UConn shooting to sharpen its aim from perimeter in exhibition finale

UConn point guard Alterique Gilbert, whose freshman season was derailed by an injury, is healthy again and looking to improve upon his 3-point shooting as the Huskies play their final exhibition game on Sunday against Queens College at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
UConn point guard Alterique Gilbert, whose freshman season was derailed by an injury, is healthy again and looking to improve upon his 3-point shooting as the Huskies play their final exhibition game on Sunday against Queens College at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Storrs — Every UConn player has a routine for working overtime outside of regular practice.

Some prefer to go to the gym in the morning, others at night.

For redshirt freshman Alterique Gilbert, he usually starts his day with a heavy dose of jump shots.

"Everybody has their own routine based upon their schedule," Gilbert said. "We definitely get a lot of shots up. We're getting better. That's the thing I see as a leader and as a teammate as well, everybody wants to get better."

Sunday's third exhibition game is another opportunity for the Huskies to get better, as they host Division II Queens (N.Y.) College at 5:30 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion. It is the final tuneup before their regular-season opener against Colgate on Friday.

Coach Kevin Ollie has seen overall growth during the first two exhibition games against Providence and Merrimack, but also some concerns.

"I really like our steals, how we've been getting out in the passing lanes and turning teams over," Ollie said. "And, of course, I want us to shoot a little bit better. I want us to start making some of those open threes.

"We've really been doing a lot of shooting and work, so hopefully that can carry over when we're get in Gampel. We've been doing a lot of shooting, just getting guys rhythm. I want us to continue to make the smart passes.

"But we've got to knock down some of those shots to be a successful team. I think everybody in our group knows that."

Through two exhibition games, UConn is just 7-for-36 from beyond the arc, including 1-for-14 in Monday's win over Merrimack, which played mainly zone. Only sophomore Christian Vital has converted more than one (4-for-13).

Primary perimeter weapons junior Jalen Adams (1-for-6), redshirt junior Terry Larrier (0-for-6), Gilbert (1-for-5) and graduate transfer Antwoine Anderson (1-for-4) have struggled, but the Huskies are confident they can be a good three-point shooting team.

"We shot poorly the first couple of games," Gilbert said. "That's something we're looking to improve on. It's just a matter of time before they start falling, so I'm not really concerned about that too much."

The Huskies were a decent 3-point shooting team last season, finishing fourth in the American Athletic Conference (35.5 percent). But they lost two of their top distance shooters in Rodney Purvis and Vance Jackson.

With Gilbert and Larrier still shaking off rust from sitting out most of last season with injuries, it's still early to tell if they can be perimeter weapons.

"I'm just working my way into the game and just trying to find a rhythm," Gilbert said. "I definitely think it's going to come. The team is coming along great. Each day we're getting better.

Ollie is encouraging Gilbert expand his game. He added that Larrier can be a reliable 3-point threat, too.

"Al has got to keep people honest," Ollie said. "He can't be always driving. He's got to take two or three (3-pointers) a game. ... He'll start making some of them and then it will open up his drives. He has to be comfortable taking them and looking for them. We've got a lot of guys that can penetrate and kick so Terry is going to be shooting a lot of them."

For the third straight exhibition game, UConn will be without graduate transfer David Onuorah whose hip continues to bother him. He recently had an MRI.

There's no timetable for his return.

"We've just got to let his body heal," Ollie said. "Eventually, we'll see a really good recovery. It's just slowly but surely. But he is getting better. But we're just not comfortable putting him out there right now going full speed because he doesn't know how to play no other speed."

News and notes

• The Huskies held an open workout for students on Friday night at Gampel, which underwent repair work on the roof during offseason. "This is the first time I've been in here since last year," Gilbert said Friday. "It looks great. It's like a whole new arena. I can't wait to play on the floor." ... Ollie raved about the benefits of playing Providence in a charity exhibition game on Oct. 25. The Huskies lost 90-76. "It's going to pay off for us in a long run. I really, really believe that." Ollie added that he would love to play another charity game next season or hold a closed scrimmage against a Division I program.

g.keefe@theday.com

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