AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Rodney Purvis scored 16 points and led a second half rally as Connecticut beat Texas 71-66 Tuesday night, snapping the Longhorns’ six-game winning streak.
Shonn Miller and Daniel Hamilton added 13 points apiece for UConn (9-3) and former Longhorn Sterling Gibbs scored 12.
Freshman Tevin Mack led Texas (8-4) with a season-best 20 points, and Isaiah Taylor scored 19.
Texas led 53-52 after Mack made his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 8:18 remaining. Then Purvis asserted himself with two driving shots, an assist on a basket by Jalen Adams, and a 3-pointer that gave UConn a 61-55 lead with 4:27 left.
After Taylor missed the front end of a one-and-one with 3:49 remaining, Purvis made another basket.
Six straight points by Taylor pulled Texas within two, 65-63, with 33 seconds left, but UConn made six throws in the final 27 seconds, four by Gibbs.
POSTERIZED: UConn’s Rodney Purvis dunks on SMU’s Yanick Moreira (VIDEO)
In the first of two semifinals on Friday afternoon, No. 17 UConn knocked off Dayton, 75-64, to advance to the 2014 Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game. The Huskies will play West Virginia on Sunday afternoon.
Ryan Boatright went for a game-high 20 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block. Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton joined Boatright in double figures with 19 and 14, respectively. Jordan Sibert led the Flyers with 18, followed by Kendall Pollard with 15 off the bench.
The final score doesn’t indicate how close this game was for the majority of the afternoon with both teams swapping the lead back-and-forth and entering halftime tied 41-all. More than half of Dayton’s points came in the paint during the first half as tough shots by UConn, coupled with nonexistent transition defense, led to easy buckets for the Flyers.
However, the momentum swung in UConn’s favor in the midway through the second half with UConn forcing Dayton into a prolonged shooting slump. For more than five minutes, the Flyers went without a field goal as the Huskies recaptured the lead at 59-58. Amida Brimah was at the heart of the turning point. In a 15-second span, he rejected three Dayton shots. An energized UConn team responded to the defensive stand with a 3-pointer from Hamilton to take a 62-58 lead. From that point on, Dayton never cut it to a one-possession game.
The adjustment UConn made at half was a better defensive effort by UConn. In the second half, the Huskies limited Dayton to 8-of-29 shooting, forcing nine turnovers and blocking five shots. On the other end of the floor, UConn received contributions from several players. Purvis got going early with eight points before being saddled with two fouls. Hamilton also had spurt in the first half with a pair of spot-up three and another off a handoff. In the second half, while he missed all but one of his jump shots, the 6-foot-4 Purvis was effective getting to the basket, putting the final stamp on the victory with two straight layups to put UConn up 10.
1. Kyle Wiltjer (via Kentucky) and Byron Wesley (via USC), Gonzaga: Mark Few’s team still has questions to answer, mainly on the defensive end, but there’s no doubting that he’s added several transfers that make the Zags a top-10 caliber team. Wiltjer, the 2013 SEC Sixth Man of the Year, has had over a year to reshape his body. By the looks of last week’s viral video, his 3-point shot is still intact. Wesley, a graduate transfer who averaged 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds per game in 2013-2014, gives the Bulldogs another weapon on the perimeter.
2. Bryce Dejean-Jones, Iowa State (via UNLV): The Mayor’s success with transfers in Ames is well-documented. Next in line could be fifth-year senior Bryce Dejean-Jones. Iowa State graduated a lot of its scoring pop, and Dejean-Jones can help in that department, although he doesn’t need to be the top scorer like he was last season at UNLV. Hoiberg will look for the 6-foot-6 newcomer to be a wing who creates his shot, not one who will force it, as Dejean-Jones shot selection has been a problem in the past.
3. Rodney Purvis, UConn (via N.C. State): The reigning national champions add a former McDonald’s All-American to its back court alongside Ryan Boatright. At 6-foot-4, Purvis will give the Huskies size on the perimeter; someone who is not only capable of getting to the rim, but also a reliable 3-point shooting, knocking down 38.5 percent of his threes at N.C. State.
4. Anthony Lee, Ohio State (via Temple): The graduate transfer was highly-sought after, but picked the Buckeyes, adding size, scoring and rebounding to their frontline. At Temple, he recorded 11 double-doubles en route to 13.6 points and and American Athletic Conference leading 8.6 boards per game.
5. Kedren Johnson, Memphis (via Vanderbilt): Memphis went from a back court of four seniors in 2013-2014 to a set of guards with zero Division I experience. That was until Johnson, the Vandy transfer, got a waiver to play immediately. In 2012-2013, the 6-foot-4 Johnson averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. His experience on-the-ball should help the younger guards get adjust to the level of play.
