State (U) and Maine

A few quick words from UConn coach Kevin Ollie on his Huskies and the matchup with Maine Friday night in Hartford.

— TODAY’S GAME IS UConn’s last for 12 days as the Huskies take a break for final exams.

Maine obviously isn’t the best opponent UConn will play this season but that shouldn’t be a problem for motivation, Ollie says.

“You have to play against this imaginary champion each and every day,” he said, unveiling another phrase his team and the reporters covering him are likely to hear again.

Besides, Maine has played UConn tough in years past and has some quality players according to Ollie.

“They’re going to play with their backs against the wall. They need a good win, they need a good performance,” Ollie said.

— WHAT AREA IS Ollie looking for improvement in, other than the obvious (rebounds)?

Simple. Big wins.

“I’d like to get some more double-digit wins. I don’t like them as close as they are,” Ollie said. “I’d like to see when we get a lead to sustain a lead.”

— MAINE ISN’T PLAYING very well right now. The Black Bears are 1-6 and have lost five straight games.

They lose in Newark, N.J., last night to NJIT.

“We have a lot of young guys with no seniors and two juniors,” coach Ted Woodward said by phone.

Woodward, a former UConn graduate assistant under Jim Calhoun, has coached against the Huskies three times previously.

“I have a lot of great memories of UConn,” Woodward said. “And obviously they’ve become the model program for teams to aspire to.”

The Bears do have a local product, of sorts, in junior guard Xaiver Pollard. Pollard is from the Bronx but went to high school at Suffield Academy.

Pollard had 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals Wednesday’s 81-72 loss to NJIT.

“He’s a very strong guard,” Woodward said. “He’s a guy that can score and has some good physical strength.”

— OLLIE CALLED Woodward “a great man” and said he’s still part of the “UConn family.”

“Hopefully he can turn it around,” Ollie said. “After Friday, though.”

— THE HUSKIES OBVIOUSLY are going to rely on their 3-point shooting ability for much of the season. But how many attempts from that range is too many in a game?

“Twenty-eight, 29, that’s too many for me,” said Ollie, who said 22-23 is a more realistic range but that sometimes a game dictates such numbers.

“You make 11 3’s the last game. They (Florida) made 3. That’s significant. That’s what won us the game,” Ollie said.

— ALTHOUGH THEY HAVEN’T played a great deal lately, Ollie said his entire freshmen class is performing well.

Freshman point guard Terrence Samuel hasn’t played much, but being behind Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier and company makes playing time hard to come by.

“He’s doing a great job. He’s doing an excellent job,” Ollie said of Samuel. “You can’t play everybody right now. … We need everybody to be ready to go.”

– Neill

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About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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