So much for momentum. Coming off road wins against Texas and Tulane, the UConn men hoped to continue the trend against another “T” team. But for the second straight season, Temple came into the XL Center and marched out a winner, after a 55-53 mud pit mashup.
This game was so similar to last season it was scary. The Owls slowed the game down, got UConn to play at its pace and eventually made the big plays at the end of the game. Unlike last year, Daniel Hamilton made the big free throws down the stretch, hitting two to tie the game for the 6th and final time at 53. But Josh Brown took the bull by the horns when the Huskies denied Quenton DeCosey the ball and it was Brown who hit the game winning shot in the lane with 2.5 seconds to play.
The game was decided long before that. Hamilton, the Huskies best player, had a horrendous night, shooting 2-13 from the floor, missing his first nine field goal attempts. After the game, Kevin Ollie said about Hamilton “I didn’t see (any) energy, I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t see (any) energy til the end of the game”. If there was one player who I thought you would never hear that about on this year’s team, it would be D-Ham.
But he wasn’t alone. The trio of Hamilton, Rodney Purvis and Sterling Gibbs combined to go 7-32. Purvis made three shots in the first 5 minutes and then proceeded to go 1-8. Gibbs made his first field goal attempt with 14:47 to go in the first half and then missed his final seven shots. Throw in getting out rebounded 40-34 by a team that was last in the conference in rebound margin and not getting any fast break points and you have the formula for an L.
Other than SMU, the only consistent thing about the good teams in this league is their inconsistency. And UConn fits right in with that pattern. Tuesday was the start of a rugged four game stretch that includes Saturday night against Memphis and then a road trip to Tulsa and Houston. The margin for error is thin for the Huskies. Too many regular season slip ups, like the one on Tuesday, could mean they will have to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA’s. And you don’t want to play Russian Roulette with the tournament selection committee.