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UConn loses Boatright, game to Temple in AAC opener.

POSTED December 31, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

HARTFORD: UConn freshman Daniel Hamilton stood at half court as he waited to go to the free throw line with a chance to sink three free throws that might have given his team a chance to pull out an overtime win in their American Athletic Conference opening game.

A near packed house at the XL Center, most of whom had little to cheer about during a sometimes hard to watch game, had seen the Huskies fight back from six points down with under two minutes to play and where primed to see something dramatic.

The charity stripe had not been kind to UConn up to that point and it did not bode well for a successful outcome and true to what they saw most of the game, those fans saw Hamilton miss all three free throws, allowing Temple to escape with a 57-53 win.

"The game came down to execution," UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. "We just didn't do a good job with our offense down the stretch."

The stretch and almost the entire second half was different for Ollie and his team without their leader, Ryan Boatright, who left the court after suffering a deep thigh contusion at the end of the first half.

Boatright tried to make a go of it in the second half but had to head to the locker room after the just 30 seconds.

It left the Huskies with an opportunity to see what they could do without their floor general early in the year and this should bode well for them down the line.

A pair of freshman, Hamilton and Kenton Facey, played well but made critical mistakes down the stretch, things that you expect from young players.

"We just need to get more organized on offense," Rodney Purvis said. "We are so used to Ryan doing it that it's up to guys like me to step up when the team needs me."

Hamilton posted a double-double (10 points, 12 boards) while Facey (nine points and 11 boards) showed they could step up to be the go-to guys at times on Wednesday.

At times though, they played like freshman, especially Hamilton who committed six turnovers.

It was the free throw line that failed the Huskies, who fall to 6-5 overall and 0-1 in AAC play.  

Their coach was not ready to throw his talented first player anywhere near the bus though.

"There were other things in that game that made us lose," Ollie said. "We shot 8 for 19 from the free throw line."

The loss of Boatright did have a major effect on UConn, which used Terrence Samuel for 34 minutes, most of them at the point.

Boatright is widely known as a warrior so when he was unable to continue, you knew it had to be something out of the ordinary.  

"If he bowed out," Ollie said,  "I know it's really hurting. I've never seen that kid buy out of a game of anything, you know, for the sake of our team. He just couldn't go so we had some other guys try and step up and fill the void for him."

UConn held the Owls to just 18 of 57 shooting although Temple connected on 7 of 20 from three point land.

"I thought the guys really played with some effort," Ollie said. "The last two games we did a great job on defense, holding our opponents to 31 percent shooting."

The Huskies got quality minutes out of an Omar Calhoun, a player they had been waiting to see a good game out of. Calhoun hit a key three pointer, his first shot of the game, with 9:36 left in regulation to bring his team back to down one at 38-37 and finished the game with seven points on a 3 for 5 shooting effort.

Temple pushed the lead out to 43-37 on a Jesse Morgan (game high 17 points) jumper but Calhoun scored on a strong move inside to keep the Huskies within striking distance.

Amida Brimah (12 points and six rebounds) made a traditional three point play with 2:39 left but Morgan connected on a free throw and his fourth trey of the night to put the Owls up 51-45 with 1:47 to go.

That three was caused by a costly turnover by Hamilton on a ball that went off his shin and out of bounds as he was making his was up court.

Samuel hit on a jumper to start the Huskies final run to overtime which was followed by two made foul shots by Hamilton.

With 12 seconds to play, the Samuel got a rebound and found Purvis all alone on the break and a slam later, and this one was going to extras.

The teams traded buckets to start the extra five minutes but a turnover by Purvis, who then fouled Quenton Decosey, led to two made free throws and a 55-53 Owls lead.

Both teams had chances down the stretch but could not connect, leading up to the one last chance for UConn with 12.8 seconds to go.

Ollie called timeout and set up a play that ended up going to Hamilton, who was fouled by Decosey as he launched a three point attempt from the top of the key.

After missing the first two shots, Hamilton attempted to throw the ball off the rim, back to himself for a chance for the tie but the ball did not hit the rim, making it a turnover and the Huskies 0-1 in conference play.

If nothing else, it showed Ollie that his team could play without their leader if they had to.

"I think they played with great heart and determination today," Ollie said.

For Hamilton, he can only hope he gets a chance to get himself into that situation once again.

It’s a long season, after all.  

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