New York, N.Y. — Last season, the Syracuse Orange squared off against Arizona State in the First Four of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Jim Boeheim’s team went on to win that game against the Sun Devils. Of course, ASU is coached by Bobby Hurley, brother of UConn head coach Dan Hurley and erstwhile recruit of Boeheim himself.
Before committing to Duke, Boeheim recruited Bobby when he was playing for his father at St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, NJ. Dan admits that Syracuse was probably his brother’s second choice — he still has fond memories from the time he visited the Carrier Dome with his brother to watch Rony Seikaly, Derrick Coleman and Sherman Douglas play against Pittsburgh.
Dan Hurley noted that Boeheim and his father have always had a mutual respect for one another and even now when Boehiem sees the younger Hurleys on the recruiting trail he’s always gracious and asking how their dad is.
Last night, Bobby Hurley Sr. was behind the UConn bench to watch his son beat Boeheim and Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. According to Dan, his father probably wasn’t impressed.
“My father won some big games. I don’t think he got too excited over me winning a game, he’s got 1,200 of ‘em,” Hurley quipped in the post-game presser.
Keeping it in the family, Dan tapped into his brother Bobby to prepare for this game. He watched the tape from the ASU vs. Syracuse game in the tournament.
“He gave me some great ideas, some things in retrospect that he wished he would have tried or that he tried but wasn’t quite as effective. We implemented it, he had his fingerprints all over this game,” Dan said of his brother.
So what Bobby say specifically?
“He said try to get the ball down the court as quickly as you can off misses and even on makes try to get into gaps with the dribble. You gotta beat their zone with dribble penetration. It’s hard to beat that zone with passes because they’re so long.”
Teams can attack a 2-3 zone in myriad ways, but one thing UConn tried to avoid was getting ball reversals, which some teams try to do. What usually ends up happening in that scenario is a bunch of passing the ball around the perimeter only to be forced to take a bad shot at the end of the shot-clock. When Jalen Adams, Alterique Gilbert and Tarin Smith didn’t beat the zone down the floor, those guards ran a good half-court offense by dribbling into the teeth of the zone. The troika combined for 18 of UConn’s 22 assists.
Although some of UConn’s threes came off skip passes — and a few bombs late in the game were just pull-ups off the dribble — many of the the Huskies’ shots from range in the first half came off of dribble penetration and kickouts. UConn finished 12-of-21 from distance. Attacking the zone off the bounce was an emphasis and so was applying full-court pressure on the defensive end from the opening tip. That was the strategy regardless if senior point guard Frank Howard played for Syracuse.
“Whether Howard played or not, that was going to be our plan,” Hurley said of applying defensive pressure. “Obviously we got in foul trouble in the first half. We had a multitude of guys with two or three fouls. It took away a little bit of our aggressiveness but it did force them to play really far from the basket.”
Howard was listed as a game-time decision yesterday, but Boeheim dismissed that idea in the post-game presser suggesting that Howard is still a week or two out. But UConn was prepared for him either way.
“We prepared for him,” Hurley said. “Him obviously not playing hurt them, but the guy that replaced him (Jalen Carey) had 26. So it’s not like they got no production from him. We knew we had to do a great job on (Tyus) Battle and Brissett and we were able to do that.”
As for Syracuse versus UConn moving forward, it remains to be seen wheter or not this series will continue.
While both schools departed from the Big East Conference in 2013, these two teams have played every year since with the exception of 2014. The ACC will be going to 20-league games next year which leaves the continuity of the rivalry in doubt. But it’s a game Hurley is at least interested in keeping.
“It’s obviously something we would love to continue, playing at The Garden, get a home-and-home series,” Hurley began. “Our fans obviously hate each other. (But) We have nothing but respect for Syracuse, it brings out a great rivalry, it gets the fans excited and it was a great atmosphere today for a snow storm game in mid-November.”
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