John F. Silver
The faces on the sideline are also familiar. Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore was a top assistant to Jim Calhoun at UConn and assistant Scott Burrell was a teammate of Kevin Ollie’s when both were at UConn.
It’s fitting that the latest in-state matchup between the schools happens in the Virgin Islands. That will happen today when UConn and Quinnipiac play in the second round of the Paradise Jam at 9 p.m.
The Huskies are coming off a 77-71 win over Wake Forest in a game that was a coming out party for junior center Enosch Wolf. Perhaps the biggest development in UConn basketball during Friday’s game was the emergence of Wold. The 7-footer had scored only 11 points in his career and had only two points this season before exploding for 12 points and six rebounds against Wake Forest. It was an amazing performance from Wolf — who shot 5 of 6, was pressed into action after Tyler Olander got into foul trouble. If Wolf can be a player that will immensely help the size challenged Huskies. He’s a big body at 7-feet 260 pounds and can guard the rim on defense. Wolf also has a nice touch from the outside and any minutes he can give dramatically reshapes the roster.
The Huskies will play a Quinnipiac team that is 2-1 and coming off a wild 98-92 overtime win over Iona in the first round.
Here are three keys to a UConn win:
Attack the basket: Dual point guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are both two of the toughest players to contain in the Big East with their quickness. UConn has to attack to the basket with reckless abandon and pile up points like it did against Wake Forest from the foul line. The Huskies were 24 of 30 against Wake Forest from the foul line and Napier and Boatright were a big part of it. Napier didn’t shoot well and was 3 of 9 overall and 1 of 7 from 3-point range, but he also 9 of 10 from the free-throw line for 16 points. Boatright also struggled from the floor and was 3 of 7 and 0 for 3 from 3-point land. But, Boatright was 10 of 13 from the free-throw line and also had 16 points.
Is Wolf for real?: Enosch Wolf scored 12 points and had six rebounds. At 7-feet tall he could be looked on as a savior for the Huskies. He played out of necessity on Friday in the first extended action of his career. It was a remarkable performance. If Wolf can prove serviceable he provides size, rebounding and defending and could go a long way towards making the Huskies a much more complete team. The Huskies don’t expect a lot out of Wolf, but if they can get something out of him even approaching what he did on Friday the Huskies would do backflips. You can’t teach size, and Wolf has it.
Continue to build: The Huskies have played well under Ollie to start. The team is playing hard and at a fast pace and showing tremendous energy and determination. UConn has to close that out in the Virgin Islands today. The team is bonding and gelling together and it needs to build upon that today. The Huskies are still working out the kinks on offense and defense and rebounding remains an issue — UConn has been out-rebounded in all three wins this year — but one thing is certain is the team is responding to Ollie as a coach. The Huskies have to continue to do that as they build towards the Big East regular season.
Links from Paradise:
UConn Men: Ollie Shrugs Off Emotional Distractions, Focuses On Team Identity (Hartford Courant)