HARTFORD– It seems like Daniel Hamilton has flirted with a triple double in every game he’s played at UConn.
The sophomore forward has a unique blend of skills, allowing him to do just about everything on the floor at a high level.
Hamilton put it all together Wednesday afternoon to register the 11th triple-double in school history, finishing with an aesthetically pleasing stat line of 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, leading UConn to a 99-52 route of Central Connecticut.
“Coach was telling me to be aggressive. That’s not just scoring, but going out there and making plays. So when I got back in, I knew I had to make plays,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton had plenty of help all afternoon. It was a total team domination from the Huskies in front of 7,123 fans at the XL Center. Five players scored in double figures.
Graduate forward Shonn Miller lead the way with 25 points, junior guard Rodney Purvis added 16, graduate guard Sterling Gibbs had 12 and junior forward Kentan Facey had 10. Facey also added 12 rebounds.
Despite a lackluster start, the result was never in question. UConn (8-3) took a 2-0 lead 1:18 seconds into the game on layup by Gibbs. They would lead the rest of the way.
The Blue Devils (1-9) hung around for much of what was a sloppy first half. A Mustafa Jones layup brought the score to 30-25 UConn with 4:05 left in the half.
“Central was playing. Coach (Howie Dickenman) had them playing well. They were running and executing their stuff,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “They made us grind it out on the defensive end.”
CCSU could not hold off UConn’s superior athleticism much longer. An adjustment to a full court press stymied their offense.
The real killer for CCSU happened when Hamilton took over. He hit a jumper then assisted on the next five UConn baskets to help close the half on a 16-1 run. He finished the first half with 2 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists.
“He’s too unselfish sometimes, but that’s what we preach. I’m old school, I’d rather a guy be too unselfish than a selfish pig. Daniel scores his points like in the Maryland game,” Ollie said. “He’s a marvelous offensive player. When the ball’s in his hand, he’s magical.”
Hamilton joins Donyell Marshall, Doron Sheffer, Caron Butler, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Marcus Williams, Hasheem Thabeet, Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier on the list of Huskies to register triple doubles. Each of those players was selected in the NBA Draft.
“He sees the court. He’s very unselfish,” Central coach Howie Dickenman said. “I think he’s a terrific team player. He cares about UConn, he doesn’t care about Daniel Hamilton. He has a chance to be Player of the Year in the league (the American) if he continues to play and get better as he has been doing,” Dickenman said.
The offense continued their hot shooting throughout the second half. For the third straight game, UConn shot better than 60 percent from the field. It’s the first time a UConn team has done that in 35 years.
The Huskies picked right up where they left off after halftime. Miller scored 11 of UConn’s first 15 points of the half, as the lead stretched to 17.
“Shonn really was dominant those first (few) minutes of the second half, we got a big lead,” Ollie said.
It was UConn’s first game since Amida Brimah broke his finger, so it brought a change to the starting lineup. Senior forward Phil Nolan made his first start of the season. Nolan played just five minutes.
UConn’s defense was impressive Wednesday afternoon. Playing without Brimah, Ollie got 42 combined minutes from Facey, Nolan and freshman Steven Enoch, who played a career high 16 minutes. The Huskies forced 19 turnovers and held the Blue Devils to 34.7 percent shooting from the field.
“With Amida being out, it allows a lot of guys a great opportunity. I want them to know Amida has been covering us all year, now it’s our time to cover him,” Ollie said. “Our defense really turned on in the second half.”
With this victory, UConn ends their opening portion of the season. They will travel to Texas for their first true road game, then the Huskies begin conference play. It’s the time of year when the schedule takes a turn from cupcakes like CCSU and UMass-Lowell towards hardnosed American Athletic Conference play.
“I told the guys, there’s no more games, I don’t want to say easy games, but it’s conference play after Texas,” Ollie said. “Texas is our first true road game. Tulane played us tough down there last year, we got Temple who swept us, Cincinnati. It keeps going on and on and on…We gotta be ready to fight.”
In what turned out to be a historic day for Hamilton, UConn enters the holiday season 8-3. This dominant effort at the XL Center was exactly what Ollie asked for.
“Best holiday gift I could get was this performance today,” he said.