UConn and Florida. It’s been a while since the two tangled (the infamous 1994 NCAA tourney overtime clash).
It’s also been a while since Billy Donovan was part of a game in Connecticut (a 1988 Knicks game against the Celtics when he was a rookie PG) or part of a game in Storrs (a Feb. 20, 1984 game at the FieldHouse where as a freshman at PC he had 0 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist).
Monday night in Storrs it’s No. 13 UConn and No. 15 Florida. Not a bad little early-season basketball game, huh?
We’re still trying to track down Donovan for his view of the game but here are a few words from UConn coach Kevin Ollie and the Huskies on the affair:
— UCONN GUARD Ryan Boatright, for one, likes that the Huskies’ early scheduled has been dotted by good teams and tough games.
“We’re getting tested early. We’re getting tested to show our will and our execution at the end of games,” Boatright said. “I think the more we do that early in the season, and if we prevail, the better we’re going to be when it gets closer to March.”
Boatright certainly thinks Florida can play.
“I think they’re a great team,” Boatright said. “They’ve got a beast in the middle in Patric Young, they have good guards, they’re long, they’re athletic. They slipped up and lost that one game otherwise they’d be a top-10 team.”
— THE ATMOSPHERE in Gampel Pavilion Monday should be rather energetic.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Boatright said. “If anybody’s seen a ranked game in Gampel, it’s ridiculous. The students alone have been waiting for a game like this at Gampel. I think it’s going to be exciting.”
UConn has lost only four non-conference games here since the building opened in 1990. And none since 2001.
— MOST GAMES ARE, I guess, but Ollie says Monday’s game is going to be a “grown man’s game” where rebounding will be key.
“It’s going to come down to a grown man’s basketball game. They’re going to throw it off the backboard and they’re going to go get it. We have to meet that challenge,” Ollie said.
— FLORIDA SENIOR GUARD Casey Prather has the Huskies’ attention. He’s averaging 19.7 points per game so far this season.
“He’s a slasher. He gets to the paint but he gets there with force and authority. He’s just not going in there to make a play, he’s going in there to embarrass people,” Ollie said.
— OLLIE DIDN’T REALLY want to talk about the only other UConn-Florida game in history: the 1994 Sweet 16 upset by the Gators of Donyell Marshall, Ray Allen, Ollie and company.
“They played well, they had the crowd behind them, they had the momentum,” Ollie said of the game, which was in Miami and went to OT after Marshall missed a pair of free throws with 3 seconds to play.
“There wasn’t no carry over. We weren’t depressed. We thought Donyell would make one free throw. He didn’t make it and they took it to us. It happens,” Ollie said of the extra session.
“It wasn’t Donyell’s fault. We had many plays before that,” Ollie said.
— OLLIE SAYS HE doesn’t know Florida coach Billy Donovan well but has loads of respect for him.
“We haven’t taken each other out to dinner or anything like that. I see him and I say hi,” Ollie said. “I recognize he’s a great coach.”
“I’d love to spend more time with him if possible,” Ollie added. “During recruiting wars you don’t get that opportunity all the time. But I do respect him. I respect how hard their team plays. That’s the sign of a great coach.”
— UCONN GUARD Omar Calhoun is a in a bit of a shooting slump. He’s just 6-for-26 from the floor over UConn’s last four games, 2-for-13 from 3-point range.
Ollie’s advice: try to make your teammates better.
“I’m not a shooting guru. Be ready, be ready to shoot, be positive, be confident. But don’t be bogged down like you have to shoot to be on the court. You have to play defense, you have to rebound, you have to make your teammates better on the court.”