UConn does just enough to beat Tulane
HARTFORD – It was enough.
It was not pretty, and still littered with head-scratching inconsistency, but for the second time this season UConn held off an underwhelming Tulane team, this time by a 60-42 margin at the XL Center Tuesday night.
Getting the victory, the Huskies’ second straight after winning at Houston Sunday, was especially important with Georgetown and Cincinnati up next on the schedule. That fact, along with UConn’s strong defensive effort, made Kevin Ollie happy. The big concern, though, continues to be UConn’s inability to sustain offensive consistency.
“We need to move the basketball,” said UConn’s coach, whose team shot only 35.8 percent from the field. “When we do, great things happen for us. That’s the bottom line. Our offense is good. I want these guys to pass the ball, enjoy playing with one another, and we’ll be right there.”
Shonn Miller had a strong game with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Omar Calhoun came off the bench and scored 12. No other Husky reached double figures. Rodney Purvis, UConn’s leading scorer, shot only 2-of-8 in his second game off the bench since being demoted. Jalen Adams, in a starting role, did not score. Daniel Hamilton committed five turnovers, and Sterling Gibbs also struggled, scoring only six, all coming from the foul line.
The Huskies are lucky this lack of production came against a team of the Green Wave’s caliber.
On Jan. 2 in New Orleans, the Huskies blew a 19-point lead before rallying to beat Tulane. On Tuesday, they once again built a 19-point lead in the first half, and, once again, couldn’t put away the Green Wave.
Tulane, led by Louis Dabney’s 15 points, was a wreck in the first half, shooting 6-of-32 (18.8 percent) and 1-of-10 from three. Two harrowing possessions in the final minute summed up its first half and, overall, mediocrity. The first one saw the Green Wave miss three straight lay-ups, and the other showcased a missed dunk from Melvin Frazier, the put-back attempt blocked, and an eventual turnover.
The Green Wave (8-12, 1-6 AAC), though, slowly chipped away at that 19-point deficit, getting it down to seven with 9:48 remaining. During that stretch, UConn was sluggish offensively, and a step slow on defense, once fouling Tulane three times on one possession.
UConn clamped down defensively, however, holding the Green Wave scoreless for 7:45 and upping the lead to a game-high 22, ending any chance of a potential season-crashing loss.
“I thought our defense was good,” Ollie said. “We made them turn the basketball over (eight times), we rotated, and we doubled.”
It was an ugly contest for the most part, but UConn did what was needed to improve to 13-5, and 4-2 in AAC play.
Following the game, Ollie reminisced about UConn’s old Big East rivalry with Georgetown, noting his head-to-head battles with Allen Iverson, the coaching matchup with Jim Calhoun and John Thompson, and the three times the Huskies beat the Hoyas in Ollie’s senior year.
One win this year against Georgetown would certainly help UConn’s NCAA Tournament resume. The Hoyas impressively won at No. 5 Xavier on Tuesday.
“It’s a great history,” Ollie said. “It’s going to be a great game - they are playing a lot better right now. We have a lot of memories with those guys. Good memories, great battles, we always had great wars.”
Tuesday’s game clearly falls in the clichéd “a win is a win” category. But it’s clear the Huskies have to get better. Fast.
“Anytime you can get a win, you’re happy about,” Miller said. “We still have things to improve on, but we’ll get better.”
Saturday would be a good start.