Ray Allen. Kemba Walker. Shabazz Napier. Rodney Purvis?
Uconn guards have a history of memorable conference tournament runs and Rodney Purvis is looking to etch his name on this prestigious list. In front of an intimate crowd of 5,000 fans at Hartford’s XL Center, 5th year senior, Purvis extended his Uconn career at least one more day with a career-high 30 points, leading the Huskies to a 77-66 win over South Florida.
A game in which Uconn would never trail and which looked to be firmly in the win column for Ollie most of the night, ultimately stayed competitive to the end. The Huskies, after a lackluster 40 minutes in a losing effort on Senior Night in Storrs, came out emotional but focused, building a quick 9-0 lead. South Florida in danger of being run out of the Insurance City before the first media timeout, responded with a 7-0 run of its own to keep the game in reach.
This cat and mouse theme would continue the rest of the night: a double-digit lead for Uconn on the precipice of ballooning, and a response from a pesky South Florida team to trim the deficit to one or two possessions. The Bulls, led by Geno Thorpe with 23 points, and another 13 from Michael Bibby, son of former NBA All-Star Mike Bibby, looked far more competitive than their 1-17 AAC record would indicate. USF forced Purvis and Uconn to make big shots and important defensive stops, late in the second half. Not until a final 3-pointer dagger from Purvis with 35 seconds left could Hartford exhale. Purvis played his best game of the season finishing with 30 points on 9/17 shooting, adding 6 boards. Fellow senior, Amida Brimah contributed 13 points and 2 blocks to help end Uconn’s four-game skid.
With USF in the rear-view, the Huskies set their sights upon the #3 seed Houston Cougars; a team that beat Uconn twice this season. Uconn will seek to avoid a 3rd loss in as many tries to Houston by focusing on “Rebounding and transition,” according to coach Kevin Ollie in his postgame press conference. Ollie was curt in his response and quickly left the podium and went back to the locker room, joined by the man of the hour Rodney Purvis.
Not much time left and lots of work to be done. But Rodney finally looks ready.