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UConn's Boatright looks to get untracked tonight

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published February 20. 2014 4:00AM
Jessica Hill/AP photo
Ryan Boatright of UConn celebrates after making a 3-pointer in overtime of a game against Memphis last Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford. No. 21 UConn plays at Temple tonight.

His confidence rarely wavers.

Junior Ryan Boatright always believes his next shot is going in.

That's why Boatright hasn't let a prolonged shooting funk affect him.

"My whole life, I've scored the ball," Boatright said. "I know I can score. It comes down to confidence. If you let your confidence get too low and you get down on yourself, your game can go very, very south.

"I've got great support and I know what I've accomplished at all levels of basketball and I know I can put the ball in the hole."

Boatright and his UConn teammates visit Temple (7-17, 2-10) tonight at 9 p.m. for an American Athletic Conference game at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. The 21st-ranked Huskies (20-5, 8-4) have won six of their last seven games.

They're coming off a huge 86-81 overtime victory over Memphis Saturday. Boatright delivered in the clutch, scoring eight of UConn's 17 points in overtime and finishing with a season-high 21 overall.

Boatright converted just two of 10 from the floor before hitting a go-ahead layup and sinking a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions in overtime.

"I'm a confident player, man," Boatright said when asked about shaking off his slump. "It's been a long year for me, off the court and stuff like that. I just try to keep my head and stay in the gym. My shot is starting to fall for me now."

It's also been an emotional and difficult year for Boatright, who lost his cousin last month.

He was home in Aurora, Ill., attending his cousin's funeral when UConn routed Temple, 90-66, on Jan. 21 in Hartford.

Boatright is still searching for his shooting touch, converting just 34.5 percent in the last nine games and a career-low 40.3 percent overall.

But he's arguably enjoying his best all-around season, averaging 12.4 points, a career-high 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and a career-low 2.0 turnovers. He's making better decisions, playing under control and providing valuable leadership. He's also improved on the defensive end, needing just five steals to set his career high.

Coach Kevin Ollie knows he can count on Boatright.

"He might not be shooting well, but I can never question his heart and his effort and his enthusiasm to win..., Ollie said. "Ryan has one of the biggest hearts I've ever been around."

In Saturday's win, Boatright became the 48th player to join the 1,000 career point club at UConn.

Boatright clearly cherished the milestone, especially since he accomplished the feat in a win.

"It's just an honor...," Boatright said. "Every time I put that jersey on I just try to give it my all every time. It's a blessing to be able score a thousand points at this wonderful university."

For UConn to carry its momentum right into the postseason, Boatright has to be a factor. He's combined with senior Shabazz Napier to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

Only six games remain in the regular season. While Temple has offensive firepower, it is one the worst defensive teams in the conference. The Huskies shot 53 percent in the first meeting.

But the last place Owls upset No. 23 SMU, 71-64, on Sunday, so they should be considered a threat.

Boatright's focus will continue to be helping his team find a way to win and not personal achievements.

"Whatever I've got to do to get the win," Boatright said. "It's all about winning."

With a win tonight, the Huskies would surpass last year's victory total and remain in fourth place in the AAC.

Ollie isn't worried about UConn's place in the standings.

"If we keep doing what we have to do, we'll find ourselves in the best spot that we can possibly be in," Ollie said. "That's the only thing I'm worried about. I'm not worried about the top five, the lower five. All I'm worried about is UConn."

g.keefe@theday.com

 

MORE

No. 21 UCONN at TEMPLE

Location: Liacouras Center, Philadelphia

Tip-off time: 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

Records: UConn 20-5, 8-4; Temple 7-17, 2-10

Last game: UConn beat No. 20 Memphis, 86-81 (OT), Saturday; Temple upset No. 23 SMU, 71-64, Sunday

Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 sr. guard Shabazz Napier (18.0 pts, 4.9 assists, 5.8 rebs), 6-0 jr. guard Ryan Boatright (12.4 pts, 3.6 assists), 6-6 grad. forward Lasan Kromah (7.4 pts, 3.1 rebs), 6-9 jr. forward DeAndre Daniels (13.2 pts, 5.6 rebs), 7-0 fr. center Amida Brimah (4.1 pts, 2.8 rebs, 2.6 blks)

Temple, 6-2 jr. guard Will Cummings (16.2 pts), 6-5 so. guard Quenton DeCosey (14.8 pts, 3.5 rebs), 6-5 sr. guard Dalton Pepper (17.3 pts, 5.0 rebs), 6-9 jr. forward Anthony Lee (14 pts, 8.9 rebs), 6-10 sr. forward Devontae Watson (2.5 pts, 3.5 rebs)

Noteworthy, UConn won nine of last 11, Temple lost 12 of last 14. … Huskies 4-3 on the road. … Series: UConn leads 5-3, winning 90-66 on Jan. 21 in Hartford. Daniels (31 pts) and Napier (27) led the Huskies, who dominated on the boards (45-25) and shot 53 percent. … UConn 0-2 all-time at Temple, but making first trip to Liacouras Center. … Temple only D-1 teams with four players averaging at least 14 points. … Injury update: Lee (knee) day-to-day, UConn so. Omar Calhoun (concussion) available. … Hot: Napier 35-for-39 from free throw line in last seven games. Cold: Boatright shooting 34.5 percent in last nine games. … Need a win to surpass last year's victory total. ... Owls last in FG percent (43.1) and FG defense (46.7) overall. … Up next: UConn hosts SMU on Sunday in Storrs.

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