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Notes & Quotes: UConn Overcomes Late Deficit to Defeat Syracuse, 52-50

NEW YORK, N.Y.—The UConn Huskies came away with an upset victory over former Big East rival Syracuse on Monday night, winning the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden, 52-50.

Here is a look at some of the things that went right and wrong for the Huskies (4-4):

What Went Well

Christian Vital cool under pressure: In the closing seconds on Monday night, Connecticut had possession with a chance to win. Rodney Purvis launched a deep three-point attempt which rimmed out but Christian Vital, a Queens Village native, corralled the rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt. The Orange called a timeout in hopes of icing the freshman guard, but Vital was cool under pressure, burring both and sealing the UConn win.

Vital: “I definitely had a lot of nerves going but actually the timeout [Syracuse] called helped me out a lot. A lot of people talk about that we have a young team but we also have a lot of experienced guys. So guys like Amida [Brimah], [Rodney Purvis], Jalen [Adams] and Kentan [Facey] talked to me in that timeout and said, ‘listen we are in your city, take us home,’ and I was able to do that... (asked about whether the foul was questionable) Nah, I got fouled. I got fouled it was the right call”

Kevin Ollie: “It is big time—his mother is here, his siblings are here. It was just great for all of our team but especially [Vital] coming back home and being in that spotlight. Hopefully, that propels him to get the confidence to knock down some more shots.

"He is one of the toughest players I got, I know what I’m getting from him. I don’t have to wind him up or anything like that. He plays with aggression, with confidence for him to get that rebound, go up, get fouled and get two free throws shows his resiliency and his confidence. He knocked them down like he was a fifth-year senior and I really respect that from the young man”

Big Game from Facey: Senior Kentan Facey turned in one of the best games of his career despite battling a stomach bug, grabbing 13 rebounds and scoring seven points in 29 minutes of action. Already with a lineup decimated by injury, the Huskies needed a big-time performance from their senior and got one.

Facey:With all the stuff that has happened with our team as far as injuries and stuff goes we are going to need some extra possession sometimes so I can come in and contribute.”

Ollie:It meant the world. [Facey] was pretty much throwing up at halftime, he has been sick for three days with a stomach virus. For him to come out and probably have one of his best games—I imagine the Duke game when he was a sophomore he had a little bit more rebounds than this—but to have 13 rebounds and play 29 minutes with a stomach virus just means the world. We would’ve had seven players if he sat out.”

Defense clamps down: The Huskies started the game in a 2-3 zone, showing some full-court pressure and their staple man-to-man defense. The Orange were limited to 25.9 percent shooting, scoring just six points over the game’s final nine minutes. Projected NBA lottery pick Tyler Lydon was held in check with just seven points.

Jim Boeheim: “We had seen them playing zone. I was surprised they started with zone, but we’ve seen them play zone, so we were prepared for it. That was a surprise and it worked really well.”

Ollie: “[We keyed on Andrew] White and Lydon. We just read it a lot and that’s our switch defense we tried to give him some different looks, force the zone. We wanted to extend the zone out to White and Lydon. White got going kind of in the first five minutes of the second half but we really wanted to switch things up. He went down in the post, we wanted to wipe the post, get in front of him and make it tough on him.”

Rodney Purvis: “We just played tough, like Kentan said we paid attention to the game plan and knew their personnel. We were able to execute on the defensive end and that led to us getting big rebounds and big stops and we were able to convert on the offensive end.”

Ollie’s supreme confidence: Syracuse jumped out to an 11-point lead early in the second half. But Kevin Ollie called timeout to rally his troops, telling his team they were going to come away victorious.

Purvis: “We knew they were going to go on a run, they’re a really good team and they shoot the three really well so they were able to get some easy looks at the three. Once were able to comeback to a timeout and get a grasp we were fine. Once we got down coach said we were going to get back in the game—I think he said we were going to win the game actually. He just has confidence in our defense that we were able to get stops and we were going to convert on the offensive end.”

Ollie: “What am I going to tell them—we are going to go down by 25? I told them we are going to win. I believed it, I told them we were going to win the game. No matter what we’ve been through we are going to get a reward for this pain. I keep telling those guys we just have to keep fighting through.”

What Needs Work

Free-throw shooting: With a chance to put the game away in the closing minutes, Connecticut missed five straight free throws before Vital’s game winners.

Ollie: “We just have to make free throws, if we make free throws that game is not as nip-and-tuck as it was. We just have to step up and make our free throws.”