The UConn men’s basketball team opened up its 2015-16 season with a 100-56 win over former Yankee Conference rival Maine. With so many new faces and returning players showing improvement, The Daily Campus Sports staff weighed in on which Husky impressed them the most in the win over the Black Bears.
I was most impressed with Amida Brimah. He played great against an undersized Maine team. Critics will say Maine had no height, fine, Brimah did what he should’ve done and I’m still impressed. He seriously flirted with a triple-double, putting up 18 points, seven rebounds and nine blocks is an exceptional stat line.
Brimah was a stalwart on the defensive end and it was good to see him play well on the glass. Even when you know he is the premier shot-blocker in the country, it doesn’t change the incredible feeling of watching him swat Maine away nine times. On top of that, he and Daniel Hamilton had it going on as he caught several exciting lobs and that looked like an on-court relationship that will continue to produce in the future. There isn’t much more you could have wanted from him against the Black Bears.
Sterling Gibbs proved on Friday he is the player the Huskies wanted and desperately needed to run the point this season. Rodney Purvis is an incredibly athletic guard and an improved shooter, but UConn is fortunate to also have Gibbs, a point guard who can handle the ball, facilitate the offense and stretch the floor with a lethal jump shot. Gibbs led the team with 20 points on 6-10 shooting and was a perfect 7-7 at the free throw line.
What really stood out to me was the variety in the Seton Hall transfer’s game. Gibbs showed he can beat defenders off the dribble, draw contact around the basket, create for others and finish in transition. That’s a lot of talent to display over the course of one game, even if it was against a weak opponent.
One of two graduate transfer students, I think that Shonn Miller put on an impressive display in all aspects of the game. He shot 80 percent from the field and collected the most rebounds with 10, nine of those coming on the defensive side. He also collected two steals and had three blocks.
Like the rest of the Huskies, he was able to take advantage of a weak Maine squad and completely overpower them on offense and defense. As an integral part to the UConn’s starting five, Miller can excel on all sides of the court, with an accurate jumper and the ability to get the ball on defense. Again, Maine was a weak team with players who collectively lacked height, but it doesn’t discount the strong and diverse effort that Shonn Miller displayed.
This game was full of bright spots for the Huskies. The one performance a lot of people are going to overlook was the strong all-around display of skill by sophomore Daniel Hamilton. Although Hamilton was tied for most minutes spent on the court (27) with Gibbs, it’s reasonable to look down on his seven points. He played the most team-oriented basketball you could ask for.
Hamilton started his season with an emphatic three pointer to get the Huskies going, and nearly finished the game with a triple-double. He led the team in assists (nine) and was second in rebounds (nine) behind Miller. In the preseason, Hamilton was voted by many to be a first team all-AAC player, and he showed why on Friday night. His all-around ability and strong chemistry with the rest of the team could lead to him being the kind of dominant player that a lot of people saw flashes of during his Freshman of the Year campaign.
It’s hard to pick just one standout player from the Huskies dominant win against Maine, but I’ll go with Amida Brimah. We all know he’s an elite shot blocker, but watching him block nine shots – including one emphatic swat into the third row of seats – was something else. His nine-block performance was only one shy of the school record, shared by Hasheem Thabeet, Emeka Okafor and Donyell Marshall. That’s some pretty good company.
Brimah was efficient as well, posting 18 points on 7-8 shooting. He was even a perfect 4-4 at the line. He also looked vastly improved on the boards. While he only grabbed seven rebounds, he looked more aggressive on the glass. Brimah led the team with three offensive boards (tied with Kentan Facey), and didn’t need to do much on the other end thanks to the efforts of Shonn Miller and Daniel Hamilton.
If Brimah can have a similar impact against better opposition, he’ll have a massive year for the Huskies.