Exhibition games at the beginning of the season are a good opportunity to see how far a team has come since the start of practice. For coaches, it gives an opportunity to work on facets of the game that they might not otherwise do in regular season games.
UConn head coach Kevin Ollie made sure to try plenty of different things out on Sunday afternoon against Tampa.
Ollie used a multitude of different lineups, including 12 in the second half, as UConn cruised to an 88-72 victory over the Tampa Spartans in front of 7,153 fans at Gampel Pavilion Sunday afternoon.
“We can go big, we can go small…definitely have a lot of options,” Ollie said.
Shonn Miller, a transfer graduate student from Cornell, led the way for the Huskies, scoring 18 points (11 in the second half) and pulling in six rebounds in his UConn debut.
Miller looked comfortable around the basket and he used his athleticism to score most of his points. He even blocked a shot that ended up at the scorer’s table at midcourt.
“Shonn is definitely one of our best players right now,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “He just brings a toughness and attitude that we want. I thought he performed really well out there.”
The Huskies missed their first three shots and didn’t get into double digits until Sterling Gibbs, another graduate transfer from Seton Hall, hit a 3-pointer 4:28 into the game. UConn’s next basket, a jumper by Omar Calhoun, gave the Huskies their second lead of the night; and they would not surrender it for the remainder of the game.
Tampa went on a scoring drought that lasted 4:47, allowing the Huskies to lengthen their lead to 29-18.
The Huskies went into half time leading, 36-30.
UConn was much more free flowing in the second half. The Huskies scored 52 points in the second half, large in part to nine 3-pointers.
I did like our ball movement; we didn’t really have no set plays out there,” Ollie said. “[It] was just ball movement, playing off of each other and I really liked that.”
Jalen Adams, a freshman from Roxbury, Mass., provided a spark for the Huskies off the bench, scoring 14 points and adding six assists. Although he had five turnovers, he looked extremely comfortbale in his first game as a Husky.
“It took him a while to get in the flow but I thought Jalen played exceptionally well,” Ollie said. “I think he changed the whole tempo of the game when he started pushing the ball up the court and that’s kind of how fast we want him playing.”
Led by freshman Pat Bacon, the Spartans tried to make a come back, cutting UConn’s lead to within 11 points numerous times, but the Huskies had too much offense in the second half.
Bacon scored 21 points on 7 of 18 shooting (4 of 7 from three). Austin Rettig added 17 points and had five rebounds for the Spartans.
Rodney Purvis scored 14 points, Daniel Hamilton added 10 and Omar Calhoun had 11 for the Huskies, marking five players who scored in double figures.
“This has been one of the better teams as far as loving to play together,” Calhoun said. “No one wants to be the alpha dog; we want everyone to look good. This is the first real team where everyone wants the next person to succeed. I like how that is.”