UConn Needs Some Patience

Coming off a momentum-building victory at Providence Thursday, the Connecticut Huskies have a chance to put together a winning streak. USF visits Gampel Pavilion Sunday afternoon.

It doesn't take a mathematical wizard or a basketball expert to figure out what type of game South Florida will try to play Sunday against Connecticut at Gampel Pavilion (2 p.m., SNY).

The Bulls are last in the Big East in scoring offense, averaging 61.2 points. In eight Big East games, that average drops to 53.1. Defensively, the Bulls yield 61.1 points a game. That gives South Florida a scoring margin of plus-0.1, also last in the Big East. Last year, UConn traveled to USF and won 60-57. Two years ago, UConn won 66-61 in overtime in Hartford.

Expect the Bulls to do whatever they can to keep the final score in the 60's – or possibly in the 50's. In Big East play, that's the only chance they have but it really hasn't worked out that well. Coming off a 63-50 loss to Marquette on Monday, the Bulls are 10-10 overall and 1-7 in conference play.

"They're a great defensive team," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "They're 1-7 in the Big East but I don't even look at their record. They hold you down. We're going to have to be patient and we're going to have to have poise. They're going to run a zone like all the other teams are doing. That's how they got back in the game against Marquette."

South Florida shot 27.3 percent against Marquette and Golden Eagles guard Vander Blue torched the Bulls for 30 points. USF was never closer than eight points in the second half.

Playing at home against a weaker opponent – and coming off a momentum building win at Providence Thursday night – gives UConn (14-5, 4-3) a big opportunity. If the Huskies can grind out a win against USF they would have 15 wins with 10 games remaining. That means a 5-5 record the remainder of the season would assure UConn of a 20-win season.

In a year when UConn is banned from postseason play and player defections left Ollie with a limited roster in his first season as head coach, that would be quite an accomplishment.

"One thing I can testify about this group is that they're learning how to win, which is a good thing," Ollie said. "Getting outrebounded by 30 [at Providence] and still winning is a great momentum builder for them as a group. They found a way to win."

Despite all the negative stats in that Providence game, the Huskies did a relatively good job against the Friars' zone defense and shot 50 percent for the game. The Huskies have seen a lot of zones in conference play. The Big East isn't the man-to-man, pressure defense conference it used to be.

"There are a lot of teams playing zone," Ollie said. "There are less big guys. A lot of teams are playing smaller. You can zone up a little bit better just to shore up. There are not a lot of guys blocking shots and you can cover up a lot of that. You can play smaller and you've just got to rebound out of that.

"A lot of teams are playing zones. They're playing matchups and they want guys to beat them outside. Hopefully we can keep getting better at it. The more times we see it, the better we can get at it."

USF point guard Anthony Collins averages 7.0 assists, second in the Big East to Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams. Collins is third in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.77.

"I think he is a tremendous point guard," Ollie said of Collins. "He just leads by example. I've never seen anybody dribble as low as he does. He's able to get in the thick of the defense and find their shooters. He can make plays, so we're going to have to contain him."

UConn's big men will have to battle over screens to disrupt the Bulls' screen-and-rolls offensive plays. And the Huskies must play disciplined defense on every possession as the Bulls try to use every tick of the shot clock and keep the score low.

"Can we have the patience to stay in the possession?" Ollie said. "Hopefully we can do that."


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