Men's basketball: UConn takes down Southern in final exhibition game

Alterique Gilbert dribbles past a Southern Connecticut State University defender in UConn's 94-65 win over SCSU Nov. 5, 2016 at Gampel Pavilion. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

Alterique Gilbert dribbles past a Southern Connecticut State University defender in UConn's 94-65 win over SCSU Nov. 5, 2016 at Gampel Pavilion. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

Coming off of a somewhat closely contested exhibition victory over New Haven, the University of Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team took on the Southern Connecticut State University Owls at Gampel Pavilion.

With SCSU being ranked No. 4 in the nation in Division II, this was supposed to be a decent test for the Huskies in their last preseason game before the regular season begins on Nov. 11. However, UConn took the game by the horns and were relentless on both ends of the court as the Huskies cruised to a 94-65 victory.

UConn showcased their depth early, as head coach Kevin Ollie put out numerous lineup combinations on the court. Coming off the bench four minutes into the game, Steven Enoch made a nice shimmy move and sank a silky left hook in the post to take a 7-5 lead.

Just minutes later, redshirt sophomore Terry Larrier hit a corner three with the shot clock winding down to put the Huskies up 10-7, but the Owls answered right back with a three from Toby Christensen to tie it up. For much of the early stages in the game, SCSU kept the close with the Huskies and it seemed like the game could be close one.

However, one defensive stop turned the momentum of the game completely in favor of UConn. After a bad giveaway by the Huskies, the Owls went on the fast break but Kentan Facey came up with a huge chase-down block, which led to an alley-oop from Larrier to Jalen Adams at the other end. Just seconds later, Huskies came up with another defensive stop and Larrier again was the facilitator, feeding Rodney Purvis for another slam to make it 21-14.

“Our 19 turnovers I didn’t like, but I just love getting out on the break with those guys,” said Ollie. “I love how unselfish the guys are [in transition]. Our point guards did a good job, but we can’t have careless turnovers. Our goal is 18 fast break points every game and to have 20 was real good for us.”

After forcing another Owls turnover, Larrier had tons of room on the breakaway and threw down a vicious slam, giving the Huskies a 10-0 run and a huge lead. Clearly, the team was dialed in on its defensive intensity and transition play was a focus after last week’s game against New Haven.

“Coach always says we’re not one of the teams with the five or six McDonald’s All-Americans,” Purvis said. “So we have to work extra hard for everything and our energy and our effort can cover up for not having all those All-Americans. We just have to bring it each and every night with our defensive effort and intensity on the floor.”

SCSU’s star guard Michael Mallory would shoot a three late in the first half to bring the Owls within 11 just before the buzzer, leaving the Huskies with only a 44-33 lead going into the final 20 minutes. However, Mallory was often frustrated by the UConn defense, which kept him in check all afternoon and holding him to 14 points on 4-for-17 shooting.

“[UConn] got better from last week defensively, and they knew Mike [Mallory] was a great scorer,” said SCSU coach Scott Burrell. “I think they just learned from [Danny] Upchurch coming here last week and getting 33. This week they had another great guard coming in here and they were focused on that.”

The second half blowout started with five early buckets from Amida Brimah to put UConn up 54-37 and force an SCSU timeout with 17:10 left in the game. Brimah got two more scores straight out of the timeout before Larrier put down a gigantic tomahawk slam on the fast break to make it 60-37. Brimah would finish with 17 points on the day, with 16 coming in the second half. However, he only finished with two rebounds.

“For this team to be a good team, I need to emphasize being a better rebounder and help the team,” Brimah said.

Coach Ollie agreed and suggested the team knows what’s coming up in practice this week.

“To be a great defensive team, you have to be a great defensive rebounding team. We just have to clean that up and I’ll review the film and you know the guys are going to feel it in practice,” said Ollie.

The Huskies’ end of the bench would get in on the action as Christian Foxen, Mike Noyes and Restinel Lomotey came in with about four minutes left to play. Four Huskies’ ended up in double digits, while Purvis ended up with 19 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals for a fantastic all-around performance.

Next up, the Huskies will stay at Gampel Pavilion for their regular season opener against Wagner next Friday night.

Chris Hanna is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.hanna@uconn.edu.