Ryan Boatright

UConn upsets Syracuse, showing season-long toughness

1 Comment

HARTFORD, Conn. — UConn entered the season with nothing to play for. The Huskies took on the role as spoilers, which was clear in a season-opening win against No. 14 Michigan State. Months later, UConn has continued to fight in a season where so much has gone wrong.

The prime example of UConn’s resiliency occurred on Wednesday night in UConn’s 66-58 upset win over No. 6 Syracuse at home.

“Once again, this group fought all obstacles and made it through with a fantastic win,” said UConn coach Kevin Ollie.

UConn can’t play in the postseason. Their Hall of Fame coach, Jim Calhoun retired in September. In the middle of the season, the Catholic 7 essentially announced the end of the Big East. However, UConn played Wednesday night like its Super Bowl, taking down a long-time rival in the final meeting as Big East opponents.

The Huskies trailed by two with over three minutes to go. Shabazz Napier connected on a three to give UConn the lead. The Huskies defense limited the Orange to 1-of-5 down the stretch, while UConn shot 3-of-5, including a buzzer beater by Ryan Boatright to give UConn a 29-24 lead entering the break.

In the second half, Syracuse tied the game and eventually took the lead with under 12 minutes to go, 40-39 on a James Southerland 3-pointer. It looked like Cuse was ready to roll at that point, however UConn countered with the first of many punches. Three-pointers from Niels Giffey and Omar Calhoun on back-to-back possessions gave UConn a 42-40 lead. Boatright had a breakaway dunk to give a 47-42 lead.

But the biggest blows were back-to-back threes from Calhoun, on consecutive possessions, that gave UConn a 55-46 lead.

UConn shot 6-of-8 from behind the arc in the second half — 8-of-14 for the game — in one of the more impressive shooting displays against Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.

While Southerland’s three gave Syracuse its final lead with 11:47 to go, he was the only one connecting from deep. He hit all four threes, with the rest of Orange shooting 0-for-14.

Kevin Ollie and Co. are playing for the name on the front of the jersey. Playing for the university and the state of Connecticut. The shorthanded Huskies are now 3-2 against ranked opponents, including a win against No. 17 Notre Dame in South Bend.

“You can’t measure what we’ve been through,” said Ollie.

UConn has seven more games, and are currently one game out of first place in the Big East standings. The season ends the season Mar. 9 against Providence, wrapping up a hard-fought, admirable season.

“We have a lot of pride,” said Boatright. “Me and Shabazz are great leaders. We have a great chief in coach Ollie. We bring it everyday.”

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.