There has been plenty of talk about the five incoming freshmen leading up to this UConn men’s basketball season, and for good reason, but seniors still set the tone. In the final exhibition tune-up for the Huskies on Saturday afternoon, that was exceedingly true.
Senior guard Rodney Purvis led UConn with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting, with senior center Amida Brimah adding 17 points on 8-for-8 from the field, as the Huskies rolled to a 94-65 win over Division II opponent Southern Connecticut State at Gampel Pavilion.
“I think the guys follow my lead, so I got to take the initiative to bring the energy and the effort each and every night, and I think we’ll be a good team if I’m able to do that,” Purvis said after the game.
Purvis ran wild on the fast break in the first half, as the Huskies made defensive stops and broke out in transition frequently. The guard was on the receiving end of multiple heady passes, as he finished with easy layups and dunks at the rim. On one particular play that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie highlighted after the game, he laid off what would have been a wide open finish to transfer forward Terry Larrier for an emphatic dunk to bring the fans to their feet.
“I just love getting out on the break with those guys, and I just love how they was unselfish,” Ollie said of Purvis and company’s effort on the fast break. “We can’t have careless turnovers, and I think a couple of them were careless, but 20 fast break points is where I want to be at. Our goal is to have 18 every game.”
In addition to his scoring in transition, Purvis added four rebounds, four assists and four steals. He was a crucial cog in a UConn offense that shared the ball a healthy amount on Saturday, finishing with 23 assists on 36 field goals made.
Brimah did not play much in the first half, but came out of the halftime break on a mission as he dominated SCSU in the paint. Brimah scored the first 14 points of the half for the Huskies, propelling them to a 26-8 run that opened up a 31-point lead. He played the role of bully down low, finishing plays in a host of ways against overmatched defenders.
“He’s just not selfish, and you know, they did a great job in the second half of finding him,” Ollie said of Brimah. “They was just finding him on the post, and he was just going to his jump hook, and he wasn’t making the game difficult.”
From a defensive presence like Brimah, an offensive showing like this one is simply a bonus, or “gravy on top,” as Ollie put it after the game. He remains the anchor of UConn’s defense, a fearsome tower of shot blocking that deters would-be slashers from slicing into the paint.
He’s also a senior leader, and like Purvis, a crucial one as this very youthful team approaches its season opener next Friday against Wagner.
“We have a really young team and we’re just growing each and every day, and we’re just learning how to play with each other,” Brimah said.