HARTFORD – The UConn men’s basketball team showed improvement in their second exhibition game as they left the XL Center Monday night with a 79-63 win over Merrimack College.
The win was highlighted by a big game from the Huskies bench as both Mamadou Diarra and Isaiah Whaley with 11 and 10 points, respectively, outscoring every UConn starter but Terry Larrier with 17 points. Whaley was especially efficient, shooting 5-6 from the floor in just eight minutes, including some highlight reel dunks.
“Just proud of the guys and how they handled themselves today,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after the game. “And everybody that came off the bench, 35 points for my bench, I thought that was a big lift that we didn’t have against Providence.”
Ollie changed up his lineup for Monday night’s game against a smaller Merrimack team. Height played the biggest factor for the Huskies in their win as 70 of their 79 points came from inside the paint. They also outrebounded Merrimack 45-34.
“That was the main game plan,” Whaley explained. “[Merrimack] was a smaller team so it was all about getting it inside and just taking advantage of our size.”
It was certainly Terry Larrier’s game plan as well. The redshirt junior played the majority of his 28 minutes on the block Monday night. Larrier used his 6-foot-8 frame to his advantage all night, going 8-10 from the floor and adding three assists, three rebounds and three steals.
Ollie explained that although Larrier was playing the four, UConn’s four-out-one-in offense would allow him to play like a guard.
“When I say the four-spot, there’s really four-guards out there because our offense is pretty much four-out, one-in,” Ollie said. “[Larrier’s] not the rugged four-man. He’s gonna be out there on the perimeter. We’ll be in a lot of four-guard sets.”
When asked about playing more in the frontcourt, Larrier was very open to the idea.
“I definitely realize sometimes that may be the best lineup out there with me as a four depending on who we’re playing,” Larrier said. “I’m definitely versatile enough to do that. I don’t mind playing it.”
The Huskies went back and forth with Merrimack for the first few minutes before jumping out to a 40-29 halftime lead. Ollie’s squad was able to use their height to pick apart Merrimack’s zone defense.
“I was pleased how we handled the zone,” Ollie said. “We played behind the zone. That’s what Mamadou [Diarra] did, played behind the zone. Kwintin [Williams] played behind the zone, Isaiah [Whaley] played behind the zone. That’s a good thing that we’ve been working on, making sure that those guys finish.”
In the end Merrimack couldn’t keep up, shooting a dismal 32 percent in the second half. The Huskies were able to keep up their attack, shooting at a clip of 51 percent in the second half en route to the sixteen-point victory.
The Huskies close out their exhibition schedule Sunday at Gampel Pavilion against Queens.
Connor Donahue is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets at @conn_donahue.