If you wanted to know how excited fans were watching some UConn basketball, look no further than a packed Gampel Pavilion as the team took on the Oklahoma State Cowboys, a box office student section. closed with fans who had been waiting since that morning and the sheer excitement of the whole building.
“They were there before I even got here. I mean they beat me for the game,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said.
It was natural to expect a positive outcome from the game, especially after the Huskies rose hugely in the AP poll after putting up a dominating performance in the PK85 tournament, especially against ranked opponents. Instead, while many of those performances looked completely dominant, like in their Oregon clashes, it was close competition heading into halftime. The team was going to need someone to take on the tough challenge before them.
On the scoring side, it happened to be Jordan Hawkins, who turned out to be the deadliest shooter on the field last night with 26 points and five three-pointers. He just couldn’t be stopped on the offensive side and delivered quite a memorable performance. OSU coach Mike Boynton said Hawkins reminds him of UConn legends Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen. With the quality of Hawkins’ jump shot throughout the contest, the compliment was certainly appropriate.
When he fell to less than six minutes in the first half, he became the first part of a 10-0 run that put the team up 28-40, a strong attacking showcase that would continue until at halftime. The nationwide No. 6 team was showing their true colors and scouts were on hand to watch the showcase, especially Hawkins.
“You just have this self-confidence,” Hawkins said.
The scouts also saw junior Andre Jackson and his all-round skills on the court as he was a key factor in keeping the team in the game. He was diving for loose balls and flying coast to coast for amazing dunks. His leadership kept the team ahead despite the potential for a meltdown. Most notably, on UConn’s first possession, Jackson rocked the entire building with an alley-oop dunk that had all eyes on him. Although it only counted for two points, it certainly gave fans plenty to talk about.
“It was just Coach Hurley. We got through that game before the game even started and that was the most important thing,” Jackson said.
During the entire showcase, the team simply focused on Husky basketball. Even when the Cowboys refused to give up and kept pushing for a narrow win, UConn never let go of their lead and pushed for a late victory, a symbol of strength for a program that had yet to lose a game. against non-conference competition.
But, what Hurley learned about his group in the double-digit win was to have more faith in his team. He felt restless ahead of Thursday’s win, but his team pulled through and showed how strong they really are against a tough opponent.
“To get that kind of separation from this team and to be able to keep it in the double digits, I believe in this team,” Hurley said.
The team now has time to breathe after a tough series of games before hitting the road to face Florida. The Huskies will have plenty of rest and, most importantly, plenty of confidence on a roster that has shown them to be deserving of a lot of praise.