Column: UConn men's basketball continues to struggle closing games

UConn men's basketball head coach Kevin Ollie huddles with members of the team during a timeout in the Huskies' game against Tulsa at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

The UConn men’s basketball team barely escaped Gampel Pavilion Saturday with a 75-73 win over Tulsa after the team had another late game breakdown in Storrs.

The Huskies have blown monstrous leads in their last two games. The team simply looks lost and confused, lacking a motor and drive to put teams away. So what exactly is going wrong?

The first thing that comes to mind is offensive production. The team simply cannot put points on the board at times. Connecticut only averages 73.8 points per game. They rank 167th in the nation in scoring.

They also do not distribute the ball at a high level. A lot of their scoring comes in either transition or in isolation. UConn only averages 13.8 assists per game, tied for 147th in the nation.

The team needs more production out of their veterans and star players. Rodney Purvis, Sterling Gibbs, and Jalen Adams only average about seven assists combined. Keep in mind, that is with a generous round up. These three players are the playmakers in the backcourt. They need to be responsible for getting other players involved. UConn sophomore forward Daniel Hamilton (5 apg.) cannot be the only distributor on the team. 

Free throws have also been the kryptonite of the Storrs squad, particularly when it comes to their veteran leader, Rodney Purvis. The junior guard from Raleigh, North Carolina has shot an abysmal 60 percent from the charity stripe this season. He has been a liability, and as a result, has not been attacking the rim effectively. However, even in games that he does attack, he still does not convert. Missing two at the line is essentially a turnover. 

On a brighter note, there has been some optimism this season. Playing lockdown defense has been the one thing the Huskies have been doing well this year. They only allow an average of 62 points per game, the 12th best average in the nation. Their athletic guards and small forwards are very quick off the dribble, they smother backcourts the way Napier and Boatright used to do.

However, the difference is they do not convert after making great plays on the defensive side of the ball. This team likes to play hot potato with the basketball. They really don’t have a commanding floor general. One night it is Hamilton, another it is Purvis, the next it is Gibbs. 

So does this all come down on the head coach Kevin Ollie? There has certainly been a lot of criticism of the UConn alum during his fourth season here with the Huskies. I believe those fans should politely shut up. Those are typical bandwagon fans that want a change just because things are not going perfect.

Is Ollie the best coach in college? No, not even close. Is he a damn good coach that is still learning at a very high level? Absolutely. The critics should try winning division basketball games with a seven-foot center that can’t even average five rebounds per game. Sorry, Brimah. 

As of right now, UConn is probably going to be a 10 or an 11 seed in the tournament, but I say that very cautiously. The Huskies have struggled against subpar conference opponents lately. It is very possible they might not even make the tournament if they blow some of their easy conference games coming up.

UConn has to take advantage of teams like UCF, for example. They need big wins over those types of opponents. Two-point wins over Tulsa just do not look good on a tournament transcript.


Eddie Leonard is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He tweets @EddieLeonard23.