Unselfish Hamilton powers UConn past CCSU
Hartford — After his long 3-point shot sailed well off target, Daniel Hamilton cracked up.
Under different circumstances, Hamilton would have likely been upset about the air ball.
But UConn was well on its way to its most lopsided win of the season, a 99-52 rout of Central Connecticut State University in a rare Wednesday afternoon game at the XL Center.
Closing in on his first triple-double and the 11th in school history, Hamilton missed a couple of shots before finally accomplishing the feat with a dunk off his steal with about six and a half minutes left. He finished with 11 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.
"I was forcing it, especially with my teammates saying this is your time to get a triple-double...," Hamilton said. "I just tried to get to the rim and that's how I got it."
Shabazz Napier was the last Husky to record a triple-double, going for 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against Yale on Nov. 11, 2013.
Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman said Hamilton has a chance to be the player of the year in the American Athletic Conference.
"I hope Daniel stays four years at UConn, because he's going to be a heck of a player as he grows...," Dickenman said. "He sees the court and he's very unselfish. He's a terrific team player, probably the most respected on the team by his teammates.... He cares about UConn, he doesn't care about Daniel Hamilton."
Hamilton has flirted with a triple-double a few times this season. The sophomore playmaker leads the team in assists (5.9) and rebounds (8.7). But he's somewhat of a reluctant scorer.
He had only two points at halftime but had eight assists and eight rebounds, sparking a 16-1 run before intermission to give the Huskies a 46-26 edge.
"He's too unselfish sometimes, but that's what we preach," coach Kevin Ollie said. "I'm old-school. I'd rather a guy be too unselfish than selfish. He just reads the game and he's a wonderful player. ... With the ball in his hands, he's magical."
Ollie encouraged Hamilton to go for the triple-double when the sophomore re-entered the game in the second half. Hamilton only needed three points.
"He took that 35-footer, that actually landed 30 feet," Ollie said with a smile. "It was like five feet short. I just wanted him to get to the basket and get an easy one."
Six of Hamilton's assists went to forward Shonn Miller, who scored 25 points on 10-for-12 shooting. Miller and junior Kentan Facey (10 points, 12 rebounds) helped fill the void left by the absence of starting center Amida Brimah.
The Huskies dominated inside against the smaller Blue Devils, holding a 45-20 rebounding edge.
"We just knew different people have to step up in different ways, whether it's defensively or offensively, running the floor in transition," Miller said.
Brimah will be out six to eight weeks after breaking his middle finger on his right hand in practice on Monday. His surgery was moved from Wednesday to Thursday.
"I was in disbelief," Facey said of his reaction when informed of Brimah's injury. "I was mad, I was upset. I don't know how else to describe it, because he's vital to the team, defensively and offensively."
UConn (8-3) didn't need Brimah on Wednesday. A young CCSU (1-9) lacks the weapons to attack inside. The Blue Devils also struggled from the perimeter (4-for-17 from three) and free throw line (14-for-26).
UConn led by just five, 30-25, before going on a sizzling 49-13 run that carried over well into the second half.
"Obviously, outmatched...," said Dickenman, a former UConn assistant. "I appreciate Kevin's unwillingness to let his team score triple digits. I'm going to call him tonight and say, `thank you very much.' I did that when Jim Calhoun was the coach."
After a brief Christmas break, the Huskies will prepare for their first true road game of the season, visiting Texas Dec. 29.
The Huskies are on a torrid offensive streak.
For the first time in at least 35 years, they've shot over 60 percent in three straight games, sinking 60.3 percent. They piled up a season-high 22 assists and held the Blue Devils to an icy 34.7 percent. Their full-court press forced 19 turnovers, leading to 26 points.
Junior Rodney Purvis (16 points) has scored in double figures every game this season. Reserve Sam Cassell Jr. sat out with a mild ankle sprain.
"The best gift I could get is this performance they gave me," Ollie said.