By DOM AMORE, email@example.com
The Hartford Courant
10:37 PM EST, January 31, 2013
There are games when the stat sheet should be tossed aside. There are games when the stat sheet should be shredded, incinerated as soon as possible.
Once in a career, perhaps, there is a game like this. Kevin Ollie might want to save the stat sheet from UConn's 82-79 overtime victory over Providence on Thursday before 10,180 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
It's one for the ages.
"Coach [George Blaney] has been around a long time and he said he's never seen a stat sheet like this," Ollie said, "but I really love the fact we had more points that Providence."
If ever there was a game that proved the final score is the only stat that matters, it would be this. And if there's a game that typifies what Ollie's first UConn team is about, it would be this one also.
The Huskies were outrebounded 55-24, the margin tying a Big East record. They sent Providence to the foul line 39 times. And yet, UConn made enough shots and plays to win: A three-pointer by Omar Calhoun with 42 seconds left in the overtime, putting them ahead for good, three free throws by Shabazz Napier and, finally, a killer rebound by Calhoun with 13 seconds to go. When, after Napier missed at the line, Providence's Bryce Cotton's desperation shot rattled away harmlessly at the buzzer, UConn had its first win at Providence since 2006 and the most raucous of buildings fell suddenly silent.
"We all say 'brothers' when we go back to the huddle," said Calhoun, who scored 13 points. "Even when things aren't going our way, we stick together and things fall into place."
Ryan Boatright had 19 points and seven assists, Napier and DeAndre Daniels each scored 18 as the Huskies (14-5, 4-3 in the Big East) hung on down the stretch even though Enosch Woilf and Tyler Olander both fouled out in the first minute of overtime. Daniels, who had seven rebounds, fouled out with 24 seconds to play.
"We didn't have any five-men at the end," Ollie said, "we didn't have any fours — but we had each other. And that's what it's all about. That's the team I want to coach, right there. I'm glad I had these guys on the bus with me."
A year ago, with a team that included two high NBA draft picks in Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb, the Huskies did not have this kind of poise when the heat was turned up at "The Dunk." They blew a 14-point lead in the second half and lost.
Here, an early 15-point lead disappeared by halftime, but UConn prevailed in what could be the last game it plays here for the foreseeable future, with Providence among the schools departing the league.
"Last year, we would have packed our bags and gone home," said Napier, who scored 18 points. "This team, we kept our composure and we handled the pressure."
Kadeem Batts scored 20 and Cotton 18 for the Friars (10-11, 2-7 in the league).
Providence coach Ed Cooley benched two starters, Vincent Council and LaDontae Henton, reportedly because he didn't like the way they had been playing defense. The Huskies, though, came out strong offensively, Daniels scoring seven quick points, and they jumped out to a 12-3 lead.
The Friars missed their first nine shots from the floor, and when Boatright, wincing with his sore left knee and a twisted right ankle, hit a three-pointer, UConn had extended its lead to 25-10 with 11:01 to play in the half.
But Providence, as Henton and Council checked into the game, was asserting a big edge on the boards, a 3-1 ratio throughout the first half, and edged back into the game. The Huskies were plagued by turnovers late in the half, and Providence continually got to the foul line, hitting 12 of 14. Batts scored nine and Cotton eight as the Friars cut UConn's lead to one, 33-32, at the break.
"We challenge [our players] to play a little tougher," Ollie said, "and that's exactly what they did."
Providence surged to the lead early in the second half, but UConn responded. The lead changed hands 10 times, the game tied on 15 occasions. The rebounding never got much better for UConn, with Henton getting 13 for Providence. But UConn had 10 blocks and eight steals, and they changed enough shots to hold the Friars to 33.8 percent for the game, including 3 of 14 on three-point attempts.
UConn, meanwhile, shot 50 percent, hitting 27 of 54, including 9 of 17 for three and that, of course, explains how the Huskies stayed close despite the mauling they were taking on the boards.
"It was terrible," Boatright said of the rebounding numbers. "Terrible. … But it was heart. … Heart. … We figured out a way to win."
Providence tied the game at 69 on Henton's strong baseline move with 18 seconds left, and UConn called timeout to set up a play. Boatright tried to penetrate, but he was rebuffed by New London's Kris Dunn, with Providence's only block of the game, and it went to OT.
There, UConn was able to win before Ollie ran out of players, with Giffey and Calhoun grabbing huge rebounds after missed Providence free throws.
"You can't go back and get the rebounds you didn't get," Ollie said. "All you can do is box out and get the next one. We were able to get the crucial rebounds, and that's why we were able to prevail. We found a way to dig deep and get a game that was all from the heart."
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