Effort and Energy

The first three minutes of the second half Sunday were the most important for Connecticut in an overtime victory over South Florida. Coach Kevin Ollie said it was all about "energy and effort."

STORRS, Conn. – Connecticut's first half performance Sunday against South Florida was historically bad. The Huskies shot 18.5 percent from the floor and trailed the Bulls 27-15 at halftime.

Those 15 first-half points marked UConn's third lowest total in a half since 1980. UConn scored 9 against UMass in 2002 and 13 against St. Peter's in 1987.

"I think that's the worst I've ever seen us play as a team and individually," UConn guard Ryan Boatright said. "We just came out and played terrible."

But, as many coaches have said, that's why the game is 40 minutes. UConn (15-5, 5-3 Bg East) was a different team after the break. In three minutes, 10 seconds, UConn went on a 15-2 run, regaining a 30-29 lead.

"I can't tell you exactly what he said," R.J. Evans said about coach Kevin Ollie's halftime speech.

"We didn't talk about anything," Ollie said. "We just talked about effort and energy."

Believe what you want, but Ollie's speech was likely somewhere between positive reinforcement and a Jim Calhoun tirade. Whatever was said, it clearly worked.

Shabazz Napier opened the second half with a mid-range jumper, bringing UConn within 10 points. Toarlyn Fitzpatrick would miss a layup for South Florida (10-11, 1-8 Big East) and Omar Calhoun grabbed the rebound. Tyler Olander missed his shot on the following possession, but DeAndre Daniels grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled on the put back. Daniels hit both free throws, cutting the lead to eight points with 19:05 remaining in the half.

Jawanza Poland would miss a layup on the next possession and Napier got the rebound. Daniels would miss his shot, but Olander grabbed the offensive rebound and the possession ended with Boatright making his way to the line for two shots. Boatright hit them both, making it a six point game with 18:45 remaining. Just 11 seconds later, Napier would get a steal and finish with a fast break layup, cutting the lead to four. South Florida called a 30 second timeout as the crowd at Gampel Pavilion erupted with support.

Fitzpatrick missed a three-pointer on the Bulls' ensuing possession and Daniels collected the miss. Olander hit a hook shot in the lane off of a Napier assist, bringing the Huskies within two with 17:53 remaining. Fitzpatrick would end the 8-0 Huskies run with a dunk, bringing the lead back to four. Boatright then drew a foul from Fitzpatrick in UConn's following possession and went 2-for-2 from the line, making it a two point game again.

Omar Calhoun gets fouled driving to the basket

Fitzpatrick would turn the ball over on the Bulls' next possession and Daniels would hit an open Boatright for a 3-pointer, putting the Huskies up 30-29 at the 16:50 mark. It was UConn's first lead since they were up 5-4 with 17:11 to play in the first half.

In just 3:10, UConn went on a 15-2 run, doubling their entire offensive output in the first half. That stretch would become a crucial component to their 69-64 overtime win.

"Coach was just upset at the end of the first half, he came agitated as ever," Napier said about Ollie's reaction at halftime. "We just came out playing better defense and that's what we needed to do in the first half. Better defense, we had to rebound the ball and I think our offense is keyed by our defense."

Napier scored four points in that second half run, adding to his game-high total of 24 points.

"We just came out with effort, we came out with intensity, like we should have did in the first half," said Boatright, who scored seven points during that second half run. He finished with 17 points. "When we come out with intensity and effort, things start to go our way, we play harder, it's contagious... we picked up our defense a lot too. We got some turnovers and got them uncomfortable so the second half was a way better half."

Unfortunately for the Bulls, who lost their fourth consecutive game on Sunday, losing a second half lead like that was not uncharted territory for them.

Defense creates easy baskets like this one for Napier

"We had been defending so well, I didn't see it coming where they would score so easily so quick," USF coach Stan Heath said about UConn's start to the second half. "But some of that was us offensively, settling for long threes and not finishing some layups. We got to fix that second half start, that's not the first time it's happened to us."

UConnPlaybook.com publisher and managing editor Ken Davis contributed to this story.

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