Despite the eight-day break, Kentan Facey showed no signs of rust in UConn’s first game of winter break, picking up right where he left off to help the Huskies to their first win of the season at Gampel Pavilion.
The Trelawny, Jamaica native scored a career-high 20 points, while adding nine rebounds and four blocks as UConn (5-5) rolled past North Florida 80-59. It marked the third-straight impressive showing for Facey that first began with an eight-point, seven-rebound performance while battling the stomach bug against Syracuse, followed by an eight-point, 13-rebound game on the road against Ohio State.
“I was just being aggressive the whole night, I feel like that had something to do with it,” Facey said. “I just feel like I’m more relaxed on the court.”
Facey used an array of moves around the paint to do his damage against the Ospreys, showing skill and touch with either hand around the rim and even stepping back for a pair of midrange jumpers. Even though Facey has showcased some of these post moves in the past, they were on full display against North Florida, showcasing the senior forward’s versatility and athleticism down low combined with newfound confidence.
“I’ve worked on [post moves] for a while, I just wasn’t aggressive before,” Facey said. “I’m just trying to work on staying aggressive throughout the rest of the season.”
Facey’s career performance was the highlight of an impressive day for the UConn frontcourt of Facey, Amida Brimah and Steven Enoch. Brimah tied his season-high 11 points and added six rebounds, while Enoch scored seven points with seven rebounds. Brimah and Enoch also had four blocks each.
UConn used their size advantage in the post to their advantage from the beginning, relying on the trio for 23 of the Huskies’ 41 first-half points. That trend continued into the second half, as Facey got UConn started with six of the Huskies’ first 10 points to open up the period. Facey, Brimah and Enoch would finish the game with nearly half (38 combined) of UConn’s 80 points on the day and played a vital role in outrebounding the Ospreys 40-35.
“Our bigs pretty much dominated the game,” head coach Kevin Ollie said. “Kentan was huge in the four-hole, just being aggressive with 20 [points] and nine [rebounds] and then Amida played very well.”
While the frontcourt has been lackluster during Ollie’s tenure as head coach, the performance against the Ospreys shows that the Huskies certainly have the talent down low to at least hold their own and control the game.
NO MOORE SECOND HALF SCORING
North Florida senior guard Dallas Moore entered the game against the Huskies as one of the top scorers in the nation, ranking seventh in the country with 23.2 points per game. Moore has essentially scored at will against practically every team he has faced, including three straight games of 30 or more points against Florida (31 points), Syracuse (30) and Arkansas (34). After going scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game, Moore returned to form, hitting two contested 3-pointers and scoring nine more points in the final 11 minutes of the half to finish with 15 of the Osprey’s 36 first-half points.
Even with a rotation of Christian Vital, Rodney Purvis and Jalen Adams draped over him, Moore looked unstoppable at times in the first half with his ability to get by defenders to go to his left side. When that route was blocked, Moore hit a pair of contested step-back 3-pointers to keep the UConn defense honest.
“He’s going to be in the NBA. He’s a talented, talented player,” Ollie said of Moore. “He was going left and we were trying to get him to go right, but we were cutting him off and he was hitting some stepback tough shots.”
Moore looked to be on pace for more of the same in the second half with his fifth 3-pointer of the night just over a minute after halftime but instead had no luck, missing his final four shots to finish the night with 18 points, the first time he was held under 19 points in his last seven games. The defense from Vital, Adams and especially Purvis took its toll on Moore as the game went, progressively wearing him down and preventing another scoring outburst.
“When the best player on the floor, no disrespect, the best player on the floor has to deal with that constantly and then make shots over shot blockers like that and do those things, it wears on you,” North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll said of UConn’s defense on Moore. “To their credit they did a good job, Purvis is physical and he was physical with [Moore].”