Cougar Town

Houston's TaShawn Thomas (35) celebrates at the final buzzer in front of Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, right, as Houston defeated Connecticut during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Houston. Houston defeated Connecticut 75-71. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Houston’s TaShawn Thomas (35) celebrates at the final buzzer in front of Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, right, as Houston defeated Connecticut during an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Houston. Houston defeated Connecticut 75-71. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Game 1 of American action didn’t go as the Huskies planned. The UConn basketball team fell down by 21, came all the way back to take a three-point lead in the final two minutes then lost anyway Tuesday night.

Houston 75, UConn 71 might be a score that stings the Huskies for a while.

“We weren’t ready to play and that’s my fault,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie lamented after the game.

— A FEW OTHER brief words from the Huskies:

What was Ollie’s halftime message:

“I didn’t tell them nothing. I just told them they have to play with heart. Our best player has to set the tone. He has to come out and play. He can’t have two points,” Ollie said.

That’s Shabazz Napier, of course. He had 25 points in the second half but just those two in the first.

Napier was hardly the only culprit. Ollie said he’s looking for “tough guys” and apparently didn’t feel some of his players were tough enough Tuesday.

He essentially used a six-man rotation (Napier, Ryan Boatright, Lasan Kromah, DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander) in the second half. Everybody else sat.

“You have to play perfect basketball when you get down 21 points. They have to start missing shots and you have to make all your shots,” Ollie said.

It nearly was enough. It nearly was the best comeback since UConn trailed UMass by 25 (33-9) early in the second half of a game in Hartford Dec. 10, 2002, before winning 59-48.

(There was also a 25-point comeback win at Pittsburgh Jan. 11, 1995, for those keeping score at home).

The comeback wasn’t the story, as far as the Huskies were concerned, though.

“We played terrible. They beat us in every aspect of the basketball game,” Boatright said. “We got back in the game because we were simply more talented. But they came to play.”

Losing isn’t the issue. It’s how the Huskies lost that stings.

“I can never stomach losing but if you give it your all and you lose, that’s something you can live with,” Boatright said. “But when you come out go down 21 to a team like this, it’s terrible.”

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To commemorate the occasion….

— THE HUSKIES REFUSED to blame the officials but the fifth foul on Tyler Olander, the one that sent Houston’s TaShawn Thomas (23 points) to the line with 9.2 seconds left in a tie game?

“My man took a one-hand, one-foot hook on the baseline. There was no way…he was going to air-ball that,” Boatright said. “I think they bailed him out. But you can’t blame the refs. We shouldn’t have been in that situation for the refs to make the game.”

— IN THE CATEGORY of “welcome back” I guess, Duke Edsall, the brother of former UConn football coach Randy Edsall, was one of the officials Tuesday.

According to Wayne Norman, who works for WTIC-AM 1080 to provide commentary on UConn broadcasts, Duke Edsall hasn’t officiated a UConn game since the 2000 Maui Invitational.

Edsall is a veteran referee who worked in the Atlantic Coast Conference for many years.

There are no NCAA rules prohibiting such assignments but Duke Edsall was typically kept away from UConn games while his brother was coaching football at the school.

Neill

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About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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