UConn Huskies

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Women’s Wednesday: Aliyah Boston and the team that’s taken the country by storm

Leave a comment

“I just love this team.”

While this was how Aliyah Boston ended our interview, it is clearly also a common sentiment for how the freshman feels about her entire first season at South Carolina. 

The Gamecocks have had incredible success this season—they are the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, boast a 22-1 record, and have beaten three top-5 teams. However, that all seemed to come second to the caring and supportive dynamic between the players themselves for Boston.

The 6-foot-5 forward is a dominant presence on the court—leading the team in scoring (13.3 ppg), rebounds (9.1 rpg), and blocks (67).

At the same time, she also knows how to balance that with listening to the more experienced players on the team.

“It’s about knowing what I have to do,” she explained. “I know I need to be aggressive, aggressive in the post. I’m trying to do my part, rebounding, blocking shots, making myself known and being a dominant presence.”

While the young forward has seen a great deal of personal success this season, she credits all that she has been able to accomplish to her teammates. 

“Everything I’ve done this season is because of my teammates,” Boston stated. “I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today. They’ve done a great job of encouraging me, and being there for me. I’ve gotten down on myself because of shots I’ve made or things I don’t think I’ve done well. And they’re always there to pick me back up.”

Boston received a series of accolades in high school, being named Massachusetts Player of the Year by USA Today and  to the Naismith All-America Second Team in 2019—just to name a couple.

Yet, this is the most fun she has had playing basketball. 

“I think this year, Ty [Tyasha Harris] and Kiki [Mikiah Herbert Harrigan] have done a great job of leading us, being the only seniors on the team,” Boston said. “They’re making it fun every day to come to practice and play games.

“Their attitudes, they’re always smiling, they’re always happy,” Boston explained, when asked what the seniors did to make the team fun. “And we’re all competitive.. that’s the best part about it, that everyone’s competing and trying to make each other better.”

Competitive is an understatement when talking about this Gamecocks team, as they come off one of the biggest wins in program history. 

South Carolina beat UConn for the first time ever on Monday night in a 70-52 rout of one of the most storied women’s basketball programs. 

“It was great, I thought we played great as a team,” Boston said, excitedly. “And the atmosphere, the crowd was behind us the entire time.”

Before the game, head coach Dawn Staley and Harris had an important message for the team, having faced UConn in the past.

“Ty [Harris], before the game, told us to stay focused and play hard,” Boston recounted. “And Staley told us as we were prepping to think about it as another game and to not get too ahead of ourselves.”

The Gamecocks led from start to finish, securing a dominant win over the Huskies after eight unsuccessful past attempts. 

Harris had a team-high 19 points and 11 assists, notching her first double-double of the season while not turning the ball over once.

When asked about what the locker room was like after the game, Boston laughed and said, “It was exciting! We were dancing, we were singing. Lots of smiles going around. It was fun.”

South Carolina has six games left in the regular season, and just two against ranked teams. It’s evident the players are hungry to bring their program its second NCAA national championship in four seasons.

“[The win over UConn] definitely boosted our confidence but we just have to stay focused because we still have a lot of games left. We have to stay focused and keep working hard.”

WEDNESDAY’S NEWS AND NOTES

– In one of the biggest matchups of the season, South Carolina beat UConn for the first time ever in a 70-52 victory on Monday night.

Crystal Dangerfield’s whopping 28 points was not enough to give UConn the spark it needed, while senior point guard Tyasha Harris led the way for South Carolina with 19 points. 

– Louisville suffered a pair of upsets, first to then-No. 17 Florida state on Thursday and then to an unranked Syracuse team on Sunday. Formerly the fifth ranked team, Louisville has dropped in the rankings to No. 9, while the Seminoles have moved up to the No. 14 spot.

The Cardinals—who hadn’t lost back-to-back games since February 2017—will face another tough road test when they face off against the No. 4 Wolfpack on Thursday. 

– Then-No. 10 UCLA also pulled off the upset over then-No. 6 Stanford, giving the Bruins a huge boost in the most recent AP Poll as they rose to No. 7 and the Cardinal dropped to No. 8. 

– No. 12 Arizona took down then-No. 9 Oregon State in 65-58 overtime win, which cause the Beavers to drop outside of the top-10 rankings to No. 11. 

– Arkansas made history on Sunday in its 103-85 defeat of Kentucky, marking the most points the Razorbacks have ever scored against an SEC opponent and beating the Wildcats for the first time since 2011. Arkansas went from No. 25 to No. 23 and Kentucky dropped from No. 15 to No. 18.

– N.C. State has won eight-straight games, causing them to soar in the NCAA’s Power 10 rankings from eighth to fourth. The upcoming matchup against Louisville will have major NCAA Tournament seeding implications for the ACC. 

