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    UConn Men's Basketball
    Tuesday, March 05, 2024

    UConn men emerge from the dark with a bright view

    An unexpected 10 minutes in the dark helped UConn see the light.

    Having the lights go out during a team shootaround on Thursday at FedExForum in Memphis reinforced what coach Kevin Ollie has been preaching to his Huskies about overcoming adversity and fighting through chaos.

    Later that night, UConn did just that in a 20-point road victory, battling through first half foul trouble and remaining focused on its mission.

    The dark didn't bother the Huskies either, as they continued to practice until the lights came back on.

    "It was totally dark at FedEx arena," Ollie said Saturday. "Everybody was looking around. (I told them), 'let's continue to practice.'

    "... The best teams and teams that win championships or teams that go farther in the tournament, they're able to deal with confusion, able to deal with conflicts and they're able to get past it and move forward. And I think we did that (Thursday). ... I thought it was a great step forward and it showed a lot of maturity with our team."

    UConn (16-6, 6-3) is in a good place heading into Sunday's American Athletic Conference game against East Carolina (10-12, 2-7) at Gampel Pavilion (noon, CBS Sports Network).

    Winners of five of their last six games, they're climbing the AAC standings, sitting in fourth place entering Saturday's action.

    Sophomore Daniel Hamilton has emerged from a lengthy shooting funk, converting 50 percent in the last two games and sinking as many field goals (11) as the previous four games combined.

    "That's our best player on the court," Ollie said. "When he gets it going, it makes our offense run better."

    Hamilton also has benefitted from the return of center Amida Brimah, who's created more space for his versatile teammate to operate. Two games into his comeback from a broken finger, Brimah is still shaking off the rust after an 11-game layoff.

    The Huskies will be counting on both players in the final nine regular-season games.

    After Sunday's game, they face their toughest stretch, playing at Temple, home against Tulsa and league-leader SMU and at Cincinnati.

    It would be a big mistake to overlook East Carolina, which is playing its best basketball in recent weeks, winning at Memphis, shocking Temple and losing to Houston in double overtime. During their hot streak, the Pirates have relied on their transition game, 3-point shooting and zone defense.

    While UConn swept the season series last season, it trailed at halftime in both games before recovering to win by 11 and 13 points.

    Just don't call it a trap game.

    Ollie firmly believes in preparing the exact same way, no matter the opponent.

    "I don't care who it is," Ollie said. "If we deal internally with what we have to do, we'll be fine. I'm not saying we're going to win every game, because we haven't. But we prepare.

    "That's what great teams do. It's not will to win, it's a will to prepare. ... We prepare like it's a national championship game every practice. That's who we are. That's our DNA. It's going to be like that. Trap game, not a trap game. ... It's the next opponent on our schedule. That's how we look at it."

    g.keefe@theday.com

    Twitter: @GavinKeefe

    UCONN vs. EAST CAROLINA

    Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs

    Tip: noon (CBS Sports Network)

    Records: UConn 16-6, 6-3; East Carolina 10-12, 2-7

    Last game: UConn won at Memphis, 77-57, Thursday; East Carolina lost to Houston, 97-93 (2OT), Jan. 30

    Probable starters: UConn, 6-2 grad. guard Sterling Gibbs (12.7 pts), 6-3 fr. guard Jalen Adams (6.1 pts), 6-7 so. forward Daniel Hamilton (11.8 pts, 8.7 rebs, 4.9 assists), 6-7 grad. forward Shonn Miller (13.4 pts, 5.7 rebs)and 6-10 sr. center Phil Nolan (2 pts, 2 rebs)

    East Carolina, 6-5 sr. guard Prince Williams (8.9 pts, 4 assists), 6-3 so. guard B.J. Tyson (15.2 pts, 5.1 rebs), 6-5 fr. forward Kentrell Barkley (9.9 pts, 6 rebs), 6-8 jr. forward Michel Nzege (5.1 pts, 3.3 rebs), 6-9 sr. forward Kanu Aja (3 pts, 3.3 rebs)

    Noteworthy: Huskies won five of six, out-scoring last two foes by an average of 26 pts in wins. ... Pirates won two of last three, beating Memphis and Temple. ... Series: UConn leads, 5-1, sweeping last season, 65-52 in in Storrs and 60-49 on the road. Hamilton's career-best 17 rebs in last meeting. ... Top reserve: 6-7 jr. forward Caleb White (13.5 pts, 3 rebs). ... Hot: Pirates shot over 36 percent from 3-pt line in three of the last four games. Cold: Huskies held nine straight foes to under 40 percent from field. ... ECU allowing more pts (71.2) than scoring (70.3) per game. ... Huskies 14-1 when out-rebound foes. ... UConn 10-2 at home, ECU 1-7 on the road. ... Up next: UConn visits Temple Thursday.

    — Gavin Keefe

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