The UConn freshman, named Rookie of the Year earlier in the day, watched the shot calmly go through the net.
it’s the exact start to the postseason that the Huskies needed and the exact type of play that the Huskies want.
Hamilton went on to score 20 points in a 69-43 rout of South Florida in the American Athletic Conference tournament first round.
The Huskies advance to the quarterfinals on Friday night against Cincinnati.
For the Huskies, Hamilton’s play couldn’t come at a better time. the freshman was 6 of-28 in his last two games shooting and was an efficient 6 of 8 on Thursday night.
“It gave me a whole lot of confidence,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been struggling from the field. It gave me confidence with it going in and gave me confidence for the rest of the night.”
Confidence is what UConn needs right now if it is going to embark on an improbable run through the AAC and clinch an NCAA berth.
The Huskies were the only team who played on Thursday that had a winning record. UCF, Houston, Tulane and USF are the bottom of the conference and the Huskies, bu virtue of their six seeding, did not get a first round bye.
There are two ways to look at it. UConn does have to play an extra game while Cincinnati rests, but the Huskies also are comfortable with their surroundings.
UConn didn’t expend much energy, got Hamilton and Rodney Purvis (13 points) off and went 11 of 17 from 3-point range. The ball went through the hoop, the Huskies snapped a two-game losing streak, and have some confidence going into Friday night at home.
If a team as to play an extra game, a blowout where everything went perfectly is the way to go.
“We were able to get out here, get a sweat and a feel for the arena with the new court,” Boatright said. “I think it was a good thing for us. It gave the guys a chance to come out and have confidence in themselves and make shots. That was my main thing today -- I knew going into these games that I need my teammates. I tried to get them off early.”
Shooting and scoring is the Huskies’ biggest problem this year. In losses, the Huskies are scoring less the 60 points per game and are shooting 36.8 percent from the floor and 28.4 percent from 3-point range.
In wins? The Huskies, before Thursday, were 48.8 percent from the floor and 39.6 percent from 3. Thursday UConn shot 54.5 percent from the floor and 64.7 percent from 3.
It’s not a secret what the numbers look like when UConn wins and loses. When the Huskies are good from 3, they are very hard to beat.
“Any time we are making 3s we are a tough team to guard,” Purvis said. “With Daniel being a matchup problem and Boatright being hard to keep in front of, I can penetrate. It’s going to be tough for any team especially with us hitting 3s.”
The Huskies got well in a lot of ways on Thursday. Not only from the outside, but junior Phil Nolan had an impactful game with seven rebound and excellent defense. Omar Calhoun, struggling with minutes and his shot late in the season, had nine points on 4 of 6 shooting in 16 minutes.
The game came easy that Boatright didn’t even have a big game with only 12 points.
“I’ve been harping on them all year, they have to step up,” Boatright said of his teammates. “Great championship teams have great guards. Teams are going to try and take me out of the game. When they step up, like tonight, we are a great team and are tough to beat. They responded in the right way.”
The Huskies have a long way to go. Cincinnati will be a rock fight on Friday and running the table looks formidable. But the Huskies are already a quarter of the way there, and they didn’t expend much energy doing it.
Now, the postseason begins.