a season low for the Green Wave.
“I like our defense,” head coach Kevin Ollie said. “We hang our hat on our defense and I really appreciate the guys’ effort.”
Tulane shot just 19 percent in the first half (6 of 32 shooting), but only trailed by 14 points. UConn’s biggest lead was 19 in that first half, but just like the first meeting between these two teams, the Green Wave fought back.
Tulane opened the second half on a 7-2 run to cut UConn’s lead to single digits. Louis Dabney, Tulane’s leading scorer, scored 12 of the team’s first 16 points in the second half to cut the UConn lead to 43-34.
“In that little run he [Dabney] was killing us,” Ollie said. “He was going to the basket, shooting — I think he had a couple threes — he really got hot right there. I really thought our defense was good. We made them turn the basketball over.”
Miller was the UConn’s only source of offense early in the second half, scoring the Huskies first six points of the half.
Ollie tried five different defenders on Dabney in the second half and it ended up paying off. After Dabney’s bucket cut the lead to nine, he didn’t score in the final 10:25 of the game.
UConn (13-5, 4-2 the American) then ran off a 15-0 run to lengthen their lead to 58-36 with 2:17 left to pull away. Tulane didn’t score for over 7 minutes late in the game.
“We played good defense and we didn’t really execute as well as we wanted to in certain stretches but we got the win and that’s really all that matters,” Miller said.
Although Ollie wasn’t pleased with the offense as a whole (60 points was the third lowest total this season), he did credit the bench. Ollie kept the same starting lineup as last game when he inserted Jalen Adams and Phil Nolan in and took Rodney Purvis and Kentan Facey out.
UConn’s bench outscored Tulane’s bench, 27-10.
“With the lineup change it kind of gives us that pop off the bench,” Ollie said. “Omar had 12, Kentan had seven, I think Rodney had seven. It’s really allowing us to be a little bit more dynamic when we come off the bench.”
Tulane (8-12, 1-6 the American) made its first shot of the game, a Dylan Osetkowski three-pointer to put the Green Wave up 5-2. It was their only lead of the game. But after that bucket, Tulane went cold from the field. They didn’t score for 4 minutes and 53 seconds and UConn went on an 11-0 run to go ahead 13-7.
The Huskies run would eventually blossom to 20-2 to put UConn up 22-7. Miller scored 12 points in the first half as UConn led 32-18.
Miller scored the first six points of the half for UConn. And after Dabney cut the lead to single digits, they wouldn’t score for over seven minutes at the end of the second half.
Dabney was the only player to score in double figures for Tulane.
Miller and Calhoun were the only players to score in double figures for UConn.
“Anytime you can get a win you’re happy about it,” Miller said. “We still have things to improve on but we’ll get better.”