The UConn basketball season has begun. And, it did so as it sort of usually does.
The Huskies gave a pretty good showing in Wednesday’s 93-65 win over Southern Connecticut State University. Plenty of things to work on for coach Kevin Ollie’s group (rebounding, free throws, transition D), but a solid start anyway.
— THE BEST PLAYER on the court Wednesday was DeAndre Daniels. The junior forward had 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 28 minutes of play.
Southern played well but obviously had no one to match up with Daniels.
“We knew that. Well, I knew that,” teammate Ryan Boatright said. “Whenever I could I slid him in the post. They were simply too little for him. He was too big and too athletic.”
Ollie has talked a lot recently about Daniels becoming more vocal. That, and his obvious talent, could lead to big things.
“I think he’s going to have an incredible year. I really believe that,” Ollie said.
— FRESHMAN BIG MAN Amida Brimah made quite a splash.
He had eight points (a couple of alley-oops from Lasan Kromah helped), five blocks and three rebounds in 17 minutes.
“He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with if he stays at that (energy) level,” Ollie said. “I know you’re playing Southern Connecticut, but that don’t matter. It’s the intensity that he brought and the passion he brought.”
“Even that last shot. Last year that would have been a dunk. I’m talking about the last shot of the game. He contested that. And we were up 30. That shows his passion and how good he can be.”
Brimah was serenaded with chants of “A-mi-da” from the student section after block No. 4.
“I was nervous a little bit,” Brimah said. “After I scored I felt comfortable.”
Brimah’s teammates weren’t as nervous for him. They thought he’d do well.
“That guy is amazing. He doesn’t allow anybody to just lay the ball up easy in his paint. He blocks everything. He runs hard. He can finish. He’s going to be a great player here at UConn,” Daniels said.
— OLLIE LIKED WHAT he saw out of Boatright (15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 5 assists).
“Every move was with a purpose,” Ollie said. “He got into the lane, just wasn’t trying to use his athleticism.
“If he closed his eyes, I think he would have known where all his guards were, all his forwards were,” Ollie said. “That’s a good sign from a point guard.”
— SOUTHERN MAY HAVE lost badly but the game was a positive, coach Mike Donnelly says.
“It was a fantastic experience. And it didn’t start tonight. There’s been a build-up,” Donnelly said. “It started when I called the guys when got word that the contract was signed in late July. That’s when the experience really started.
“There’s a buzz on campus. It’s only October 30th. For there to be a buzz on campus for Southern Connecticut basketball, we’ve come a long ways in a short period of time,” Donnelly added.
— IT WASN’T ALL smiles for the Huskies, of course. They missed 13 free throws, committed 16 turnovers, allowed Southern 27 fast break points and were out-rebounded by the much smaller Owls 48-43.
“All in all, I was pleased,” Ollie said. “I just wasn’t pleased with rebound effort. Those guys are going to understand that when we come in Friday to practice.”
UConn also (its big men mostly) committed way too many fouls. Was it the new emphasis on hand checking?
“No. We’re not going to use that excuse. That was just laziness on our part,” Ollie said.
— SOUTHERN GUARD Deshawn Murphy and forward Jack McCarthy were suspended by Southern for a “violation of team rules” and did not play in Wednesday’s game.
Murphy is a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Hamden who averaged 9.0 points per game last season and made 11 starts. Both players are expected to miss Southern’s exhibition against Rhode Island on Friday, too.
— A MOMENT OF silence was held before the game to remember Wes Bialosuknia, the former UConn great who died last week.