IT WAS A lot closer than many people thought it would be late in the second half, and the UConn basketball team shot a lot better than anyone thought it could to escape Sunday.
Old friend Steve Pikiell’s Stony Brook team gave the Huskies almost all they could handle but a barrage of 3-pointers (8 in the final 11:45; 7 in a 6.5-minute span, 10 in the game)
No. 21 UConn beat Stony Brook Sunday a 73-62 before a crowd of 8,474.
— UCONN’S 10 3-POINTERS in the game were a season-high and the most it has made since hitting 11 against Florida State Nov. 26, 2011. (The only time the Huskies hit double-digits in that area last season)
“I haven’t seen this team shoot like this in a while,” coach Kevin Ollie said.
Each of UConn’s last eight field goals in the game were 3-pointers. The Huskies went the final 11 minutes and 40 seconds without a 2-point field goal.
UConn was down eight points early and by five at the half. So did Ollie tell his team to take a bunch of 3’s? Not exactly.
“When you’ve got 26 points (at halftime), I just want to make layups. I really don’t care,” Ollie said. “Just make some points.”
— THE HUSKIES TRAILED 31-26 at the half. So what was coach Ollie like?
“I almost thought (Jim) Calhoun was back coaching,” Ryan Boatright said.
— PLAYING WITHOUT R.J. Evans (clavicle), Niels Giffey became the “glue” guy for UConn. He also became a scorer (career-high 15 points) and rebounder (career-high 8 rebounds).
“Niels Giffey was my MVP. And he’s been my MVP the whole year,” Ollie said.
— THE STREAK SORT of almost ended so we’ll throw this stat out again. UConn 72-4 in Gampel against non-conference teams, winning 40 straight since a loss to Detroit Mercy in the 2001 NIT.
— UCONN IS SOMEHOW 5-1 despite getting outrebounded in all six of its games.
“We’re getting closer in rebounding, that’s a positive,” Ollie said tongue-in-cheek after the game.
It was 38-35 on the boards Sunday, but that’s not good enough for either coach.
“We out-rebounded them but I thought we could be plus-12 on the backboard. That was our goal coming into the game,” Pikiell said. “To be only plus-3 was very disappointing.”
— NAPIER HAD 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half. Once again he started slow, why?
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Ollie said. “I don’t know.”
“I’m glad he picked up in the second half, once again. … I’d rather him late than never,” Ollie said.
— AS BAD AS UConn’s start was offensively (1-for-12), there was a bright spot.
“All of you have seen these droughts we’ve had but there’s never any droughts on defense,” Ollie said. “When we went 2-for-11, I know Stony Brook wasn’t shooting the lights out either.
“We haven’t been shooting the ball well. We haven’t,” Ollie continued. ““But our defense has been keeping us in games.”
— STONY BROOK IS improving in a number of sports, Pikiell points out.
“We’re making Stony Brook the UConn of Long Island,” Pikiell said.
He points out that the school’s football team just won a playoff (FCS/I-AA) game over Villanova Saturday and the baseball team made the College World Series last year.
“We’re going to be like UConn,” Pikiell said. “We’re going to be like this.”
In all this conference expansion fever, keep an eye on Stony Brook. Pikiell’s right, the school is improving greatly athletically. And it’s pretty well positioned in other ways. It’s big (30,000 students?), near a major city and an AAU member.
Now, the Seawolves aren’t going to the ACC (Who is? Remind me.) but they might be up for a “promotion” nonetheless.