– After beating two ranked teams in a row and coming back from a double-digit deficit in the second half against Texas A&M, Mississippi State rose to No. 7 in Power 10.

– Maryland ranks No. 10 in both the AP Poll and the NCAA’s Power 10 after a three-win week increased its winning streak to nine in a row. A win against Iowa on Thursday would put the Terps on top of the Big Ten.

– With the season at midway point, the Atlanta Tipoff club has released a list of the 30 players named to the Naismith Trophy women’s basketball Player of the Year midseason team. The list will be cut to 10 on March 3, and the winner will be announced April 4. 

Play of the Week: Myah Taylor made big-time plays in Mississippi State’s comeback win over Texas A&M, including this sweet pass to Jessika Carter under the basket:

Player of the Week: Shocker, Sabrina Ionescu secures her 24th career triple-double with a 15-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist performance against Arizona.

UConn lands transfer guard R.J. Cole

Getty Images
Leave a comment

UConn landed one of the offseason’s most highly-recruited transfers on Tuesday night as Howard guard R.J. Cole pledged to the Huskies during a visit to campus.

The reigning MEAC Player of the Year, Cole led the conference in scoring as both a freshman and a sophomore as the 6-foot-1 guard put up 21.4 points, 6.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game this past season. A high-usage player, Cole shot 41 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three-point range as a sophomore.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Cole will have to sit out the 2019-2020 season for the Huskies before he has two years of eligibility remaining. While Cole has put up monster numbers in one of the weakest Division I conferences in college basketball, it’ll be interesting to see how he produces with high-major talent all around him.

Cole has shown an ability to score and set up teammates in the MEAC, but he doesn’t have a lot of experience going against high-quality programs. Cole did score 28 points in a blowout loss to Georgetown last season, but Howard didn’t play any other power conference teams during the season.

No. 9 Houston beats UConn 71-63 for 9th straight victory

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
1 Comment

HARTFORD, Conn. — DeJon Jarreau had 18 points and seven assists to help No. 9 Houston beat UConn 71-63 on Thursday night for its ninth straight victory.

Armoni Brooks added 12 points for the Cougars (24-1, 11-1 American Athletic Conference). They opened the second half with a 17-4 run to take control.

Christian Vital had 15 points for UConn (13-12, 4-8). The Huskies have lost three straight since a knee injury took out scoring leader Jalen Adams.

Jarreau’s driving layup gave Houston a 17-point lead with just over 7 1/2 minutes to go. UConn cut it to 61-55 after a 3-pointer by Sidney Wilson and a free throw from Christian Vital.

Another driving layup by Jarreau, followed by a steal and two foul shots from Cedrick Alley Jr. brought the lead back to double digits.

The Huskies failed to capitalize on 21 Houston fouls, going 14 of 25 from the line.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies played without two stars. Junior point guard Alterique Gilbert missed his fifth straight game since suffering the latest in a series of injuries to his left shoulder. Adams has what may turn out to be a season-ending knee injury. The Huskies are 1-4 since Gilbert’s injury.

Houston: The Cougars’ bench, led by Jarreau, outscored UConn’s 42-9. Chris Harris Jr., Cedrick Alley Jr. and Brison Gresham were a combined 9 for 9 from the floor.

Judge dismisses ex-UConn coach Kevin Ollie’s request amid arbitration

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

HARTFORD, Conn. — Former University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie has lost a bid to stop the school from unilaterally ending arbitration proceedings related to his firing if he files a racial discrimination complaint against UConn.

Federal Judge Kari Dooley in Bridgeport on Monday approved a motion by UConn to reject Ollie’s request, deciding it was filed prematurely. Dooley did not rule on the merits of the request.

Ollie and UConn officials are in arbitration related to his internal grievance over his firing last March. Collective bargaining rules say UConn can end the arbitration if Ollie files a discrimination complaint with either the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Ollie is concerned that deadlines to file a discrimination complaint will pass before the arbitration is complete, and he asked the judge to allow him to move forward with the complaint during the arbitration. UConn has said it won’t waive the collective bargaining rules if Ollie files a complaint.

The university fired Ollie in March after a 14-18 season, citing NCAA recruiting violations. The school said that because the firing was “for cause,” it did not have to pay Ollie about $10 million left on his contract.

Ollie, who is black, plans to file a racial discrimination complaint against UConn, saying the school treated him differently from former coach Jim Calhoun, who is white and wasn’t fired after being penalized for recruiting violations.

Ollie’s lawyers said Dooley’s ruling will allow Ollie to raise the same issues at a later date and that they are confident Ollie will be able to file his discrimination claims after the arbitration.

“We are obviously disappointed by the court’s decision,” Ollie lawyer Jacques Parenteau said in a statement. “We believe that the University of Connecticut’s efforts to deter Coach Ollie from pursuing and preserving his discrimination claims are sufficient to trigger the jurisdiction of the federal court. We are reviewing the decision for purposes of appeal.

“Kevin Ollie understands that fighting for his rights against the University of Connecticut is a difficult undertaking, but make no mistake about it; Kevin Ollie is playing a long game,” the statement said.

Messages seeking comment were left with UConn’s lawyers.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Bizarre double ejection in UConn/Tulsa; Iowa State, Kansas State earn huge Big 12 wins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After Tuesday night’s craziness in college hoops, things were bound to slow down on a Wednesday that only featured a few intriguing conference games. Of course, things got weird with a double head-coach ejection in the American while the Big 12 had some enticing contests.

UCONN’S DAN HURLEY AND TULSA’S FRANK HAITH HIT WITH DOUBLE DOUBLE-TECHNICALS. YOU READ THAT RIGHT. 

Strange ejections went down in the American on Wednesday night when UConn head Dan Hurley and Tulsa’s Frank Haith were both kicked out — as they were trying to shake hands to make amends for an argument. The bizarre incident occured one day after Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin was ejected, as the American has a lot of incidents like this being talked about lately.

Tulsa ended up holding on for the close 89-83 win as Jeriah Horne dropped 27 points.

Both head coaches released statements after the game, as well as the officials, as this will surely be talked about among sports talking heads for all of Thursday.

IOWA STATE WIN AT No. 8 TEXAS TECH AFTER LOSING TWO STRAIGHT

After dropping two straight games in which they had a chance to win late, a young Iowa State team showed rapid maturation in an important 68-64 win over No. 8 Texas Tech.

Falling to Baylor and Kansas State, the Cyclones avenged those losses and even held everything together once Texas Tech made a late rally. Getting multiple important stops and doing just enough offensively to finish the job, this is a great job by Iowa State to win an important Big 12 road game while staying right in the mix of a very crowded Big 12 race.

Now that unbeaten Texas Tech has fallen, every team in the Big 12 has lost at least one game in conference play as a deep conference looks like it’s going to be a bloodbath once again.

KANSAS STATE BLOWS OUT No. 20 OKLAHOMA IN NORMAN

Perhaps more than any other team going on Wednesday night, Kansas State needed a win to help its cause. With the Wildcats right on the bubble for a handful of NCAA tournament projections, an opportunity for a road win against another ranked team would be huge.

After knocking off Iowa State on the road the last game, Kansas State earned its second straight Big 12 road win over a ranked team with a convincing 74-61 win over the Sooners. The back-to-back road wins are the first true road wins of the season for the Wildcats — who appear to be gaining confidence.

Senior guard Barry Brown Jr. poured in 25 points — his third straight outing of at least 23 points — to pace the Kansas State offense as he’s looked like a consistent go-to scorer in recent wins.

UConn’s Hurley, Tulsa’s Haith ejected after confrontation ‘escalated by the officials’

Getty Images
2 Comments

The UConn and Tulsa game turned into a mess on Wednesday night after a bizarre incident in which both head coaches, UConn’s Dan Hurley and Tulsa’s Frank Haith, were ejected after a pair of double technicals were issued..

As seen in the video below, the two coaches got into a verbal argument over a foul call. That resulted in the duo both receiving a technical foul. Then things got strange. As Hurley and Haith appeared to be mending fences with a handshake with official Pat Adams seemingly in control of the situation, another official — Marques Pettigrew — cam in from the other side of the floor and each coach received a second technical foul. It is the first double head coaching ejection in the American.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Hurley told reporters after the game. “It was surreal, I would say.

“Watch what happened on TV. It’s very clear. I was talking to the official, and then I was engaged by someone on the other sideline. They said my name, in my direction, so I turned and looked [with] kind of a look of surprise.

“I’ve known Frank for a very long time — probably 15, 18, 20 years, back to when I was a high school coach and he recruited my players. I feel as though that situation escalated because of the officials and the way they handled the situation.”

Haith agreed.

“I don’t feel like it was to that level,” he said. “There was competitive conversation. I didn’t know the both of us got a first technical. I would have hoped it would have been handled a lot differently.”

“That was embarrassing,” Hurley added. “It’s embarrassing for the conference, for both me and Frank, and on the heels of last night, it’s not a good look for our league. It’s just very disappointing the way that thing was handled.”

This comes on the heels of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin getting ejected on Tuesday night as the conference appears to be on a hot streak with tossing coaches. Cronin acknowledged that he had never been ejected from a game before.

It is the second time that Hurley has been ejected in his first season at UConn. He was also tossed in a loss to Iowa in Madison Square Garden earlier this season.