In the postgame press conference, I was struck by this quote from Kelvin Sampson:
Saturday was a season-defining win over Wichita State. On the other side of the spectrum is that ugly mess last night. Too often, teams get in the polls for the first time in a season only to turn around and drop one to a lesser opponent. These Cougars didn’t do that.
There is a lot of truth to what Sampson said: UConn is a culture-affirming win. Last night, our guys earned the Houston on the front of their jerseys. This rebuilt team bought into the Kelvin Culture from day one and they’ve gotten better defensively, in rebounding, and in learning to do the little things to steal a win.
Kelvin Culture: Go Harder When It Gets Tough
Down by three with just over 5 minutes to play, UConn hit a step-back 3-pointer and then got a steal eight seconds later. After Fabian White picked up his 4th foul on the ensuing possession, I thought this might not be our night. That this team wasn’t ready to win like this. I was wrong.
The Sampson Culture kicked in. Many teams would have fallen on the dagger and stumbled away but this team kept fighting. It wasn’t pretty but the Kelvin Culture isn’t based on pretty. It’s been built by our guys committing to do the dirty and difficult jobs most teams aren’t willing to do.
Kelvin Culture is to suffocate them on defense, to outwork everyone on the boards, and to fight like hell for loose balls. These two plays from late in the game perfectly illustrate what it’s all about.
Any team can win when things are going well. The game is easy when shots are falling or when calls are going your way. But when everything seems to go wrong, when refs are taking over the game, or when your best players are on the bench in foul trouble, it’s easy to fall apart.
The old saying goes that you don’t rise to the level of your expectations, you fall to the level of your training. Kelvin Sampson designed this program to default to their training and last night showed exactly what it is all about.