Junior forward Tyler Olander last started for Connecticut on Dec. 4 against North Carolina State at Madison Square Garden. Enosch Wolf has replace Olander in the starting five the past three games against Harvard, Maryland Eastern Shore and Fordham.
But there's a good chance coach Kevin Ollie will go back to Olander Saturday night against Washington. Ollie hinted Friday after practice that there might be a change but didn't give specifics.
Asked if he thought Olander had turned the corner with six rebounds in 17 minutes against Fordham, Ollie smiled and said, "I like that thinking – yes. I think he turned the corner. Write it. That's all we're going to say."
It's no secret UConn needs rebounding help. Ollie talks about it every day. DeAndre Daniels leads UConn with a 4.3 rebounding average. Olander is at 4.0 – just above his average of 3.9 last season. But expectations for Olander are higher this season because UConn is so thin up front.
Opponents are outrebounding UConn by 6.4 rebounds a game. The Huskies rank last in the Big East in every rebounding category. Cincinnati leads the Big East with 16.92 offensive rebounds and 29 defensive rebounds per game. UConn's averages are 8.45 offensive and 21.81 defensive.
Asked what UConn needs to do to improve on the boards, Olander said, "Toughness. Mental toughness. Focus. Really, just putting a body on someone and getting back to the fundamentals of getting your man and keeping him [boxed] out. A lot of times when the shot goes up we turn and try to find the ball instead of really going to hit someone. And we end up underneath the rim. It's just a matter of paying attention to keeping your man out."
Washington (8-4) averages 36.2 rebounds per game (just shy of UConn opponents' average of 36.6). And Washington's top two rebounders are Aziz N'Diaye (9.7) and Desmond Simmons (8.2). UConn has been veiling its rebounding woes with aggressive defense, steals and points in transition but that will become increasingly difficult with the Big East season beginning Dec 1 at Marquette.
Olander has been in and out the starting lineup during his three seasons at UConn, starting 38 of 84 career games. His attitude never seems to waver. Friday he said he just keeps his head up and tries to keep improving.
"I knew I wasn't producing or playing well," Olander said being benched after the N.C. State game. "It woke me a little more. I think it was good for Enosch [to start] as well. I'm going to work to get back in. If I don't, I'm still going to work."