Facey, undermanned Huskies win third straight
STORRS – After Kentan Facey, the unexpected rock of the 2016-17 UConn men’s basketball team, threw down a thunderous dunk in transition to cap a 13-point comeback and eventual win over Tulane, Gampel Pavilion, often quiet in this bumpy season, erupted to its loudest point of the year.
After the 78-68 victory, UConn coach Kevin Ollie was hard to hear. He barely had a voice left. This game, and this season, with the undermanned Huskies down to six rotation players, has been the ultimate grind. But UConn seems to have accepted its fate and is fighting through this adversity, having won three straight for the first time this season to pull within one game of .500 (10-11), and more importantly, 5-4 in AAC play, with the league tournament in Hartford looming in March.
Ollie is often blunt in press conferences when it comes to analyzing his team. On this night, he had nothing but praise.
“(Tulane) came out and took it to us in the first half,” he said hoarsely. “Then our guys showed some great perseverance to make that comeback. They’ve been showing great perseverance this entire week. Three games, three wins, with six guys is a phenomenal feat.”
Facey, notably, has taken advantage of the endless minutes available, reaching the 20-point mark for the third time this season after failing to do so in his first three years at the school. He also had a game-high 12 rebounds, and the aforementioned dunk that gave the Huskies, who trailed at one point 26-13, a 63-56 lead that buried the Green Wave.
“That was fun, it got loud in here,” Facey said of his dunk, which led to a timeout and a fired up celebration. “It was really exciting for us to give our fans something to cheer about.”
“He’s being aggressive on the offensive end, looking for his shots, and not being discouraged when he makes a mistake,” added Ollie. “His rebounds and effort to going to the backboard has been outstanding.”
Freshman guard Christian Vital had a major impact with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and no turnovers. He had a brief, yet entertaining description of Facey’s season.
“He’s been a dog,” laughed Vital. Simple, but to the point.
The Huskies also received a strong effort from Amida Brimah in spite of foul trouble. In only 21 minutes, he notched 18 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks, a stat line Ollie craves for on a regular basis from his senior captain.
"When we play with energy, we're unstoppable,” Brimah said. “We just have to play with the same energy consistently."
Overall, it’s not a win that will go down amongst the most memorable in UConn history, considering Tulane, which had five players score in double figures, is a woeful 4-18. But in this unexpected, turbulent season, any sign of life is welcome. The Huskies appear to have to have some.
Ollie sees that, and could not be more pleased.
“I appreciate them. After all the things we’ve been through this season, we’re still standing, and we’re still believing in each other,” noted Ollie. “It’s just their will. They could’ve broke, and they could’ve folded – even tonight when Tulane kind of punched us in the face in the beginning of the game. It’s a special group, they’re hanging together, and they’re challenging each other more.”
It will be fascinating to see how far this group can go. Is this the high point? Can they make a run in the AAC Tournament, which conveniently is being held at one of their home arenas, the XL Center? This all remains to be seen, but the one attribute that’s a must in order to make such a run is heart. And this UConn team has shown it has it.