After a long summer following a disappointing season, the UConn men’s basketball team is back in action Sunday afternoon when they host Division II University of Tampa for their first exhibition game.
Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion.
This will be UConn’s first action against an opponent this season. The Huskies return eight players from a team that went 20-15, giving UConn their fifth straight season with 20 wins.
Coach Kevin Ollie, entering his fourth season at UConn, was excited about seeing his team get their first crack at an outside opponent, a different look for a team that has been scrimmaging each other for weeks.
“I think the guys are ready. It’s been a long time since they played an opponent, especially our veteran guys. They’re getting a little chippy,” Ollie said. “It’s good to play another opponent.”
Ollie and his staff brought in four new players, each of whom look to make an impact on the team. Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller are two graduate transfers from Seton Hall and Cornell, respectively. Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch are two highly touted incoming freshmen.
There is undoubtedly a new level of competition amongst this team. Their biggest strength will be their depth.
“I really like the competition on this team. The common denominator with guys on this team is the effort they bring…I think that breeds success, when you have competitors that like it. Everyone wants to play, everyone’s bought in for UConn,” Ollie said.
A year ago, one of the key reasons UConn did not live up to preseason expectations was their lack of offensive flow and creativity. They averaged just 64.2 points per game, good for 261st in the nation, and shot .438 from the field. With the additions of proven scorers like Gibbs and Miller, along with a more mature Daniel Hamilton, this year’s team should show improvements.
“We want free flowing offense. We always preach that. We have a lot more options, we want that ball to move. It’s hard to catch up with the ball, it’s easy to catch up with the dribble. If you’re moving the ball with pace, moving the ball on time and on target, we’re definitely going to have a free flowing offense. I truly believe that,” Ollie said.
For Tampa, Sunday’s tilt will mark its first exhibition game against a Division I opponent since the 2013-14.
The Spartans finished 18-10 in 2014-15. Head coach Richard Schmidt is in his 33rd year as head coach. They recently played a closed door scrimmage against Southern Connecticut State.
Sunday’s exhibition is the start to a new year for UConn basketball. The influx of talent, to go alongside a group of veterans that know how to win, sets up to be a promising team.
The action begins tomorrow, at 2 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion.