UConn men roll over Furman, now ready for the Bahamas
STORRS – And now it begins.
Technically, the UConn men’s basketball team started its season on Nov. 13 and currently holds a 3-0 record, including Saturday’s relatively easy, 83-58 triumph over Furman at Gampel Pavilion.
Its other victories, too, were against teams that are not exactly the titans of the college basketball world in Maine and New Hampshire. The Huskies’ soft beginning, though, is now over. Michigan is up on the schedule Wednesday at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, followed by a potential meeting with Syracuse on Thanksgiving, and another tough matchup on Friday depending how the results play out.
Maryland (at Madison Square Garden) and Ohio State (at Gampel) will then be awaiting the Huskies when they return to the United States.
“The trip is cool, most of us have never been to the Bahamas, but the main thing for us is getting out there, playing against some good teams and seeing where we're really at,” said Rodney Purvis, who had another strong game Saturday, finishing with 13 points (3-for-6 on threes) and seven assists.
At one point in the second half, it appeared UConn had one foot on the Gampel floor and the other on the famed Atlantis waterslide, letting Furman make a game of it for a few moments. The Huskies, though, were never in any danger. Their depth, an early season theme, was a major reason why.
Shonn Miller was no match in the paint for the Paladins, registering a game-high 18 points with seven rebounds and two steals. Freshman guard Jalen Adams came off the bench and scored 14 points to go along with six assists and two steals, and is looking more comfortable each game.
In all, 11 Huskies scored, and most importantly, they notched 20 assists to only five turnovers, a figure that thrilled their coach.
“I loved our assist to turnover ratio, 20 assists against just five turnovers was remarkable,” Kevin Ollie said. “We got a lot of positive things from everyone.”
Ollie was also pleased with Purvis’ defense, as the junior helped hold Stephen Croone to four points (1-of-9 shooting) and four turnovers. Croone entered the game averaging 17 points per contest.
“What we try to do every game is take away their commander, and we thought Croone was their commander,” Ollie said. “Rodney took him completely out of the game.”
“I know it starts with me,” noted Purvis. “I’m the guy who plays full court, picking up the guy for 94 feet. I just try to get it going from the defensive end and set the tone for the game.
"We were happy with our defensive pressure, our rebounds and getting out in transition."
Although it’s early in the season, a “championship” will be on the line in the Bahamas. Ollie made it clear that winning a “title” right now should not be the reason for his team to be motivated. Based off their start, in which they’ve outscored their opponents 268-180, it doesn’t look like the Huskies need a trophy for any inspiration.
“I just hope putting on this jersey brings out something in these guys,” Ollie said. “The juices should be flowing every night. It’s not like we’re coming off a national championship, we lost in the first round of the NIT.
“If you’re not hurting over last season, then something’s wrong with you. There should be a chip on your shoulder, because we don’t ever want that feeling ever again.”
The trip to the Bahamas would be a great time for the Huskies to erase those difficult memories of last season. The difficult part of this season is about to begin.