Losing Ryan Boatright with 19:36 to play in the second half did not do anything to help UConn’s chances Wednesday against Temple, but it was fundamentals that killed the Huskies.
The Huskies shot 8 of 19 from the foul line and were 1-for-9 from behind the 3-point line, putting to waste an outstanding comeback in a 57-53 overtime loss to the Owls in their American Athletic Conference opener.
A corner 3-pointer from Temple’s Jesse Morgan put the Owls (10-4, 1-0 American) up six with 1:51 and looked to have put the game out of reach. The Huskies (6-5, 0-1 American) were able to fight back, preventing Temple from scoring again. Terrence Samuel grabbed a rebound off a missed three by Daniel Dingle with 16 seconds left and threw the ball ahead to Rodney Purvis, who threw it down to tie the game at 51.
Two free throws gave Temple a 55-53 lead with 2:48 to play in overtime. With 2.8 seconds left and the score unchanged, Daniel Hamilton had one option: throw the ball up from behind the 3-point line and hope to get fouled.
He got fouled, and the freshman, who finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, missed the first two shots before committing a violation trying to force a rebound on the third.
Will Cummings hit two foul shots at the other end to seal it.
“It’s tough on a freshman to be in that position, but (Hamilton will) live to see another day,” Purvis said. “We just have to get better as a team. Teams stay with each other. He’s kind of down on himself because he’s a really passionate kid who loves the game a lot. We just have to keep his head up.”
Boatright left the game with 1:31 to play in the first half after being struck by a knee in the back of the leg. Despite an obvious limp, the Huskies’ leading scorer and the American Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year tried to fight through it in the second half. He lasted 24 seconds.
Without Boatright, the lone senior in the regular rotation, Terrence Samuel ran point on offense. It took some time, but a lineup of freshmen and sophomores were able to adjust and take the fight back to one of the best defensive teams in the conference. The Huskies shot 42.3 percent from the field in the second half to get back in the game.
“We had some other guys try to step up and fill in the void for him,” head coach Kevin Ollie said. “Of course, you can’t do that, but I thought the guys really played with some effort…We just have to come down on offense and execute a little bit. We’ve got younger guys out there.”
For the second straight game, UConn got a positive performance out of junior Omar Calhoun, who has been battling injuries for the second straight season. Calhoun finished with seven points, three rebounds and two assists and hit the Huskies’ lone 3-pointer.
Calhoun converted a critical bucket for UConn – a tip-in to cut Temple’s lead to four – with 4:56 left, but was rewarded with a cut above the left eye for his trouble. He came back in with less than a minute left, but he had trouble seeing and only lasted nine seconds.
Purvis made a couple of key shots and big defensive plays, but he finished with only seven points and one rebound. The rebound stat irritated Purvis, who said that he needs to be better, not just as a player, but as a leader.
“We have to find one more guy to take that leadership role,” Purvis said. “I feel like I can be that guy. I just have to step up. Like I said, (Ollie) played me 38 minutes and I only grabbed one rebound. That’s on me. We just have to give things back to Coach. He gives us his all and we got to go back and have his back and give it all up to him on the court.”