Like Pulling Teeth
After a game that was like pulling teeth just to watch, George Blaney summed up UConn's 64-57 win over DePaul best:
"The definition of that game is a pure dentist game," Blaney said. "It was grind it out, hang tough."
Bring on Syracuse?
We're just going to post the game story I just submitted for tonight's blog. Enjoy (?).
STORRS --- A big offensive rebound, a tough fallaway jumper, a key defensive stop, a whole lot of free throws.
A win … finally. Barely.
The UConn men's basketball team snapped its three-game losing streak with an important – if unsightly – 64-57 win over DePaul Saturday night at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies kept the Blue Demons, losers now of 29 of their last 30 Big East contests, in the game until the very end thanks largely to the hot hand of Will Walker (game-high 24 points) and UConn's own inability to function in a halfcourt set.
A nine-point lead early in the second half had gradually been whittled away and, ultimately, erased after Stamford's Devin Hill hit a jump hook with 5 minutes, 57 seconds left to give DePaul a 52-51 lead.
UConn regained the lead a minute later when Kemba Walker stripped Will Walker of the ball and cruised in for layup. The Huskies would never again trail, though they could never truly put the peaky Blue Demons away until hitting four free throws over the final 35 seconds.
"The definition of that game is a pure dentist game," said acting head coach George Blaney. "It was grind it out, hang tough … I told the team that after the three losses, I felt sick and I felt bad. Tonight, I still feel a little sick, but I feel good, because W's are better than L's. And it's a Big East win that we needed to get ourselves off the deck."
Still, as Kemba Walker cautioned: "We've still got a lot of work to do. But, it's a Big East win. We'll just take it and go from here."
The Huskies (14-9, 4-6 Big East) travel to Syracuse to take on the fourth-ranked Orange on Wednesday night. DePaul fell to 8-15, 1-10.
The key sequence of the night came with about 2 ½ minutes remaining. Mac Koshwal scored inside with 2:55 left to bring DePaul to within three (57-54), and Kemba Walker went to the foul line for two shots. He made the first and missed the second, but Ater Majok grabbed the rebound and kicked it out.
"Me and Coach (Andre) LaFleur have been working on how to get rebounds from the free throw line," said Majok. "That kind of helped, trying to slide and hit the man before he hits you. It worked."
The Huskies moved the ball around until Jerome Dyson hit a fallaway baseline jumper that gave UConn a six-point cushion.
"(Majok) got it out, and Jerome hit a great baseline jump shot," Blaney noted. "That probably won the game for us."
Will Walker countered with his sixth 3-pointer of the game, and after Dyson missed a bank shot, the Blue Demons had another chance to tie.
But UConn forced DePaul into a bad shot, Kemba Walker grabbed the long rebound and, rather than take it to the hole, slowed up and brought it back out. Gavin Edwards hit a pair of foul shots with 35.5 seconds remaining, Nate Rogers missed a three, and Dyson sealed the deal with two more freebies.
Dyson finished with 20 points (10-for-11 free throws), and Edwards and Stanley Robinson contributed 10 apiece for the Huskies, who improved to 14-9 overall and 4-6 in the Big East.
UConn went 25-for-35 from the charity stripe; DePaul was just 1-for-6.
"Over the past couple of years, we've been shooting almost 500 more foul shots than our opponents," said Blaney. "We go to the basket very hard, we generally offensive rebound very hard, and we're generally pretty big. It's a big part of our game, not just a big part of this game."
When asked about the free throw discrepancy, DePaul interim head coach Tracy Webster seemed to chuckle to himself for a moment, then replied: "All I can say is, the six that we took, we need to make all six of them. Hopefully one day, we'll get to the line 40 times."
A technical foul on Webster with 7:13 left in the first half helped spark a 14-2 UConn run that allowed the Huskies to enter halftime with a 34-27 lead.
DePaul would fight back, of course, and eventually take the lead. But UConn had just enough to avoid the upset and remain relevant for another day.
RIM RATTLINGS: Dyson, Robinson and Kemba Walker each battled ailments throughout the contest. Dyson battled a balky knee and ankle and nearly didn't come out for the second half due to stomach pain.
"I don't know what happened, I must have gotten hit," Dyson said. "It was just a pain in my left side, and it was really bothering me … I don't remember what caused it."
Robinson battled cramps in his back and arm and spent several minutes on the bench in the latter half, and Walker has been battling sore legs the past couple of days, according to Blaney.
***Koshwal, who finished with 12 points, is a distant cousin of Majok.