(skip this header)

Fairfield Citizen

Friday, October 24, 2014

fairfieldcitizenonline.com Businesses

« Back to Article

Kevin Duffy: UConn's easy, breezy times about to end

Updated 12:40 am, Saturday, December 29, 2012
Larger | Smaller
Email This
Font
Page 1 of 1

STORRS -- DeAndre Daniels was in the midst of toying with a walk-on, and the rest of the Huskies, just finished with Friday's practice, seemed compelled to watch.

The walk-on, Greg Davis, pressed his chest into Daniels', intent on locking up the rangy 6-foot-8 swingman. So Daniels took one dribble down the lane, palmed the ball with his right hand and converted the easiest of one-handed layups.

Ryan Boatright, who had been shouting "Get him, G!," simply chuckled.

There have been plenty of laughs in Storrs these days. The Huskies are 9-2, and they've just smoked two straight opponents, Maryland Eastern Shore and Fordham. But that portion of the schedule -- the breezy two months that every high-major enjoys -- is history.

"Nine-and-2 can turn into 9-9 fast," Boatright cautioned.

Yes, indeed. The grind of the Big East, which will truly decide UConn's season, is preceded by Saturday's non-conference clash with Washington (7:30 p.m., XL Center). And the West Coast Huskies (8-4) have a noticeable size advantage, a phrase that will surely be repeated in the coming months.

"I mean, every team in Division I -- especially the Big East -- is kind of big," Boatright said. "We're not really focused on size. We have to go out and play UConn basketball and we'll be all right."

UConn basketball, to this point, has been fueled by the backcourt: In his past three games, Boatright is 24-for-35 from the field. Shabazz Napier, who began the year as a pure scorer, has become a distributor. Then there's Omar Calhoun, the 6-foot-5 freshman who has hit double-figures in seven of UConn's 11 games.

"We've got a great thing going with our chemistry," Boatright said.

So, too, does the Washington backcourt, comprised of 6-foot-3 senior Abdul Gaddy, 6-foot-6 senior Scott Suggs and 6-foot-5 junior C.J. Wilcox, the team's leading scorer at 19.6 points per contest.

"I think (Wilcox's) energy feeds right into his shot," Ollie said. "I always look at Ray Allen and his energy moving without the basketball, the constant movement. We're going to need a good, solid effort with (Wilcox). We cannot be late with him."

Wilcox, the third leading scorer in the Pac-12, attempts nearly seven 3-pointers per game (and hits on 41 percent of them). Aside from UConn's well-documented rebounding woes, the Huskies rank 158th in the nation against the 3-point shot, according to KenPom.com. On Friday, Ollie specifically pointed out the team's tendency to leave shooters open in the corner.

"There are things that (need improvement) that might not be visible to the naked eye," Ollie said.

UConn's problems up front, though, are plenty discernible. Enosch Wolf bumped Tyler Olander from the starting lineup following his 12-point, nine-rebound performance versus N.C. State on Dec. 4. Since then, Wolf has been brutally unproductive, totaling just four points and five rebounds in 41 minutes. Although Ollie wouldn't say, it appears Olander, who practiced with the first team Friday, may be reinserted into the starting lineup Saturday.

The 6-foot-9 junior said the benching served as a reminder: Even after the mass exodus of big men -- Andre Drummond, Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley -- playing time isn't a given.

"It really did, right away, right when coach put Enosch with the first five," Olander said. "I knew I wasn't producing. I really wasn't playing well, and it kind of woke me up a little more and made me say, `hey, I really have to pick it up for this team. I know they're going to need me down the road.'"

Of course, the road only gets tougher from here. No Big East team has a record worse than 8-4, and the Huskies draw three of the league's six nationally-ranked squads in mid-January.

"I don't have to tell (the young players) about the Big East," Boatright said. "They'll find out."

kduffy@newstimes.com; @KevinRDuffy