On Oct. 11, the day of the Husky Run, Kevin Ollie said he wanted teams to walk off the court after playing the Huskies and ask themselves, "Why do they play so hard? They have no postseason to play for; why are they playing so hard?"
Right to the end, in overtime on March 9, the Huskies fulfilled that goal. They played hard all season, and if they had nothing to play for, they mastered the art of playing with nothing to lose. They won 20 games, several more than even the most optimistic preseason predictions, and if they were playing in this tournament, they would be among the teams no top seed would want to face.
They did it all the hard way — Kevin Ollie's way — and most fans would agree they were a fun team to watch. Here are some of the highs, lows, twists and turns in a memorable season that ended too soon.
Shot of the year: Omar Calhoun's three against Georgetown, which sent the game to overtime on Feb. 27. OK, so UConn lost in double OT — no one knew that at the time the ball went in. And when it went in, it was bedlam at Gampel Pavilion.
Player of the year: Can it be anyone else but Shabazz Napier? In addition to leading the Huskies in scoring and assists and nearly in rebounding, he scored a remarkable 55 points in nine overtime periods.
Newcomer of the year: Can it be anyone but Omar Calhoun? The freshman from New York never saw a three-point shot he didn't like, until a sprained wrist forced him to go to other parts of his game — and we learned he had plenty of other parts to his game.
Most scrutinized coaching call: Not fouling Junior Cadougan, who hit a tying three when UConn played Marquette. On other occasions, twice against Providence, Ollie did not call for a foul, and it paid off in a missed shot by the opponent.
Most surprising player: DeAndre Daniels. After a lost freshman year and an uneven start to this one, he finished the season as the Husky Most Likely To Succeed in the NBA.
Random Ollie-ism: "Through the pain, there's going to be promise."
Off-the-court bond: The Huskies went to Newtown to practice and hung out with families after Christmas.
Most disappointing player: Tyler Olander just never produced the scoring or rebounding expected of a starting center, but it must be considered that he played at least part of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Leave the driving to them: When the team bus got stuck in Hartford on Dec. 29, the players were able to push it out of trouble. When it got stuck in much deeper snow on Feb. 9, they couldn't budge it. Napier: "We better hit the weight room"
Best teammate: R.J. Evans. The grad student transfer from Holy Cross might have been a little overmatched at the Big East level, but he brought the big brother/leadership skills the Huskies were lacking the year before.
We're going to miss: If George Blaney, 73, decides to retire, his unique contributions to UConn basketball — and his true gentlemanliness — will be impossible to replace.
Best passer: Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright made some great ones — especially to each other.
YouTube play of the year: Napier to Boatright alley-oop at Notre Dame on Jan. 12. "It got real quiet in here," Napier said afterward.
Worst looking jump shot: Boatright took a few against Villanova on Feb. 16 that were just sooo far off.
Best smile: Daniels. Where he came from, to where he finished, you could understand why.
Random Ollie-ism: "When there's trying times, you don't stop trying."