Hartford — UConn head coach Kevin Ollie didn’t have much to say after Tuesday’s game against Temple. His team didn’t give him much to talk about.
Ollie has preached since he became coach that his goal is to get his team to play at a Level 5 energy for the entire game. The Huskies didn’t do that Tuesday.
No. 23 UConn scored a season-low 53 points, shot 32 percent from the field and didn’t get the production out of his best players that he has grown used to seeing this season.
It wasn’t pretty by any means on both sides of the ball, but Temple grinded out a game that saw 12 lead changes and thanks to Josh Brown’s running floater in the lane with 2.5 seconds left, the Owls beat the Huskies 55-53 in front of 11,319 at the XL Center Tuesday night.
“Both teams didn’t shoot the ball well, particularly us,” Ollie said. “Our guards were a combined 7 for 30, no fast break points so if you do that that’s a recipe for disaster.”
With 14 seconds left and the game tied at 53, Temple coach Fran Dunphy called a timeout. The plan was to run a play for Quenton Decosey, the team’s leading scorer, but that isn’t what happened.
Brown got the ball at the top of the key guarded by Sterling Gibbs. He took Gibbs into the lane, created some space and put up the game-winning shot. Gibbs got the ball with less than three seconds left but his heave was off the mark.
“He (Brown) was real poised on the shot and as soon as it left his hands I knew we had a real good chance of it going in,” Dunphy said. “It wasn’t how we drew it up. He just made the play.”
Neither team led by double-digits for the entire game. UConn (10-4) led by eight with 14:47 to go in the first half. Temple (7-6) led by eight with 13:16 to play in the game.
The Owls hit two threes to start the second half, stretching its lead to 36-29 and Ollie called a timeout.
Decosey and Devin Coleman both played great games Tuesday, scoring buckets in key moments as UConn was trying to get back in the game.
The Huskies took the lead twice down the stretch. Once after Shonn Miller made two free throws with 7:58 left (47-46) and again when Daniel Hamilton made his second field goal of the game with 4:01 left (51-49).
But before the last media timeout, Jaylen Bond and Coleman both made buckets to put the Owls up by 53-51.
Hamilton, who shot 2 of 13 for the game, tied the game with two clutch free throws with 29 seconds left before the final play that saw Brown make the game winning shot.
“I thought we really came together as a group,” Dunphy, who picked up his 200th win as Temple head coach, said.
Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field. Temple had seven fast break points and UConn had zero.
Fifty-three points is UConn’s lowest total this season. Fifty-five points is Temple’s second lowest.
“Sometimes just the personality of games takes on different features and this was one that there wasn’t a lot of scoring to be had,” Dunphy said. “It was going to be a hard fought, grind it out game.”
Rodney Purvis scored the UConn’s first eight points in the first 4 minutes and 45 seconds to put UConn ahead 8-3. Temple scored the first basket of the game on a three-pointer by Brown, but then proceeded to miss their next six shots, a scoring drought of nearly four and a half minutes.
Through a stretch in the middle of the first half, Miller scored 10 of UConn’s 12 points to give the Huskies a 25-19 lead.
The Owls would lead 30-27 at the half. Both teams were 10 of 31 (32 percent) from the field.
Purvis, UConn’s leading scorer, scored the first eight points but finished with just 11. Miller scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Those were the only two players in double figures for the Huskies.
“We watched a lot of film on if we don’t shoot a lot of good shots with good floor balance they are going to run it down our throat,” Dunphy said. “And I think we did a pretty good job of that. We didn’t shoot a great percentage but I thought we had great floor balance when the shot when up.”
Hamilton finished with six points and nine rebounds.
Decosey finished with a team-high 15 points. Coleman scored 14 and Bond finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Huskies usually go as its best players go. And they didn’t get that on Tuesday night.
“A lot of things weren’t going too well for our top scorers,” Jalen Adams said. “We usually get going off of them. When D-Ham’s having a good game we get going. When Rodney’s having a good game, Sterling, Shonn, when they’re having really good games we all get going and get energized and come off the bench with energy and I think that’s what really messed us up tonight.”