A real American win

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The brief ceremony prior to Saturday’s game, UConn’s first home game in the AAC. UConn AD Warde Manuel joined the head coaches and captains from both teams.

As a brilliant follower suggested on Twitter, I’m starting a campaign to have the MVP in the American Athletic Conference be named “The Greatest American Hero.”

Well, onto the important stuff….The UConn men’s basketball team beat UCF Saturday. Here’s the quick take:

By Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

STORRS _ In order to become American winners for the first time, the UConn basketball team turned to Ghana.

The Huskies’ 7-foot freshman center from that country, Amida Brimah, had a coming out party Saturday night.

He had scored a total of 37 points through UConn’s first 15 games but managed a monster game of 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in the Huskies’ 84-61 over Central Florida at Gampel Pavilion.

To say Brimah’s performance was unexpected would be putting it mildly, but the Huskies insist they believed he had it in him.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I saw 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in 20 minutes,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said of Brimah, whose previous highs in one game were seven points and four rebounds. “But I know coach (Glen) Miller has been doing a heck of a job working with Amida every day.”

Shabazz Napier added 14 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and five steals for UConn (13-3, 1-2). DeAndre Daniels chipped in 13 points and Ryan Boatright 11, both adding seven rebounds, to help the Huskies avoid their first 0-3 start in conference play since 1985.

UCF’s point total was a season-low, as was its 31.3 percent shooting effort from the field. It was the second game in a row UConn held its opponent to season lows in those categories.

Isaiah Sykes led UCF (9-5, 1-2) with 17 points, though more than half of those came after the game had already been decided.
UCF coach Donnie Jones certainly didn’t think Brimah was capable of such a dominant game already in his career.

“No, I didn’t think that. Because his stat line hasn’t shown it,” Jones said. “But I think he was the recipient of the right passes by those guys (Napier and Boatright).”

UCF entered the game as the AAC’s top rebounding team (40.9 per game) and UConn the worst (34.9). But it was the Huskies who dominated the glass, pulling down a 50 rebounds including 18 on the offensive end _ both season highs _ to just 34 for the Knights.

“We understood that our big guys were much better than their big guys,” Napier said. “We wanted to make that big point today and I think we got it.”

In the first meeting between the teams since UCF’s surprise victory in the 2011 Battle 4 Atlantis, the Knights scored the first six points of the game.

UConn led just 22-21 with 7:44 to play in the first half but a thunderous block by Brimah of an Isaiah Sykes’ shot that was probably goaltending ignited a strong finish to the half for the home team.

The Huskies finished the half on a 13-3 run, steadily finding holes in 2-3 UCF zone that only minutes earlier had seemed to flummox them.

UConn led 35-24 at the half, thanks in large part to its defense, a 22-12 edge on points in the paint and a 24-15 lead in rebounding.

Brimah led all scorers with 10 points at the break, making all five of his shots from the floor while adding four rebounds and three blocks _ all of that in just eight minutes of action.

UCF went on an 8-1 run to start the second half but the insertion of Brimah back into the lineup _ he didn’t start the game nor was he on the floor at the start of the second half _ shifted the momentum again.

The Knights briefly got within six points at 45-39 but the Huskies pulled away after that.

According to UConn officials, who only recently began tracking such stats, Brimah was plus-37 in the game.

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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