Just three games into the season, there has already been so much talk about the UConn’s depth. With an extremely talented roster that goes 11 players deep, coach Kevin Ollie has the tough task every game to manage everyone’s minutes while keeping everyone happy.
Ollie has used the first three games to try a variety of lineups, seeing which ones work and those that don’t.
On Saturday afternoon, the Huskies bench had its best game of the season, contributing 36 points, as the Huskies defeated the Furman Paladins, 83-58, in front of 8,190 at Gampel Pavilion.
“I think we did a good job with our bench and how deep we are can wear down on a team if we keep playing solid basketball,” Ollie said after the game.
Saturday’s game was dubbed a “mainland game,” and the first game for the Huskies in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The Huskies will travel to Paradise Island in the Bahamas on Monday to continue the tournament. They will take on Michigan Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m.
On Saturday afternoon, UConn (3-0) had 20 assists and just five turnovers, something that Ollie was extremely pleased with after the game.
The Huskies jumped out to a 7-0 lead; causing Furman head coach Niko Medved to call a timeout. It took a while for the Paladins to get in rhythm. Their first point came from a Kris Acox free throw 4:47 into the game. Their first field goal came from a three-pointer from freshman Matt Rafferty 6:30 in.
But by then, UConn was up 12-4. And then an 11-3 spurt extended the Huskies lead to 23-7. And the Huskies really never looked back.
Furman didn’t score its first two-point field goal until 3:34 left in the first half. Prior to that, all of their points were from three-pointers and foul shots.
“In fairness, I think they’re a team, like for us right now, that is difficult to score on, in the paint, with the big boy [Amida Brimah] in there,” Medved said. “We shot too many [threes] but at the same point in time I thought a lot of good shooters missed open shots today.”
Furman had five field goals, shooting 4 of 17 from three in the first half. UConn was 5 of 16 from three at the break.
Ten UConn players scored in the first half and the Huskies led 39-19 after a Sam Cassell Jr. three-pointer at the buzzer. No player had more than six points at the half.
The Paladins started the second half on an 8-4 run to cut the deficit to 16, forcing Ollie to call a timeout. But after that, freshman Jalen Adams scored five straight to get the lead back up to 21 points.
Furman (2-2) would never get closer than 15 points. Saturday’s game was Furman’s third game in five days.
“I’ll be honest, I thought we looked really tired,” Medved said.
Stephen Croone, a two-time All-Southern Conference pick, returned from a thumb injury in Furman’s last game on Nov. 19 against Charlotte to score 17 points, but he was held to four points on 1 of 9 shooting on Saturday.
“What we try to do each and every game is take away their commander. And we thought Croone was their commander and Rodney [Purvis] just took him completely out of the game,” Ollie said.
Shonn Miller led the Huskies with 18 points and seven rebounds. Adams finished with a career-high 14 points and Purvis scored 13 and added seven assists.
UConn faced a zone defense for the second straight game. The Huskies shot 11 of 30 from behind the arc and had 36 points in the paint. Purvis said they weren’t expecting Furman to play a zone defense.
“I don’t like 30 threes. I’m kind old school so I don’t like 30 threes,” Ollie said. “I think we need to attack a lot more and get to the free throw line a little more. I think we could have attacked a little more, played inside-out, but overall I think we played a good game but 30 threes is a little too much for me.”
Furman finished 10 of 36 from three. Rafferty led the Paladins in scoring with 15 points and nine rebounds. Geoff Beans scored 14.
“We knew we were going to have to make some three-point shots against this team to be successful,” Medved said.
Despite shooting 37 percent from three, the Huskies also had 36 points in the paint and shot 46 percent from the field. And Ollie really loves the 4-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.
“Solid basketball is not turning the ball over and getting high-percentage shots and we did that mostly all day,” Ollie said. “But, overall if I get 20 assists and five turnovers I can’t come in here [press conference] and complain.”