As snow and ice pelted the roof of East Carolina’s Minges Coliseum on Wednesday night, Connecticut guard Rodney Purvis was barraged with insults inside it.
The Raleigh native and former N.C. State guard was hit with “Rodney Sucks” chants as he struggled through 1-for-6 shooting in the first half against the Pirates and was booed nearly every time he touched the ball.
“I’m from this area, so I expected that. That wasn’t a surprise,” said Purvis, who wasn’t all that bothered. “I left the area. That’s just how it goes. … I was just happy I got the chance to come down and play here. It was an emotional game for me, but I was happy to get away with a win.”
It no doubt helped that Purvis had the last laugh. The 2012 North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year went 3-for-6 in the second half, with all of his made shots coming on 3s, to help the Huskies overcome a 33-24 halftime deficit and escape Greenville with a win.
The 6-4 redshirt sophomore hit a key 3-pointer that cracked a 38-38 tie and finished with 12 points, two rebounds and one assist, while playing strong defense on ECU’s guards.
“He had three huge 3s,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “He’s just getting better and better. He’s getting tougher, mentally tougher. That showed tonight, all the fans were screaming his name. He went 1-for-6 in the first half and came back and had three huge 3s. Great penetration, finding other guys, doing the energy things we need. His defense on (Terry) Whisnant was awesome.”
Purvis, who starred at Upper Room Christian Academy where he became a McDonald’s All-American, signed with N.C. State. But the happy homecoming didn’t last long. He played in all 35 games two seasons ago but started just 23 as his role and minutes changed. Eventually, so did his jersey.
Purvis, who redshirted last season and watched UConn win the national championship, said he felt Connecticut was a good fit for him and was a good sport at the razzing he got from ECU fans.
“I wasn’t coming to East Carolina, so I don’t know why they were with all that,” he said. “But this kind of atmosphere is great. I appreciate it.”
Purvis is averaging 9.8 points per game, fourth-best on the Huskies and slightly more than he averaged as a freshman at N.C. State, while pulling down 2.1 rebounds a night.
It wasn’t all negative for Purvis, as he was greeted by several well-wishing fans after the game. Purvis also said the trip home allowed him to see some family members.
“I was happy to get the chance to come down and play here, see my grandma — she was recently diagnosed with cancer — up at the hospital,” Purvis said. “I was happy to see all my family. Even with bad weather they made effort to get down here. I’m not technically home, but this is close as it’s going to get. So I’m enjoying this moment, and I’ll be back next year.”