UConn destroys USF in anticipation of Memphis
HARTFORD – It would be easy to dismiss UConn’s 43-point win over South Florida Wednesday night as a nice walk in the park against an incredibly overmatched opponent.
Head coach Kevin Ollie did not take that outlook. Instead, he saw it as a near-perfect performance by his team.
“South Florida has some outstanding players,” Ollie kindly said following the Huskies’ 83-40 rout of the Bulls at the XL Center. “We just played a great game tonight and it was an off-game for them. I am very happy with my guys.”
All of Ollie’s guys scored, 12 of them in fact, led by DeAndre Daniels’ 12 points. Freshman Kentan Facey added a career-high 10 points and the walk-ons, Pat Lenehan and Nnamdi Amilo, even got in on the fun, scoring the first points of their respective careers.
It was that kind of night for the 24th-ranked Huskies, who met no resistance from USF.
“We came out and established (control) early,” Ollie said. “Our defense has been great the last four games. We have to keep this up.”
Amida Brimah set the tone with two early blocks and two alley-oop dunks as the Huskies quickly jumped out to an 8-0 lead, showing no signs of a letdown with Saturday’s showdown against Memphis on the horizon.
UConn (19-5, 7-4 AAC) later went on a 16-0 run and Daniels, showing no affects of his prior ailments, threw down a tomahawk dunk in transition to extend the score to an obscene 37-9 margin.
Somehow, it got even worse for the Bulls (12-13, 3-9 AAC).
Lasan Kromah (four points, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals, one block) drove the lane off an impressive crossover for a lay-up and a 41-14 lead. He then fed Daniels for a lay-up and finished off the half in style with a steal and dunk at the buzzer, giving the Huskies an insurmountable 31-point cushion.
The halftime numbers more resembled an early season contest against a mid-major than an actual conference game.
All nine players who saw action scored for UConn, led by Daniels’ 10 points, followed by Shabazz Napier with seven and Brimah and Ryan Boatright with six apiece. Martino Brock’s four points was tops on the Bulls, who shot a horrid 17.4 percent on 4-of-23 shooting. Their leading scorer Victor Rudd went scoreless in the half.
The Huskies shot 64 percent and blocked eight shots compared to USF’s one.
Omar Calhoun (concussion) and Tyler Olander (illness) both missed the game, but the freshmen duo of Facey and Terrence Samuel (career-high nine points) both filled in strongly with the extra minutes they saw.
“I enjoyed watching Terrence run the show,” Ollie said. “Kentan then came in and made his first shot and gave us a lot of energy. I tell the guys to be patient and to work while you wait. You will get the opportunity and tonight they got it and made the most of it.”
Facey, averaging only 5.9 minutes in 14 games entering the night, admits the wait for playing time has been hard.
“It was a little frustrating at first,” Facey said. “But after time, you realize your goals are the same as the team and that is to win. That is the ultimate goal. Knowing that has helped me and I keep working hard to be ready when needed.”
And that work has especially shown on the boards. Facey had four on Wednesday to go along with one nine-rebound game and two others with seven.
“That is something I can control when I’m in,” Facey said. "When I go in, I crash the boards and go as hard as I can after them.”
The lone intriguing storyline in the second half was if Boatright would reach the 1,000-point plateau for his career. He finished only one point short, coming out with 11 minutes left and the game, obviously, well in hand.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Boatright will hit that number Saturday at home against Memphis. UConn won by 10 over Memphis on Jan. 16 and the Tigers are currently a half-game ahead of UConn in the American Athletic Conference standings.
“We beat them on their home court and they are going to come in with revenge on their mind,” said Ollie, whose team has won its last three home games by a combined 253-149 score. “We have to keep this momentum going. I tell the guys to bring their locks. That’s our motto now - we want to be on lockdown defense.”
The Huskies will need to be against Memphis. It will hardly be a walk in the park like it was on Wednesday.