HARTFORD, Conn. – They have one more to go.
One more game to pull off another magical conference tournament run.
One more game for one more guard to get them in one more NCAA Tournament.
One more opportunity to do something special, to finish the job.
“When you get to the post-season, it’s one loss and you’re done,” said Ryan Boatright, the guard who shall lead them.
UConn has won three in a row to get to Sunday’s American Athletic Conference championship game. They need a win on Sunday to get in the NCAA Tournament. They knew that coming in. They know it now. That game is now in front of them.
One more game to go.
This one didn’t come easily. UConn didn’t score until almost eight minutes into the game, then went on a 15-4 run to take a four-point lead. While they weren’t scoring, they weren’t letting Tulsa build a big lead. But Tulsa would lead for much of this contest – almost 33 minutes. They answered every Husky run for a while in the second half, at one point leading by ten. Then the Huskies ran off eight unanswered points to tie the game, and they would finish on a 14-1 run. They had one more run in them, one that Tulsa couldn’t answer.
The Huskies have long prided themselves on their defense, and they never needed it so much as they did on Saturday. They held Tulsa below 30 percent from the field, including 3-18 from long range, to win despite a 40-28 rebounding edge for the Golden Hurricane. UConn only shot 36 percent, and in losing the possession battle they had to stop Tulsa from scoring.
Indicative of how they overcame offensive adversity is Daniel Hamilton. The newly minted conference Rookie of the Year, he was just 1-9 from the field. He had trouble scoring, like most of the Huskies, but he did everything else. He had 12 rebounds and five assists, making himself a factor without scoring. His grandmother recently passed away, so he’s been playing with a heavy heart. It’s one more example of this team’s toughness. It’s one more thing they are playing for.
“We love him and we want him to get back on that plane and bury his grandma with a championship,” said head coach Kevin Ollie. “We’re going to keep fighting.”
At this point, the Huskies have everything they need. They have won three games in three days. Getting to the NCAA Tournament calls for four in four. They have that opportunity, something they have talked about all along. They’re at their second home floor, where they have had great success this season. They will have another home crowd. They came into this confident, feeling like this can be done and they can be a team to do it.
They have one more game to go.
One more game to complete this magical run.
“We’ve got 40 minutes in front of the best fans in America,” said Ollie. “I’ll take that any day.”