And now this: Shabazz Napier was called for a charge, his second foul, with 12:09 still to play in the first half. UConn's best player was heading to the bench. How long could they afford to keep him there?
"We've got to take this moment," was the thought in coach Kevin Ollie's mind. "The game is right now."
Freshman Terrence Samuel was checking in to replace the man who'd been mentoring him all season.
"Shabazz has lot of confidence in me," Samuel said. "He told me, 'Go in there and do what you do, Push the ball, get layups and create for others."
One way or another, the next 12 minutes were going to say it all about this season. What transpired is the reason that season is continuing in New York next weekend, following the Huskies' 77-65 victory over second-seeded Villanova in the NCAA East Regional Saturday night at the First Niagara Center.
"It's the tournament, and if I'm going to come up big I'd rather it be now," said Samuel, who scored a career-high 11 points. "Be a game-changer when I come into the game. Bring intensity on the offensive and defensive end."
"I just told the guys that we had to come together and we had to take care of the ball and play good defense to get to the second half so we could get Shabazz back," Boatright said.
After only 10 seconds, Samuel picked up a foul. Kromah made a steal, but he missed a layup and the Wildcats' Darrun Hilliard made a three-pointer to extend the lead to 19-9 with 11:33 to play in the half.
Then it began to turn. Samuel drew a foul on the offensive end, and made two free throws. He stole the ball from Hilliard to begin a long offensive drought for Nova. Samuel made a jumper and it was 20-13.
Villanova had three chances on one possession, but couldn't put it in. Then the Huskies forced another turnover and Samuel made a play to get Daniels open for the three that made it 20-16 with 7:06 to play. Josh Hart missed a three, JayVaughn Pinkston a layup in the congestion UConn was now creating underneath, and it went back to the Huskies.
Meanwhile, Napier was into his sixth minute on the bench, watching this preview of what the Huskies could be like when he's gone. The last time he was in serious foul trouble (in fact, he fouled out) was in the season opener against Maryland at the Barclays Center. The Huskies came unhinged, nearly blowing a 17-point lead.
But now, without Napier, they were closing the gap.
"The biggest thing I was thinking was back to my freshman year when I was sitting on the bench," Napier said. "I wasn't starting, I was sitting on the bench watching how everything was going. Then I snapped back to reality, and how well my team was playing, how they were showing how good they are and it was just a beautiful feeling.
"It was a big moment when I got myself in foul trouble, and we didn't skip a beat. It shows the maturity of this team."
Kromah scored, Pinkston missed again and DeAndre Daniels, back in the game, grabbed a rebound. Giffey stole the ball from Hilliard, and Boatright scored on a layup to tie it.
"We had a lead. That was disappointing. In a game like that, you got to take advantage of that, which we didn't," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
The game was right now, and UConn was taking the moment. Ryan Arcidiacono turned it over, and Boatright found Kromah in the corner for a three to give UConn the lead. Hilliard missed a three. Hart stole the ball from Boatright, but Boatright stole it right back as Villanova's frustration mounted. The Wildcats did not have a field goal in more than 10 minutes, and Giffey scored to make it 25-20.
The Huskies went on a 16-1 run before the Wildcats managed a free throw; Samuel had committed an intentional foul. Arcidiacono hit a three with six seconds left in the half to end the Wildcats' time without a field goal at 11:27 and 15 possessions – 0-for-10, five turnovers. The Huskies outrebounded them 11-10 during the stretch.
"We didn't even know that," the Wildcats' James Bell said. "We're out there playing. Our main focus is not offense. We're focusing on defense, defense and rebounding. So that can happen in a stretch. Did we know it was that long? No. Did we even know we missed 15 straight or went 15 straight possessions? No. I mean, probably could have taken a little better shots. We have to go back and look at that."
Napier returned to the game in the second half, and though Villanova led briefly, he began hitting threes while they were continuing to miss. He scored 21 points in the second half, a total of 25 points in 25 minutes, as the Huskies won the game, which ended well past midnight, going away. They will play Iowa State, the team that eliminated them in the second round in 2012, in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
But when Napier went out in the first half, the game was right now, and the Huskies (28-8) took the moment, as Ollie demanded, in a way that connected them with so many other tournament-tough UConn teams fashioned by Jim Calhoun.
"It was just a great run by us with our leader on the bench," Ollie said, "but that just shows you what kind of team we're made out of. That's what our guys do. That's how we're built. We're UConn made. We're UConn-made, through and through."