It was a game where the University of Connecticut fought till their limits, including head coach Dan Hurley.
With less than five minutes left in the first half, Hurley’s UConn Huskies team received a call he was not too pleased with. After receiving a technical foul call, Hurley pumped up the sold-out XL Center crowd to its limits. That was the tipping point for referee James Breeding, who ejected Hurley out of the game with a second technical call. Breeding was then met with the entire stadium of Husky fans, who let the referee hear their displeasure with resounding sounds of the repeated chant, “Ref, you suck.”
“It’s happened to me before,” said Hurley on the ejection. “I was in shock.”
Regardless of the coach’s ejection, UConn still had a game to win. That leadership role was left to associate head coach Kimani Young and the rest of Dan Hurley’s coaching staff. It was a decision that pushed the Huskies to a test they had never seen before this season.
“In our program, coach gives us so much responsibility,” said Young. “I felt prepared for that … There wasn’t a point where I felt out of place at all.”
UConn stepped up and it was an utter team effort from start to finish. Whether it was Isaiah Whaley’s 13 points, or Tyrese Martin’s incredible defense, the Huskies were never willing to give into the Wildcats, who pushed UConn to the limit.
UConn’s leaders kept the Huskies in the game, even when all hope was lost and the once filled XL Center began to empty as fans went to the stands. Tyler Polley was a main catalyst in getting the win for UConn, as the graduate grabbed a huge shot from beyond the arc to give the Huskies a single possession game along with a hustle play to get UConn back the ball.
“We stayed composed,” said Polley. “We knew the game wasn’t over. We rallied together and came out with a victory.”
One of those leaders was R.J. Cole, the graduate guard who has been there when UConn needed him most. Cole’s shot with just five seconds left pushed XL Center to its limits as fans screamed with intensity. The team leader made sure to let the fans know his emotion with a huge yell as he was met by his ecstatic teammates.
“I think it was huge,” said Cole on the game’s victory. “We took a step forward.”
A charge call by Cole sealed the win for the Huskies along with clutch free throws from guard Andre Jackson. Shortly after, fans stormed the court in utter happiness for a team that hadn’t beaten Villanova University since 2014.
“That’s what college sports is about,” said Young about fans storming the court. “I know we’re UConn, but we deserve to storm the court.”
It was the utter culmination of everything Hurley came to build when he came to the team in 2018. In 2022, Hurley’s Huskies are now strong enough to take on any team, even a powerhouse Villanova lineup.
UConn needed a big game from Adama Sanogo and he responded. The big man’s 20 points and six rebounds were utterly essential for the Huskies as the sophomore attacked the Wildcats with authority on both sides of the ball, whether that was with a block or a tough inside shot.
Despite 12 turnovers in Tuesday’s win, the Huskies dominated in the paint, scoring 28 points inside and outscoring Villanova by 12 points. UConn simply couldn’t be stopped in the paint as the Wildcats couldn’t stop the UConn attack.
In the end, it was a game for the ages and one of the greatest games in UConn men’s basketball history. This huge victory gives them plenty of momentum as they had to the nation’s capital to take on Georgetown University.