6. Angel Rodriguez, Miami (via Kansas State): The Hurricanes new point guard took a year off to recover from a wrist injury and now is the key piece to a revamped perimeter for Miami, which includes fellow transfer Sheldon McClellan, four-star freshman JaQuan Newton and returners Deandre Burnett and Davon Reed. The former K-State floor general was second-team all-Big 12 in 2012-2013, averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 assists per game.
7. Trevor Lacey, N.C. State (via Alabama): T.J. Warren took his ACC Player of the Year honors and his 24.9 points per game to the NBA, leaving plenty of shots available for the the newcomer. The 6-foot-3 Lacey averaged 11.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a sophomore.
8. Katin Reinhardt, USC (via UNLV): After taking the second-most shots on UNLV as a freshman in 2012-2013, Reinhardt headed back to the state of California in hopes of being more than just a shooter. Despite his desires to have the ball in his hands, his biggest asset to Andy Enfield is his ability to hit from the outside. The Trojans were a Pac-12 worst 29 percent from beyond the arc last season.
9. Justin Martin, SMU (via Xavier): The 6-foot-6 wing is eligible immediately after graduating from Xavier. He posted 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, knocking down 50 3-pointers. He has also played in two NCAA tournaments, a place the Mustangs are looking to get back to for the first time since 1993.
10. Matt Carlino, Marquette (viaBYU): Steve Wojciechowski adds the former BYU guard to a back court that includes senior Derrick Wilson, potential breakout star Deonte Burton and redshirt freshman Duane Wilson. Carlino will see time on and off the ball, and will provide Marquette with a knockdown shooter.
13 MORE IMPACT TRANSFERS
Angelo Chol, San Diego State (via Arizona): Steve Fisher has had success with transfers in the past, and this season it could be Chol, the former Arizona Wildcat, who could never crack the loaded frontline.
*Cody Doolin, UNLV (via San Francisco): Dave Rice added a steady point guard (averaged 5.6 assists per game in 2012-2013) to a team that lost its starting five. Has been granted a fifth year of eligibility, but still waiting on a waiver to be allowed to play this season, although he is expected to receive it.
Justin Edwards, Kansas State (via Maine): Top scorer in the American East at 16.7 points per game in 2012-2013 could end up being a double-digit scorer for the Wildcats.
Byrn Forbes, Michigan State (via Cleveland State): Forbes will help combat the lose of Keith Appling and Gary Harris, averaging 15.6 points per game (42 percent from three) last season in the Horizon League.
Anthony Hickey, Oklahoma State (via LSU): Hickey hopes the change of scenery can help return to sophomore averages of 11.2 points, 3.4 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
Jabarie Hinds, UMass (via West Virginia): With Chaz Williams graduating, the West Virginia transfer will be inserted into a back court with returning starter Derrick Gordon and key reserve Trey Davis in what could end up being a three-guard set for the Minutemen.
Keith Hornsby, LSU (via UNC Asheville): Matched up with JuCo transfer Josh Gray in the back court, Hornsby gives the Tigers size at 6-foot-4 and a 3-point threat.
Stanton Kidd (via North Carolina Central) and Antawn Scott (via Grambling) Colorado State : Outside of San Diego State, the rest of the Mountain West is wide-open. The addition of Kidd and Scott can help the Rams separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Jermaine Lawrence, Manhattan (via Cincinnati): The former five-star recruit is a big addition to a Manhattan team looking to return to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
Antoine Mason, Auburn (via Niagara): Only national player of the year Doug McDermott scored more points than Mason (25.6 ppg) last season, as the former Niagara standout joins fellow transfers K.C. Ross-Miller and Cinmeon Bowers this season for the Tigers.
Ahmad Starks, Illinois (via Oregon State): Senior guard Tracy Abrams tearing his ACL made the addition of Starks and Seton Hall shooter Aaron Cosby all the more important. Starks will be asked to run the offense this season in his first and only year with the Illini.
*TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma (via Houston): The 6-foot-8 forward is still waiting on a waiver to play this season. Would make the Sooners a real threat in the Big 12.
Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 20 UConn.
Newcomers: Rodney Purvis (transfer), Daniel Hamilton, Sam Cassell Jr.
– G: Ryan Boatright, Sr.
– G: Rodney Purvis, So.
– F: Daniel Hamilton, Fr.
– F: Phil Nolan, Jr.
– C: Amida Brimah, So.
– Bench: Omar Calhoun, Jr.; Sam Cassell Jr., Jr.; Kentan Facey, So.
They’ll be good because … : UConn will enter the season with one of the nation’s most talented back courts. The face of this year’s group is going to be Ryan Boatright. One of the most athletic point guards that you’ll ever come across, Boatright was one of the most important pieces to UConn’s national title run thanks to the nightmarish on-ball defense that he provided for Kevin Ollie’s club. And while Shabazz Napier — and, late in the season, Deandre Daniels, commanded all of the attention, it’s important to note that Boatright averaged 12.4 points, 3.5 boards and 3.4 assists as the No. 3 option.
