It has to be a depressing time for the Connecticut basketball program.
Without the promise of a postseason tournament, that special motivation Kevin Ollie instilled in his first season as head coach seems to be losing its magic. And now, with one game remaining and leading scorer Shabazz Napier still wearing a protective boot on his right foot, UConn (19-10, 9-8 Big East) has lost three in a row for the first time.
UConn, at full strength, is clearly a better team than South Florida. But the Huskies weren't themselves defensively from the very beginning Wednesday night. And the only offensive option was DeAndre Daniels, who led the Huskies with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Daniels was 9-for-15 from the field. The rest of the UConn team was 11-for-42.
At this point in the season, there's no need to dwell on the loss. UConn wraps up the season Saturday at Gampel Pavilion against Providence. The motivation? Pride. A chance to get to 20 wins overall and finish 10-8 in the Big East.
And it will be UConn's final Big East game ever. With Providence and the rest of the Catholic 7 moving on and taking the conference name, this is it. UConn, a charter member of the conference, has been banned from the Big East tournament in New York.
The program that won seven Big East tournament championships will put away the balls for the offseason after Saturday's game.
And to make matters worse, UConn's injury list got longer. According to reports from Tampa, Tyler Olander left the game with a left foot injury and left the Sun Dome on crutches, his foot in a walking boot. Olander will be evaluated when the team returns to Storrs, but that doesn't sound good for Saturday. Also, Omar Calhoun continues to be bothered by his sprained wrist. . . . UConn added a new walk-on, Jevon Williams, a 6-3 junior from East Hartford.
For the box score click here.
Here's the AP game story.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Martino Brock scored 18 points, Victor Rudd had 17, and South Florida beat Connecticut 65-51 on Wednesday night.
Zach LeDay added 11 points for the Bulls (12-17, 3-14 Big East), who have won two straight following a 10-game losing streak.
Connecticut (19-10, 9-8) got 23 points from DeAndre Daniels. Huskies junior guard Shabazz Napier, averaging 17.6 points in conference games, missed his second consecutive game due to a foot injury.
Brock had three baskets and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick made a long-range jumper during an 11-2 surge that gave South Florida a 39-34 lead 5 minutes into the second half. Brock's layup, a 3-pointer by Rudd and a free throw from LeDay made it 47-36 with 10:10 left.
Brock converted a fast-break layup to put the Bulls ahead 53-38. Consecutive slams by Rudd made it 61-44 with 4:07 remaining.
The Huskies took their first lead of the game, at 30-28, on second-half opening baskets by R.J. Evans and Daniels. Brock had six points to help South Florida take a 28-26 halftime lead.
Fitzpatrick made a 3 and Anthony Collins had a layup as South Florida opened the game with a 9-2 run. Javontae Hawkins' basket extended the Bulls' advantage to 21-13 midway through the half.
The Huskies got within 25-24 with 5 minutes to go on a basket and 3-pointer by Daniels, who had 15 first-half points. Connecticut had a chance to tie it in the final minute of the half, but Omar Calhoun missed a wide-open dunk.
Connecticut, behind 24 points by Napier, won the other meeting between the teams this season, 69-64 in overtime on Feb 3.
Connecticut won their other meeting this season, 69-64 in overtime on Feb 3.