As the UConn men’s basketball team entered the final minutes of their season opener against Colgate, the Huskies were only up by five and the Raiders had just stolen the momentum with back-to-back 3-point daggers. Haunted by their first-ever loss in a season opener at Gampel last year, UConn couldn’t afford to lose another.
But then Terry Larrier happened.
“I was excited, I was happy,” said Larrier, who led the Huskies with a career-high 27 points. “The atmosphere was great, it really had me pumped up.”
Larrier scored seven straight points in the span of one minute when UConn needed it most to secure the victory. That was the story of tonight’s 70-58 win—UConn got down, and Larrier stepped up.
“He was just comfortable all night. He’s a great 2-point shooter,” head coach Kevin Ollie said. “I think Terry tonight knew exactly where his spots were, where he could make shots, and he got there, he took it with poise and he was confident, and he looked pretty good doing it. And I was very proud of him, not really playing for two years, to come out and have this performance when we really need it when one of our players (Jalen Adams) was out.”
This is essentially take three at UConn for Larrier; he sat out two years ago due to NCAA transfer rules, and an ACL tear just four games into the 2016-17 campaign once again cut his season short. He reached double-figures in each of his first three games last season, but came out hungry Friday night.
“Sitting out those two years, I waited long. It was all just motivation to me,” Larrier said. “It fired me up, I got some easy baskets early and just continued to keep scoring.”
Larrier put on a show from all over the floor—he went 3-for-4 from 3-point range and 11-for-18 from the floor. His step back and ability to sink mid-range jumpers while also operating out of the low post was something Ollie was more than impressed with.
“He has a great jab step, and when he has space, he can pretty much shoot over anybody,” Ollie said. “He’s going to be playing a guy that’s probably gonna have the foot speed to stay with him, and he can get in that sweet spot. All the great players—you know, not comparing him to anybody—they’re always able to get to their spots.”
Newcomers young and old make a big impact
Every player, with the exception of Adams and Christian Vital, has not played a full season at UConn. Some, like true freshman Isaiah Whaley and Eric Cobb, have never played a collegiate game; others, like graduate transfer Antwoine Anderson, have had three full seasons of experience.
Anderson, Whaley and Cobb got a significant amount of playing time Friday—Anderson played 30 minutes, Whaley played 15 and Cobb played 16—and both were able to shine in different ways. Anderson was the next leading scorer behind Larrier with 12 points, Cobb led the team in rebounds with eight and Whaley brought the energy.
“Cobb did an amazing job on the backboards, getting eight rebounds. Didn’t even score, but on the bench, he was fabulous, and that’s what we gotta keep doing,” Ollie said. “Antwoine played great, too. Calmed us down, got us in sets, got the ball to the right person each and every time. He’s going to be a great asset for us too.”
“Isaiah, that’s what he does. He brings juice,” Ollie added. “When we put him in the second half, he kept dunking, he got blocks, he almost got a steal—I think he did get a steal—on one of their guards. That’s what the kid do. He’s just straight energy.”
Jalen sits out
Adams was suspended for the season opener following a misdemeanor summons charge after leaving the scene of a scooter accident on Thursday. Ollie suspended Adams for the team’s Friday practice as well, but he thought Adams “handled the suspension well” following Friday’s win.
“I thought he was on the bench, engaged. I thought he was being a point guard like he is, leading his team,” Ollie. “He was coming over to the huddles, he was talking to everybody. He could have been moping, I don’t think he was moping. I think he held up very well and that’s going to go in a part of my evaluation.”
Adams said it was tough having to sit on the bench and watch, but it was “a great learning experience” for him. It is still undetermined whether he will get the start on Tuesday against Stony Brook.
“We’re putting this behind us,” Adams said. “I know I gotta learn from my mistakes and we’re just moving forward from here.”