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UConn men to face another zone defense in South Florida

Updated 12:43 am, Sunday, February 3, 2013
  • Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, and Enosch Wolf, right, watch the final minutes of play in an NCAA college basketball game against DePaul in Storrs, Conn., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. Connecticut won 99-78. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) Photo: Jessica Hill, Associated Press / FR125654 AP
    Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, and Enosch Wolf, right, watch the final minutes of play in an NCAA college basketball game against DePaul in Storrs, Conn., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. Connecticut won 99-78. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) Photo: Jessica Hill, Associated Press

 

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Two days removed from one of the most bizarre victories in recent program history, UConn coach Kevin Ollie -- an on-to-the-next-one type of guy -- reflected on the 82-79 overtime thriller at Providence.

"One thing I can testify with this group is they're learning how to win," Ollie said during Saturday's teleconference. "It's remarkable how they pulled together and got the win."

Looking back at the box score, it really is. Providence's 31-rebound margin over UConn tied a Big East record set in 1997 by St. John's. Offensive efficiency helped mask the rebounding woes: The Huskies (14-5, 4-3 Big East) excelled against the Friar zone, hitting 61 percent of their field goals in the second half.

This afternoon, UConn -- in search of its third straight victory -- gets another zone-oriented team when South Florida, last place in the Big East, visits Gampel Pavilion at 2 p.m.

"They're a great defensive team," Ollie said. "They're 1-7 in the Big East but I don't even look at their record. They hold you down. We're going to have to be patient and be poised."

Losers of three straight, the Bulls possess two physical interior players, 6-foot-9, 235-pound Victor Rudd (the team's leading scorer) and 6-foot-8, 243-pound Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (the second leading scorer). Together, the duo averages 20.9 points and 11.8 rebounds.

Needless to say, Ollie will need another strong showing from sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels, who played arguably the best game of his career Thursday at Providence.

"That play (against Providence) after Shabazz threw it to him, he had two guys hanging on him, to power it up and get an `And 1' and show that emotion, that's something I want to see from him," Ollie said. "He got some big-time rebounds and that's something we needed to get us through that valley that we hit in the second half. I see him improving, I see him getting tougher. I always say toughness is a talent."

In Big East play, Daniels' toughness -- and in turn, his production -- has directly correlated with UConn's success. The lanky 6-foot-8 sophomore has averaged 9.8 rebounds per 40 minutes in the Huskies' four Big East wins compared to just 3.5 per 40 minutes in the losses. A valuable high post player against the zone, Daniels has hit double-digits in two consecutive games. It's the third time this season he's accomplished the feat.

"I'm seeing him hit some goals that I want him to hit and start accepting challenges and making new goals after each and every game," Ollie said. "I just want consistency from him, and I'm thinking I'm starting to get that."

Ollie noted that Daniels missed several shots from the "four-spot" against the Providence zone. Odds are he'll get more easy looks from the high post Sunday. Like many Big East teams, USF relies heavily on its 2-3 zone to slow the pace.

"It's going to be a possession-by-possession game, they're not looking to score quickly," Ollie said. "It's going to be a game where it's going to get down to the end of the shot clock. Can we have the patience to stay in the possession? Hopefully we can do that."