He’ll be joined by N.C. State transfer Rodney Purvis, a top 20 recruit coming out of high school that spent last season sitting out as a redshirt, and top 30 recruit Daniel Hamilton. Purvis has a chance to be one of the nation’s most improved players this season while Hamilton, the youngest brother of Gary (Miami), Jordan (Texas and now the NBA) and Isaac (UCLA), is a wing forward with a reputation for being a big-time scorer. That trio could match up with any back court in the country. Throw in sophomore Terrance Samuel, who had some big moments during UConn’s national title run, as well as Omar Calhoun and JuCo transfer Sam Cassell Jr., and the Huskies legitimately go six-deep on their perimeter.
But they might disappoint because … : As good as their back court is, it will be downright impossible to replace Shabazz Napier. And I’m not just talking about his ability to score or his knack for making a big shot in a bigger moment, I’m talking about the leadership that he provided and his presence in the locker room. Napier was a coach on the floor, a guy that ran this team and commanded the respect of his teammates. Doug McDermott was the rightful National Player of the Year last season, but Napier was every bit as valuable as him.
There are also question marks along UConn’s front line. There is no four-man that will be able to stretch the floor the way that Daniels did last season. Part of the reason that UConn was so difficult to guard was because Daniels could play the four defensively, but he was more-or-less a guard on the offensive end of the floor. Phil Nolan has beefed up this offseason and Amida Brimah has a chance to be the nation’s best shot-blocker at some point during his career, but neither of them are the kind of player that will scare an opposing coach offensively. And if that wasn’t enough, their only back ups are Kentan Facey, who struggled to see the floor as a freshman, and Rakim “Rock” Lubin, an incoming recruit that is built like a bulldozer but that wasn’t ranked in the Class of 2014.
Outlook: Just how good will Ryan Boatright be taking over the reins of this team? He’s a tremendous talent, one of the nation’s best on-ball defenders and a kid that can score 30 on any given night when he gets on a roll offensively, but he’s also a kid that has had maturity issues during his career and a habit of forcing some tough shots.
UConn has won two of the last four national titles thanks to the play of Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier, two of the best point guards that we’ve seen in recent years. But both Walker and Napier had their growing pains early on in their Husky careers. Throw in the fact that Kevin Ollie — and, for that matter, Napier — is more or less the prototype of what it means to be a leader at the point guard spot, and Boatright has spent the past two years learning from the best possible people on how to be the player that the Huskies need him to be this season.
He’ll have talent around him, but if the Huskies are going to win the American this season, it will be on the back of Boatright. It will be interesting, over the next five months, to see if Boatright can live up to those lofty standards.
Despite winning the national title last season, one issue for the UConn Huskies was their work on the boards. Kevin Ollie’s team finished the season ranked seventh in the American Athletic Conference in defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing just 67.2% of their opponents’ missed shots. Their leading rebounders were DeAndre Daniels and Shabazz Napier, who grabbed 6.0 and 5.8 caroms per contest respectively.
With those two, along with forward Niels Giffey, having moved on UConn’s leading returning rebounder is senior point guard Ryan Boatright. So it should come as no surprise that one of the areas the Huskies worked on during their first official day of practice Saturday was their rebounding. And they didn’t do it solely because of the players who left at the end of last season either.
“We want to be a better fast-breaking team than we were last year,” coach Kevin Ollie said. “We want to get more easy buckets. We don’t have a Shabazz [Napier] that’s going to bail us out with 35-footers at the end of the shot clock. … We want to run a little more, get our athletes out in space where they can create for themselves and others.”
Another takeaway from the story is Ollie’s desire to ultimately be able to put four players on the court capable of accomplishing the tasks of grabbing a rebound and leading a quick transition from defense to offense.
“I don’t want to draw up a lot of plays,” he said. “I can if I need to, but I want us to use our athleticism. That’s my dream — to have four guys who can get it off the rebound and ‘let’s go, let’s push it, let’s play fast break basketball.’ … That’s what I’m recruiting for, so hopefully I have the type of team that can possibly do that. We were close last year, when we had the three point guards and a couple of forwards that were able to push it.”
This year’s team, even with the loss of Napier, Daniels, Giffey and Lasan Kromah, has multiple players capable of fitting into that vision. Boatright will be joined by NC State transfer Rodney Purvis, junior college transfer Sam Cassell Jr., freshman Daniel Hamilton and returnees Omar Calhoun and Terrence Samuel in UConn’s perimeter rotation this season. Even with an improved Amida Brimah and junior Phil Nolan in the front court, joined by freshman Rakeem Lubin, those guards will need to chip in on the boards if UConn is to contend for a national title.
And if they can do that, not only would that occur but it could also set the stage for what Ollie’s UConn teams will look like in the future.