Wow. I mean, just, wow. I’ll be honest, I needed to wait a good nineteen or so hours before I could even attempt to write this, but here we go. What a game, what an atmosphere, what a win. Ed Cooley and his squad did all the little things last night at the XL Center and it paid off greatly, resulting in a huge, ranked, road win for the Friars.
A.J. Reeves led the way for the visitors, logging a team-high sixteen points on 5-12 shooting, while going a healthy 4-8 from beyond the arc. As expected, the huskies collapsed into the paint on Nate Watson, which opened up some nice looks for Reeves. In the post-game presser, Dan Hurley commented on how if you are going to smother a big in the paint, you take the risk of leaving open some good shooters – which is exactly what happened last night. The Huskies game-planned for Nate Watson, which is why Reeves was able to get the looks that he did from deep.
I won’t lie, the three-point shooting percentage was not pretty. The Friars shot 33% from deep on the night, while the huskies shot 27% (don’t even get me started on the free throw numbers). And although those numbers aren’t great, it’s the timeliness of the threes that made the difference. Most of Reeves’ threes came late in the first half and gave the Friars some momentum going into halftime. Then, a little over midway through the second half, as the Huskies were beginning to overcome a sixteen-point deficit, Jared Bynum hit a critical three that put the Friars back up nine points, and silenced the awakening crowd. In the post-game presser, Ed Cooley said that Bynum’s three was the shot of the game. Bynum, who didn’t start but played twenty-six minutes off the bench, produced nine points, six rebounds, and two assists.
Another notable player that came off the bench for the Friars is Ed Croswell. The senior forward had another impactful night, logging eleven points in only fifteen minutes of playing time. The 6’8” senior was imposing his will under the rim, and was simply more physical than UConn’s bigs. Croswell is really coming along nicely, as this is now the third time this season where he’s scored in double figures during a meaningful game, with the previous two outings being a win over Texas Tech, and a win over Rhode Island.
And, of course, you can’t talk about this one without mentioning Nate Watson. Simply put, Nate Watson is the most impactful player on this Friar team. Whether it’s drawing the attention of multiple defenders and opening up looks for other shooters, or hitting back-to-back-to-back shots to start the second half, his fingerprints were all over this one and he is a big reason the Friars were able to seal the W. Watson finished the night with ten points, seven boards, two assists, a block and a steal.
While there are a lot of positives to take away from this one for the Friars, there is also a lot of credit to be given to the huskies. During the entire third quarter, it looked as if the Friars were going to run away with this one handily, but the Huskies clawed their way back into it, shrinking the lead to as low as two points with less than three minutes to go in the second half. The Friars were able to withstand the Huskies’ late second half surge (as obviously indicated by the final score), but the surge showed a lot of heart and grit from this UConn squad. This is a UConn team that will be a very tough out in conference play. Thankfully for the Friars, they only have to face them once more during the regular season.
The Friars walk away from this game now boasting an 11-1 overall record, 1-0 in conference play. The team has jumped to 31 in the NET rankings, 49 in KenPom and now owns four Quad-1 victories – the most in college basketball. They’ll return to action on Wednesday, at 6:30PM when they’ll host the Georgetown Hoyas.