Playing their first postseason game in two years, the UConn men's basketball team trailed for much of the game, but rallied to top St. Joseph's, 89-81, in overtime at First Niagra Center in San Antonio on Thursday night.
Shabbazz Napier led the Huskies with 24 points, while junior DeAndre Daniels chipped in with 18. Ryan Boatright (17 points) and Niels Giffey (10) also scored in double digits for the Huskies, who improved to 27-8.
Langston Galloway poured in a game-high 25 points, while. The rest of the Hawks' starters joined Galloway in double digits. However, the St. Joe's bench did not contribute a single point, and that ultimately proved to be the Hawks' downfall.
Jim Calhoun, the legendary Hall-of-Fame coach who led the Huskies to three national championships, watched from the stands and was immediately linked to the open Boston College job. The 71-year-old Calhoun, who coached the Huskies to three national titles in his 26-year tenure in Storrs, is a Boston native.
After St. Joe's Chris Wilson knocked down two foul shots to put the Hawks up by three, 70-67, with 49.2 seconds remaining in regulation, the Huskies had to come up with something big. And that something “big” came from Amida Brimah, the Huskies' 6-11 freshman center from Ghana, who grapped a missed layup by Napier, put the ball up at the baseline, and was fouled by St. Joe's Halik Kanacevic. Brima, who shoots just 59 percent from the charity stripe, calmly banged in a free throw with 39 seconds left to knot the game at 70 points apiece and sent the game into the overtime session.
After Connecticut took a quick 73-70 lead after a traditional three-point play—a layup and foul shot by Daniels—Kanacevic, a 6-8 senior forward from Staten Island committed his fifth foul and was forced to leave the game. That ultimately proved to be the death knoll for St. Joe's, whose bench is about as deep as a waiting line at a Grass Roots concert. The Hawks got nary a point—zero, zip, nada—from their silent bench, and the Huskies were fortunate to eek out a huge win that was much, much closer than the eight-point total would seem to indicate. It was the first postseason win in his first postseason game for UConn head coach Kevin Ollie.
Next up for the Huskies will be a date with their old Big East rivals, the No.-2 seeded Villanova Wildcats, in the Round of 32. The Wildcats were 73-53 winners over the University of Milwaukee Panthers in their first-round match-up. Tip-off is slated for 9:40 p.m. on Saturday, and the game will be televised nationally on TBS.
Tonight, the Providence College Friars make their first appearance at The Dance since 2004 when they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in first round action from San Antonio. Tip-off is at 7:20 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on TNT.