Men’s Basketball: UConn outlasts Georgetown despite poor shooting

UConn men's basketball head coach Kevin Ollie draws up a play during a timeout during the Huskies' game against Georgetown at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

HARTFORD — That was just like old times. These are the types of games UConn fans miss. In exhilarating fashion, the Huskies knocked off their old conference rivals Georgetown 68-62 at the XL Center.

Rodney Purvis led all scorers with 17 points off the bench to propel UConn to a much-needed resume-boosting win.

“We came out in the second half and stuck in there. It’s about being ’30 tough’ for 40 minutes and playing through it again,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said, describing his team’s effort level. “We had good looks, just didn’t make them. Our defense was strong, that’s what we hang our hat on. It was a good job by the players.”

Start to finish, this was one of the most complete games the Huskies (14-5, 4-2 American) have played all season. Four players finished in double digits scoring. Sterling Gibbs had 16 points, Shonn Miller added 15 points and seven boards and Daniel Hamilton chipped in 11 points with eight rebounds.

UConn improved its lifetime record against Georgetown to 30-35. Like many of their previous contests, this one was close throughout. Neither side led by more than eight points at any moment in the game.

“We said this was a big game for us to be connected,” Ollie said. “The crowd was unbelievable. It gave me goosebumps. In the last three minutes of the game when everyone stood up in unison to cheer us.”

Georgetown took a 58-56 lead with 7:01 to play following a Reggie Cameron three and extended it to a four-point margin off a Bradley Hawes jumper with 6:00 left. From there, UConn put the clamps on defensively and closed the game on a 10-2 run.

The crowd gave us an enormous lift. It was electric. They stood up and gave us a lift. It reminded me of the old days.
— UConn head coach Kevin Ollie

The key sequence that killed the game off came after the rarest of rarities. Gibbs missed both foul shots with 0:35 seconds left, keeping the score at 65-62.

Purvis then forced a turnover at half court and broke away towards the basket before being fouled. He made both free throws, putting UConn up two possessions.

“I knew they were going back to Smith-Rivera. I just bit for it. I saw the big man, he kind of telegraphed it, I was able to get the steal,” Purvis said.

Despite a brutal shooting performance in the second half, 19 percent from the field, UConn was able to generate enough points to close out the win. They shot a staggering 25 free throws in the half, getting into the bonus within the opening six minutes of the final frame. The Huskies entered the day in the top 10 in the nation in free throw percentage, and rode that to a win, sinking 29-36, 20-25 in the second half.

“We couldn’t make a basket. We started attacking,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “Rodney did a really good job making seven of eight free throws.”

Phil Nolan drew a charge in the final minute to put the cherry on top of the win, sending the sold-out XL Center into a tizzy. For the majority of the game, the fans in Hartford were loud and into the action, something that the players and coaches all made note of.

“The crowd gave us an enormous lift,” Ollie said. “It was electric. They stood up and gave us a lift. It reminded me of the old days.”

Reggie Cameron led the Hoyas with 13 points, L.J. Peak and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera each added 12.


Elan-Paolo DeCarlo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at elan-paolo.decarlo@uconn.edu. He tweets @ElanDeCarlo.