John F. Silver
Even when UConn has had great teams — teams that won a national championship — Providence has given the Huskies a problem.
These games are always close and always wild and tonight when the Huskies travel down to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center it won’t be anything different than usual. UConn plays at Providence in a game that has brought plenty of drama, angst and a bit of controversy over the years.
UConn (13-5, 3-3) takes on the Friars (10-10, 2-6) in what will be Kevin Ollie’s first game as head coach in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Now, the Dunk is hardly a place that elicits nostalgia but it is the scene of one of Ollie’s most famous baskets.
His last second shot in a game 19 years ago helped UConn to a 79-78 win, in a game where his former teammate and good friend Donny Marshall got a technical for clapping sarcastically. It was Ollie’s only basket of the game, but it is one he remembers almost 20 years later and after 13 NBA seasons.
“It was an unfortunate thing that happened and Donny’s emotions got the best of him,” Ollie reminisced on Wednesday. “He started clapping, and Jim Burr (actually John Cahill) or somebody, and that’s the wrong person to clap too. That was my only field goal of the game, that layup, good memories.
“I remember saving Donny’s life.”
The Huskies will head to Providence trying to avoid those kind of pitfalls that have caused UConn to incredibly lose six straight games at the arena. the Huskies are only 16-14 all-time at Providence despite the dominance UConn has mustered over the past 20 years over everyone else in the league.
This year’s Providence team has some talent but has yet to put it all together despite a banner recruiting class coming in. The Friars feature the Big East’s leading scorer in Bryce Cotton at 21.7 points per game with 6-10 forward Kadeem Batts adding 14.1 points per game seven rebounds and forward LaDontae Henton adding 14.2 points per game.
The Friars also have a familiar local face in the backcourt with former New London (Conn.) High star Kris Dunn returning from injury just to get back into the swing of things. Providence remains dangerous, having taken out giant-slayer Villanova before losing at Marquette on Saturday.
The Friars have had injury and roster issues this season, but remain talented in Ed Cooley’s second season at the helm.
The Huskies lost last year at Providence blowing a 14-point second half lead in one of the more puzzling losses in a disappointing season.
“Last year we just didn’t play well,” UConn guard Shabazz Napier said. “We were winning the whole game and we just kind of gave them the game at the end.”
Providence hardly paradise (Journal Inquirer)