It looked like the Huskies had this game wrapped up when they jumped out on a big run to start the second half and held a 14 lead. Things looked even better when Providence's 3rd leading scorer, LaDontae Henton picked up his 4th foul with 12:30 left with the Huskies up 14. The UConn coaching staff, players, and fans are still trying to figure out what went wrong after that.
Bryce Cotton (22 points) hit a couple of uncontested threes on back-to-back possessions, and all of a sudden the 14 point lead had been cut in half. On the next two possessions, the Huskies had the ball stolen---once off a bad pass and another off the dribble--- which led to Providence fast break hoops. Just like that, the 14 point lead was down to three. After a Ryan Boatright missed three pointer, Providence set up a double screen for Cotton who on cue hit his third straight three, and fourth three of the game. A 14 point lead had been evaporated in a matter of minutes and the Providence Friars had all of the momentum.
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What Went Right
UConn opened up the second half by simply blowing the doors off of Providence. It all started when Kadeem Batts tried to back Alex Oriakhi down in the paint with a power move and the junior forward simply refused to give any ground. Batts forced up a wild shot over Oriakhi which went off the backboard. Ryan Boatright took the Huskies in transition off the miss and found Andre Drummond for an easy ally-oop. Drummond followed up his basket with an aggressive rebound on the defensive end, sending the Huskies off and running again. This time Boatright found Oriakhi for a dunk under the hoop.
This sequence was the start of a 12-1 run to start the half. UConn forced 7 straight misses by Providence during that span and held a 14 point lead with a little over 12 minutes to go.
What Went Wrong
Despite blowing a big lead, the fact of the matter is that UConn was down 2 with only 2:14 to play after Shabazz Napier hit a pair of free throws. All the Huskies needed to do was get a couple of stops and they just couldn't do it.
Providence didn't do anything too special. Henton set a pick for Cotton and then popped out for a three. Drummond couldn't get back over to Henton in time and he buried a trey. On the next possession, Ryan Boatright drove to the rack and was met by 3 Providence defenders. The freshman guard found Jeremy Lamb wide open for three and his shot rimmed out. On the next possession, the Huskies played 34 seconds of great defense, and a loose ball deflected off UConn with 1 on the shot clock. Somehow Henton got open on the inbounds pass and hit a bomb with 1 on the shot clock to put Providence up 8.
Even after that unfortunate turn of events, a pair of Lamb three pointers and a couple of Napier free throws brought UConn within 3, with only 27 seconds left. With Providence inbounding the ball, UConn applied suffocating full court defense and the Friars tossed the ball out of bounds. UConn now had the ball down three with 27 seconds left.
George Blaney opted to not take a timeout, even with two timeouts left, and the decision proved fatal. Lamb launched an NBA three pointer with 16 seconds left which bricked off of the rim. Drummond grabbed the offensive rebound outside of the paint and passed the ball back to Lamb. For whatever reason, Lamb took an off-balance three with two defenders in his face which clanged off the rim and Providence grabbed the board with 11 seconds left.
Despite Lamb's pair of late threes he was virtually a no-show in this game. If you go back and watch the tape you'll see he wasn't moving hard to get open on offense and was coming slow off of screens slow.
Stars of the Game
1. Ryan Boatright-Boatright finished with 13 points, 6 assists, and only 1 turnover. If a couple of Boatright's teammates displayed as much hustle as he does the word bubble and UConn wouldn't be mentioned right now in the same sentence.
2. Andre Drummond- Drummond led the Huskies with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Drummond would've been the #1 star but his technical foul---no matter how much he didn't deserve it---led to 4 Providence points and made a 3 point deficit a 7 point deficit.
By the way, was Karl Hess serious with that T? Is it just me or is Hess one of those refs that you know his name because he loves being the star of the show?
3. Roscoe Smith- it was another solid performance by Smith, who is one of the few guys on the team playing his best ball late in the year.
Providence has beaten UConn at home the last three times they've played now.