So what have we learned about the UConn Huskies after two exhibition games?
Well, the Huskies are certainly deeper and more talented than last season.
Their strength clearly resides in the backcourt.
They have some promising new players.
And rebounding is still an issue for the Huskies.
Here’s a post-game breakdown from Monday’s 98-38 rout of Concordia University of Chicago, a Division III program:
-- Check out the attached video of Kevin Ollie’s press conference.
-- Ollie has seen improvement in his team since the first exhibition game on Wednesday against Southern Connecticut State University.
After taking Tuesday off, the Huskies have two days of practice to prepare for the season opener against Maryland Friday in Brooklyn.
“I’m excited about this team,” Ollie said. “We’re going to go in the lab and continue to work on what we’ve been working on – that’s transition, that’s rebounding, that’s keeping our man in front of us. I thought they got better tonight.”
The Huskies did two things better than it did against Southern, and that’s rebound and limit fast break opportunities. They won the rebounding battle, 49-26, and allowed six fast break points.
Against Southern, they were out-rebounded, 48-43, and gave up 27 fast break points.
-- After watching tape of UConn’s win over Southern Connecticut, Ollie discovered that the guards shared a good portion of the blame for the rebounding woes.
“I apologized to my big guys,” Ollie said. “They boxed out. It was the lack of guards boxing out that first game against Southern. And we gave up a lot of points in transition. …We’ve got to clean up with the guards."
-- Sophomore guard Omar Calhoun led the team in rebounding against Concordia, finishing with seven to go with his team-best 16 points. Phil Nolan, a sophomore center, had six.
-- Ollie made one change to the starting lineup from the exhibition opener, replacing Tyler Olander in the frontcourt with Nolan.
Nolan had eight points in 18 minutes.
He's starting to earn the trust of his teammates. Ollie would just like to see Nolan take his time more when he makes a move.
"He's gaining respect in the locker room, which is good," Ollie said. "Guards are throwing the ball to him when he's open. That's what he's got to continue to do."
-- Eleven different Huskies played double digit minutes. Freshman Terrence Samuel led the way with 28 minutes. He played well, contributing 10 points and 12 assists.
“Get everybody involved and get into the lane,” Samuel said when asked how he could help the Huskies this season.
The starting backcourt of Shabazz Napier (five points, four assists) and Ryan Boatright (four points, five assists) only played a combined 30 minutes.
-- Pat Lenehan, a walk-on out of Xavier-Middletown, took advantage of extended playing time, scoring seven points in five minutes. The UConn bench roared with every basket.
-- Graduate student Lasan Kromah, who played three years at George Washington before graduating and coming to UConn, is excited to play againstMaryland. He’s fromGreenbelt,Md.
“We’ve been practicing for a month now playing against each other,” Kromah said. “Now we have two scrimmages underneath us. We can’t wait till Friday.”
-- Early signs indicate that UConn will be a better 3-point shooting team this season. The Huskies have more perimeter weapons.
Six different players converted from 3-point range on Monday. Calhoun (4-for-7), Leon Tolksdorf (3-for-7), Kromah (3-for-5), Niels Giffey (2-for-3), Napier (1-for-1) and Lenehan (1-for-1) all connected.
The Huskies made 14 of 28 overall.
-- Calhoun is still working his way back from two hip impingement surgeries last spring. He’s playing at about 90 percent.
He’s been spending extra time in the gym, He worked out at Gampel Pavilion at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, a good two hours before practice.
“Over the last week I stayed in the gym trying to get my craft…,” Calhoun said. “I think I did a good job of getting everything where I wanted it to be.
He also recently received a pep talk from his father who came up for a visit from New York.
“He just told that I’m no longer rehabbing and I’m more taking steps forward…,” Calhoun said. “And now it’s time to start showing what I can do. He knows me more than anybody else. He knew that’s what I needed, and it definitely worked.”
-- Stat of the night: UConn had more points in the paint (40) than Concordia scored overall.
-- Concordia coach Tyler Jones and Ollie are good friends. When Jones served as the general manager of the Connecticut Pride of the Continental Basketball Association, he drafted Ollie. They helped the Pride win the 1999 CBA championship.
Jones, an East Hartford native, played at Trinity College.
“It’s an honor and pleasure to come back to Hartford,” Jones said. “We’re a privileged bunch from Chicago. Coach Ollie is absolutely phenomenal. My relationship with him is why this all happened. So I want to thank the University ofConnecticut for allowing it and for coach Ollie, personally, with a great amount of gratitude.
The exhibition game had a Coaches vs. Cancer theme. Jones, a prostate cancer survivor, wore a sweater vest with the words, “Box out Cancer.” The UConn coaching staff wore tennis shoes to support Jones’ cause.
-- Ollie on the impact of his team's improved depth: "There's very healthy competition in our practices right now, and I really, really like that. I think that's what builds success in a team."