There is plenty the UConn Men have to play for – and for the fans to watch

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It’s hard to say what was more disappointing about last night’s men’s college basketball game at the XL Center. The fact that the number one team in the nation was in town to take on UConn with the Huskies coming off an upset of 17th ranked Notre Dame and, despite a late surge in ticket sales, they couldn’t sell the place out, or that, after the outmanned Huskies gave it all they had and had the joint jumping with visions of a second straight major upset into the second half, the crowd was on it’s way to the exits by the final media timeout. With the show this team put on last night, giving it all they had against a clearly better opponent, it might have been worth sticking around to give them an ovation for their efforts. A team that lost several key players due to tournament ineligibility and has nothing to play for, has already won 12 games and, with repeated efforts like the last two, could easily win 18 to 20, without playing league tournament games, which, in any regular season, would put them into the big dance. This team deserves more than fair weather fans. With the odds stacked against him coming in Kevin Ollie has built an easy team to root for, a team that strives to overachieve every time it takes the court. Don’t tell these Huskies they have nothing to play for. Don’t tell Kevin Ollie. “There’s always a prize at the end”, the coach said recently of the season with none of the usual rewards at the finish line, “We’re not going to the tournament, so what? We’re playing each and every day. People are still watching you. You still have the pride to put on that jersey. That’s the prize, that’s the goal.” “The game you’re playing today you’re not going to get back”, said guard Ryan Boatright after a recent game, of what motivates him, “We know there’s a deadline on our season and we have to pile up wins and compete for the Big East regular season championship (because) that’s all we can go for.” In the first half last night the Huskies had the crowd on it’s feet, drowning in thunderous decible levels as they took advantage of the absence of Louisville star guard Peyton Siva and built a 10 point lead. Siva sat out all but four minutes of the first half in foul trouble and UConn was up 29-19. At that point the Huskies fell into one of those learning experiences, two fouls sandwiched around two missed free throws that gave Louisville a chance to stop the UConn momentum and keep the Huskies from extending the lead and possibly having it out of reach even after Siva’s return. It was one of those moments that, from experience alone, become avoidable in the future and make a team better. “You have the opportunity to put on that jersey”, repeated kevin Ollie, “You wake up every morning and go to a great university. If the guys pay attention to that, we’re fine.” If the fans pay attention, that would be even better. This team deserved a loud sendoff of appreciation last night, not an exodus to the exits with four minutes to play. It’s a team with nothing to play for that night after night goes out and plays for everything. That’s more than anyone can ask for. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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