It was clearly an exhibition game at Gampel Pavilion Sunday afternoon. The UConn men’s basketball easily handled Division II University of Tampa, 88-72.
During the course of the game, coach Kevin Ollie used a multitude of lineups, including a staggering 12 in the second half alone.
Depth might be UConn’s best attribute this season. The influx of four impact players, Jalen Adams, Shonn Miller, Steven Enoch and Sterling Gibbs, gives the Huskies a roster that easily goes 11 deep.
“We have a lot of different guys, but we’re still going to need that guy to be the alpha dog. You have to have it either way,” Ollie said. He went on to describe the versatility of his team, describing their ability to “go big, go small. We definitely have a lot of options.”
The final box score revealed 11 Huskies playing at least nine minutes, 10 of whom were in double digits. Miller finished as the leader with 28 minutes played. He finished with a team high 18 points and added six rebounds.
That this was, in fact, an exhibiton allowed Ollie to experiment with the lineup.
“This was a practice for us. We’re playing guys, seeing who can play with one another. I’ll watch the tapes. I’m not thinking about that too much, with getting the combinations yet. I know guys are going to play,” Ollie said. “I’ve got different combinations right now. But it all boils down to who’s in foul trouble, who’s not. Amida (Brimah) got two fouls, so everything I’m thinking about gets thrown out the window. Then you have to make adjustments, so it’s not a big deal right now.”
Finding a consistent lineup seems to be Ollie’s priority for the exhibition season. Carrying it deep into the regular season would be a boon. Last year’s team struggled to find the right combination, as a result of injuries.
“I don’t want it to be like last year where we had 20, 25 different starting lineups, Ollie said.
“Hopefully I can have a lineup that forms some sort of flow that I can have each and every game. Last year, we had starting lineups every time we came out on the court with injuries. Hopefully we can stay away from the injury bug, so I can have a set group out there. Like I said, we’re deep. We can go with the flow with the defense and the offense and see who’s playing their best. Hopefully we can come off the bench and not lose any rhythm.”
Omar Calhoun, a senior guard who has experienced the highs and lows of this program, embraced the depth of this particular squad, noting the already strong chemistry.
“This has been one of the better teams as far as loving to play together,” Calhoun said. “No one wants to be the alpha dog; we want everyone to look good. This is the first real team where everyone wants the next person to succeed. I like how that is.”
He said that he and his teammates weren’t particularly worried about their own individual minutes.
“As a player you shouldn’t really be worried about (minutes)” Calhoun said. “You should only be playing to win. You play the game to win, minutes are gonna come. Everything is just going to happen for you. That’s the mindset we all take, it’s not a competition amongst each other, we just want to go out there and win.”
As UConn advances towards the regular season, the balancing act of finding the right lineup combination and keeping all 11 players satisfied with their roles will be this team’s defining quality.
If Sunday’s exhibition was any indication, Ollie has it handled.