Some UConn news and notes from Wednesday’s 61-56 victory over South Florida in front of 5,115 at the Sun Dome. The Huskies remain in fifth place in The American with a 10-5 record – Memphis is in fourth at 10-4 – and are 22-6 overall.
READY TO GO: The last two games, Terrence Samuel might have wondered if his number would ever be called again. Even when coach Kevin Ollie told him to go in around the 2:11 mark of the first half, Samuel still had to wait to get in.
Samuel was supposed to replace guard Ryan Boatright, but the junior guard missed his second free-throw attempt and played continued. Samuel sat below the scorer’s table until there was 1:04 left before finally getting in.
“Boat, I think he purposely missed that free throw so he wouldn’t come out of the game,” Samuel said, with a chuckle.
After failing to see the floor against Temple last week, Samuel admits he was a bit down. He also sat out Sunday’s loss to SMU.
“I kind of put my head down for a couple of minutes, but then I woke up and it’s not about myself, it’s about the team,” said Samuel, who has played in 18 games this season. “I’m just learning. I see what Bazz and Boat are doing out there in certain situations. I just learning, so when it’s my time I know what to do.”
Ollie likes to tell his players to be ready when their numbers is called, and Samuel was against the Bulls when the head coach wanted a spark. In the second half Samuel came in with 12:35 to play and the Huskies down 38-32. Over the next seven minutes he collected three steals, an assists and scored on a reverse layup that stirred up the Husky fans in attendance.
“That was my plan, I just wanted to make an impact,” Samuel said. “
Samuel ripped off USF senior Victor Rudd for his second steal, and after struggled to pick up the loose ball, finally dumped one down to a wide open Napier for an easy two that gave UConn a 39-38 lead.
“Terrence rarely plays and for him to come in and get three steals in eight minutes, it changed the whole complexion of the game,” Ollie said. “I just thought it was a game of half court (play) and I wanted him to come in and wreak some havoc. He started getting some hands on balls and we started pushing the ball, it was great to see.”
“I feel like I some him something in practice, but tonight I showed him I can play D, play with passion and help the team any way he wants me to,” Samuel said.
With Omar Calhoun in a season-long slump, the Huskies could use another option in the backcourt and Samuel showed vs. the Bulls he could be an option.
“I probably earned myself some more minutes hopefully,” Samuel said. “That what I have to do, come in the game and be a game changer.”
SAY WHAT? In a game of ticky-tack fouls, the strangest one occurred in the final minutes when Boatright was called for a foul on a 3-point attempt by USF freshman guard Josh Heath.
“Oh, God,” Boatright said, about the call. “I couldn’t believe he called that. I was like four feet away from him (Heath).
“I asked (the official) what did you see? He said ‘I didn’t see anything, I heard it.’ I said ‘What did you hear?’ And he said ‘I heard a noise.’ So I said ‘You heard the ball.’
“I don’t know, it was just a bad call.”
ANOTHER MILESTONE: Lost in the shuffle of the victory was Napier eclipsed 600th assists for his career at UConn with seven assists. Napier reached No. 600 in the first half on Niels Giffey’s 3-pointer with 8:39 remaining to give UConn a 15-9 lead.
Napier sits at 6-4 assists, which is 15 shy of third place with the Huskies. Head coach Kevin Ollie currently holds down that spot with 619 assists. Talik Brown is No. 1 on the list with 722 assists.