Brimah goes off for career-high 40 points as Huskies snap three-game losing skid
HARTFORD – Dunk after dunk after dunk, 11 of them in total, Amida Brimah put to rest the misery of UConn’s three-game losing streak.
The Huskies’ sophomore center bullied a soft Coppin State defense to the tune of a career-high 40 points on 13-of-13 shooting from the field, including 14-of-16 from the foul line. He added 12 rebounds and three blocks and the Huskies picked up a 106-85 victory before 8,260 at the XL Center Sunday afternoon.
The win was an absolute must for UConn with No. 2 Duke coming up on Thursday at the Meadowlands.
Knowing that, Brimah set the immediate tone on Sunday with an alley-oop dunk from Ryan Boatright on the first possession of the game. Boatright then added a three and Brimah recorded another dunk in transition, giving UConn a 13-2 advantage just 1:52 into the game.
Nine days after the disastrous loss at Gampel Pavilion to Yale, the Huskies were anxious to get back to action. Their start clearly made that apparent.
“We wanted to get on the court as soon as possible,” Brimah said. “We needed to get ourselves out of the hole we dug ourselves in.”
Brimah’s previous high in points was 20, a number he established last season in a win over Central Florida. The last Husky to record 40 points in a contest was Kemba Walker in 2010 against Vermont.
Brimah was helped greatly by Daniel Hamilton, who dished out 11 assists to go along with 11 points, five rebounds and four steals.
“The guards sacrificed themselves for me. They’re the reason I got all of those lobs,” Brimah said. “I never thought I would score 40 points. I just play hard and they found me. I really don’t care about scoring a lot, I want to win.”
“Basically, I thought he made his own highlight tape for the season tonight,” lamented Coppin State head coach Michael Grant.
Coppin State, led by Arnold Fripp’s 25 points, made things interesting for a bit in the first half, knocking down eight three-pointers and, at one point, pulled within six. This one, though, never really felt in doubt for the Huskies as they pulled away with ease in the second half, opening their biggest lead at 101-72 with 2:19 left.
It was the fifth time the Eagles allowed over 100 points this season. Boatright added 22 points for UConn and Kentan Facey notched a career-best 15 points.
“Coming off two tough losses at the buzzer, we had to press the reset button and get back into the win column,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “Everybody stepped up tonight.”
Brimah, fittingly, reached the 40-point mark on a dunk with 2:42 remaining and exited to a rousing ovation when he was subbed out. In the last two games, Brimah has made a ridiculous 20-of-21 shots and scored 54 points.
“Every time we have the chance to throw it up to him up high, he seems to catch it,” Ollie said. “He’s very athletic, very coordinated. It’s something we try to do every day in penetrating drills. He’s doing a great job.”
Ollie left his starters in for most of this blowout in hopes of seeing his team build on a chemistry noticeably lacking in this early season.
“We came out and established ourselves from the tap” Ollie said. “We played well, and I liked our fast break. We’ll take this win, build off of it and go down to Jersey and try to win a basketball game.”
The Huskies, standing at 4-3, don’t have an easy road to an at-large NCAA Tournament bid if they are unable win the AAC Tournament, scheduled at the XL Center in March.
With the SMU and Memphis not as strong as last season, along with Louisville no longer in the league, a decent AAC record may not be enough. A win over Duke would go a very long way in helping their cause.
Boatright, a veteran of high-profiled contests, is eager to share his experiences of similar battles with his younger teammates.
“We just have to be focused,” he said. “It can go two ways. We can go in there and play UConn basketball and be in the game and give ourselves a chance to win. Or, be unfocused and get blown out. We’ve all worked hard all of our lives to get here, to play in games like this. We need to take advantage of the opportunity.”
UConn’s win, powered by Brimah, was a must on Sunday. On Thursday, the stakes will be even higher.