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Boatright, Hamilton lead Huskies to 65-52 win over ECU.

POSTED February 05, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Ryan Boatright has said didn't come back to UConn to play in the NIT. He wants back in the NCAA's and his 23 points led the Huskies to an important 65-52 win over ECU.

STORRS: He has made it abundantly clear to anyone who has cared to listen.

Ryan Boatright did not return to the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team for any other reason aside from playing for another National Championship.

“I did not come back to school to play in the NIT,” Boatright reminded folks Wednesday night after leading his Huskies to a very important 65-52 win over the Eastern Carolina Pirates at Gampel Pavilion.

Due to their inconsistent play this year though, the defending champs find themselves in a position where they really can’t afford to lose many more games if they hope for a chance at an at-large bid as a way of making the dance.

That ship may already have sailed so their next option would be winning the American Athletic Conference Tournament in March, by no means a given.

It’s what made beating a Pirates team, who came in with a 9-12 (2-6 in the AAC) that much more important and for a great while, highly improbable.

ECU loves the three ball and hit a bunch of them (eight to be exact) in the first half to open up a 34-27 lead at the break of a first half that saw the home team get off to yet another slow start.

“We kind of got off to a slow start,” head coach Kevin Ollie said, “But I liked our energy. We were just missing shots. Our energy was good but they really took over the game with their three point shooting.

Ollie challenged his team at the half to do something about that and they did.

“I challenged our guys in the second half to limit their three point shooting,” Ollie said, “We really challenged them to limit ECU to three three’s in the second half and that’s just what we did.”

After a half that one would call less than stellar, the Huskies responded to their coaches gut check and came out on fire in the second half, led by a freshman who gets advice from a UConn alumni who knows a thing or two about playing the position he does this year.

Daniel Hamilton led a 14-0 start to the second half by having a hand in eight of the first 11 scored in the run.

A floater in the lane was followed by a lob dunk to Amida Brimah and another jumper.

After a Rodney Purvis three ball sent the Gampel faithful into a frenzy, Hamilton found the big guy for another easy dunk and the home team had erased a seven point deficit, grabbing a 41-34 lead.

‘DeAndre Daniels gave me a couple of tips on how he played the four-man,” Hamilton said. “And he helped me out a lot and that’s transitioned out on to the court.”

Hamilton finished with nine points and 11 boards and for the second time this season, came away without a turnover.

Daniels and Hamilton are in communication, it seems, on a weekly basis, according to the freshman.

“I text him maybe once a week,” Hamilton said.

His head coach has noticed.

“Daniel, at the four in the second half, really gave us a shot in the arm,” Ollie said, “It spread the court and it really gave us four guys who can make plays off the bounce.”

After a relatively slow start in the first half, Boatright did what he has done all year, he caught fire in the second 20 minutes, hitting on four of his seven three pointers while converting a pair of technical foul free throws late in the game.

In fact, Boatright would not make a two point basket all night, he was 7 out of 10 from deep, 7 of 13 overall.

Over his last five games, Boatright has made 25 of his 43 three point attempts, an impressive 58 percent.

The Huskies kept their commitment to their coach by allowing just the trio of long balls but after the home team expended a great deal of energy getting the lead, the Pirates hit two of their three second half trey’s to get back to within a point at 41-40.

ECU would take their last lead of the game at 44-43 before UConn went on a second long scoring streak, this one a 17-0 mark that put the game out of reach.

Boatright would put his seal on the game with three long trey’s that came from somewhere outside of campus but of late, the senior captain has been feeling it.

After all, he’s got a destination in mind for the post season and it’s not New York City, home of the National Invitational Tournament.

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