Connecticut’s MSG home-court benefit is again

Connecticut’s MSG home-court benefit is again

This was the value Big East foes knew they’d be paying when UConn was invited again to the place it belongs after its seven-year hiatus.

Husky followers streaming into the Garden, turning it into their home once more, simply as they did within the good previous days once they celebrated Kemba Walker’s legendary step-back and 5 wins in 5 nights and Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin and Caron Butler and that desperation 40-footer on the finish of double-overtime from Taliek Brown within the 2002 Big East Tournament championship recreation … and the seven title groups had been a mirrored image of their powerful, fiery, feisty Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun.

Even that epic six-overtime loss to Syracuse in 2011 lives giant within the soul of the varsity and the state, a reminder of the form of magic that may occur inside The World’s Most Famous Arena.

Because they’d left in 2013 for the American Athletic Conference, due to COVID, this was the primary probability for all of Husky Nation to show the Garden into Gampel Pavilion South.

An previous acquainted refrain out of yesteryear of “Let’s Go Huskies! Let’s Go Huskies!” erupted early and sometimes.

The pep band behind the basket roaring every time the Huskies made candy music on the ground.

Tyrese Martin waves to UConn fans during their 62-52 victory over Seton Hall.
Tyrese Martin waves to UConn followers throughout their 62-52 victory over Seton Hall.

Garden Party once more in spite of everything these years.

UConn 62, Seton Hall 52.

“We used to call it home court,” Calhoun mentioned, and laughed. He has been on the Garden all week as an analyst for the Big East Digital Network. “I don’t think people in New York realize just how big a deal for all our people to get on their trains and come down to Madison Square Garden.”

It was towards this backdrop that Kevin Willard and Seton Hall wanted to summon each ounce of their psychological toughness to advance to Friday evening’s semifinal towards Villanova, the 66-65 comeback winner over St. John’s.

“We got the best fans in the world,” UConn’s R.J. Cole mentioned. “The Garden’s a special place.”

The Hall, after all, was not with out assist, albeit a lot tamer, not with out gamers who hadn’t skilled the Garden … not with out an elite head coach.

“[Kevin Willard is] a really good coach,” Calhoun mentioned. “He learned under [Rick] Pitino. … He learned under his father [Ralph Willard], who was a very good coach at Holy Cross. And he knows on his team where to put this one and that one, and how many times they should shoot. He gets it. Not everybody gets it. I like his toughness. He created a good, tough team. He’s a really good coach.”

Usually, the place there’s a Willard, there’s a approach.

Connecticut fans including Andrea Walker, right, mother to Kemba Walker, cheer during UConn's win over Seton Hall.
Connecticut followers together with Andrea Walker, proper, mom to Kemba Walker, cheer throughout UConn’s win over Seton Hall.
Robert Sabo

Not on this evening.

“It was just electric,” UConn coach Dan Hurley mentioned.

He had been apprehensive about how his gamers would possibly deal with their first actual dwell Big East Tournament with a full home. “That’s why you come to a place like UConn to play. The big dogs play in the quarters and semis. The place was rocking.”

Wait till Villanova.

“Tomorrow’s gonna be insanity in here,” Hurley mentioned.

The Hall labored mightily from the beginning within the face of a bodily, defiant protection, typically unable to get a shot off till 10 seconds or much less remained on the shot clock. The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (7-for-28) was fortunate to be down solely 29-18 at intermission. Myles Cale (17 factors) tried to hold the Hall, however was by his lonesome.

R.J. Cole (left) and Isaiah Whaley celebrate during UConn's win.
R.J. Cole (left) and Isaiah Whaley rejoice throughout UConn’s win.

UConn was the hungrier staff, possessed with the mindset that each unfastened ball was theirs. “I think we’re a little tired,” Willard mentioned.

Jared Rhoden (seven factors), hounded typically by a tenacious Tyrese Martin (17 factors, eight rebounds) shot 2-for-13 and was on the bench when Cole (17 factors) drilled a dagger 3 that made it UConn 58, Hall 44.

“I thought [Cole] wasn’t gonna be good enough as a point guard, but he’s made himself into a really good basketball player,” Calhoun mentioned.

Hurley has constructed a program in his personal picture.

“Coach Hurley can really recruit,” Calhoun mentioned. “He makes me look sane. I think we’re different kind of personalities. I do think that we do share something — we drink an adrenaline shot every morning just to get a little bit going (laugh).”

When it was instructed that Hurley would possibly drink an adrenaline shot a bit greater than he did, Calhoun laughed and mentioned: “He’s drinking by the gallon.”

His whole staff apparently joined him. So did Husky Nation.

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