HARTFORD – It was a familiar site last March – a UConn player would hit a 3-pointer and the players on the bench would stand up and swing their arms across the floor.
It became a tradition, a goofy thing they did to have some fun. It became more than that, though. It became a symbol that the entire school rallied around.
Its origins are clouded in mystery, but Terrance Samuel is believed to be the creator of the trend.
“I think in Cincinnati, after I hit like two or three (3-pointers) straight, Terrence Samuel started doing it,” Ryan Boatright said. “He just did it. He’s a character himself. I think it just kept catching on from there.”
From Ted’s, to dorm rooms, to a massive circle around burning copies of The Daily Campus on Fairfield Way, Samuel’s creation – known as “the floor sweep” to many – caught on. Husky fans from Connecticut to Dallas were sweeping their hands across the floor when Shabazz Napier drilled a three to give UConn a four-point lead over Kentucky, the dagger shot in the 2014 National Championship Game.
The floor sweep disappeared this year, a down year by UConn’s elite standards. Nothing was going right. Those big-time, arm-swinging threes, UConn was not making those shots.
Texas made those shots. Yale made those shots. Memphis made those shots.
UConn’s rimmed out.
The Huskies desperately needed a big game against No. 21 SMU Sunday – not for the resume, not for seeding, but because the Huskies needed the kind of performance that makes a group of players want to swing their arms along the floor.
They got it.
UConn’s bench swept the floor nine times in an 81-73 win over the Mustangs at the XL Center. Nine 3-pointers were part of a UConn performance that was better than any all season. Not since April had the Huskies looked so poised, so determined, so together, so happy.
It makes sense that the game happened to fall on March 1, the unofficial start of the college basketball season in Storrs. What has happened to this point in the season, a season clouded by 11 miserable losses, is irrelevant.
This is the time of year when UConn kicks into gear. The struggles are a thing of the past. The Huskies are better than their record, and people are aware that Sunday is simply the beginning.
“They’re good,” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “You got Boatright, you got a shot-blocker, you got a freshman who’s as good as anyone…they’re deep.”
The “Boat against the world” feeling this season once had is gone. UConn has the makings of a “big three” consisting of Boatright, Rodney Purvis and Daniel Hamilton. Heck, add in the dominating presence of Amida Brimah that Brown mentioned as a fourth.
UConn has won championships with far less.
Remember the 2010-11 season? Kemba Walker was on his own for most of that season, much like Boatright was this year. Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi, even Shabazz Napier, came along late. UConn closed the season on an 11-game winning streak, taking home the Big East and national championships as a result.
This is not to say that UConn is going to win the national championship. But it is asinine to think that the Huskies’ season is over, especially when the rest of the conference has to visit Hartford to decide who gets the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
All UConn needs to do is get there. The seed, the opponent, none of it matters so long as the Huskies are clicking, so long as they have their arm-swinging mojo back.
As of Sunday, it is back.
“I think that March feeling and that killer instinct is setting in right now,” Boatright said.