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Pre-game preview: South Florida

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published February 12. 2014 10:00AM   Updated February 12. 2014 10:52AM

With a big game coming up against No. 20 Memphis Saturday, UConn might be tempted to look past South Florida tonight.

The 24th-ranked Huskies can't afford to let that happen, according to coach Kevin Ollie.

"We can't look ahead," Ollie said. "We're not that good to look ahead. We don't have all all-stars on this team. We've got to play together and we've got to take every day and try to get better. That's the only thing I want these guys to do.

"What matters the most for us is being prepared and playing the right way. And everything else will take care of itself. We're not the team that can look ahead, because our margin of error is not that big. We learned that when we played Houston and SMU."

UConn opened the AAC season with consecutive road losses to Houston and SMU.

Here's a pre-game preview of tonight's game against the struggling Bulls at the XL Center in Hartford:

-- Tip-off time: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

-- Records: South Florida 12-12, 3-8; UConn 18-5, 6-4

-- Last game: South Florida lost to Rutgers, 79-69, Saturday; UConn won at Central Florida, 75-55, Sunday

-- Probable starters:

UConn, 6-1 sr. guard Shabazz Napier (17.7 pts, 5.6 assists, 5.9 rebs), 6-0 jr. guard Ryan Boatright (12.2 pts, 3.5 assists), 6-8 jr. forward DeAndre Daniels (13.5 pts, 5.6 rebs), 6-6 grad. forward Lasan Kromah (7.7 pts, 2.9 rebs), 7-foot fr. center Amida Brimah (4.0 pts, 3.0 rebs, 2.6 blks)

South Florida, 6-1 jr. guard Corey Allen Jr. (10.3 pts, 3.0 assists), 6-3 jr. guard Shemiye McLendon (2.8 pts), 6-7 so. forward Zach LeDay (3.3 pts), 6-9 sr. forward Victor Rudd (15.0 pts, 6.8 rebs), 6-10 fr. center John Egbunu (7.5 pts, 6.5 rebs)

Noteworthy:

-- The Huskies (18-5, 6-4) have won seven of their last nine games and reside in fifth place in the AAC.

The Bulls (12-12, 3-8) have lost six of their last eight and sit in eighth place.

-- The two teams play twice in last eight regular season games. The rematch is Feb. 26 inTampa,Fla.

-- UConn leads the series, 10-2, losing last meeting 65-51 last March in the Sun Dome. Napier sat out that game with an injury.

Two of the last four games have been decided in overtime and both won by the Huskies.

-- Junior Ryan Boatright said Tuesday that his left shoulder has been bothering him since last fall. He was hit in the same area during Thursday's game at Cincinnati.

"It's been messed up since preseason in the weight room," Boatright said. "I continue to play on it and continue to tweak it and jack it up even more. TheCincinnati game, it definitely messed it up. I caught a knee in the back of it and it was hurting pretty bad."

Boatright refuses to use his shoulder injury as an excuse for his shooting funk. He's converted just 36.6 percent from the field in the last four games. He's 6-for-18 in the last two games.

-- In other injury news: UConn reserve Omar Calhoun suffered a concussion in Sunday's win at Central Floridaand sat out practice on Tuesday. He won't play tonight and didn't make the trip to the XL Center.

"He got popped in the head pretty good…," Ollie said. "His symptoms are much better now than they were yesterday, so hopefully he keeps getting better and we can get him out there as soon as possible."

Junior DeAndre Daniels is expected to play tonight. He's been dealing with a high right ankle sprain and back spasms. After missing two games, he had 16 points and seven rebounds against Central Florida.

"My back is a little bit stiff," Daniels said. "Other than that, I'm fine."

-- UConn's game plan tonight is to protect the paint, according to Daniels. The player to watch in the interior is 6-foot-10, 245-pound freshman center John Egbunu.

Egbunu averages four dunks a game. Freshman Chris Perry, a 6-8, 266-pound forward, is another inside threat.

"They score in the paint," Ollie said. "We've got to protect our yard. ... They throw it down there and get those guys involved. ... We've got to make sure they see a lot of UConn jerseys in front of them."

The Bulls also haven't shot the ball well from the perimeter, ranking last in the conference in 3-point shooting at 25.4 percent.

-- The Huskies have yet to lose a game when out-rebounding an opponent, going 12-0. But they're 2-4 when shooting under 40 percent.

-- Daniels on playing South Florida: "We've got to take care of games like these to put ourselves in a good position."

-- The AAC has five teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25 for the first time. That doesn't surprise Ollie who raved about the league back in October during the conference's media day inMemphis.

"I thought a lot of teams were going to be good…," Ollie said. "We've got five teams in the top 25 and those teams that are out of the top 25 are good, too. If you underestimate them, they can beat you on any given night. You've got to respect that."

-- For updates during the game, follow me on Twitter @GavinKeefe

-- Check back later for a post-game breakdown and video.

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