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Men's Basketball Notebook: Ollie and Huskies find success through failure

By Mike Peng
On April 3, 2014

  • UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and Florida head coach Billy Donovan fields questions from the media during Thursday's press conference at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas - If anyone said UConn could be a Final Four team after the March 8 loss at Louisville, scoffs and laughter may have ensued.

After all, there are no adjectives of championship-caliber could be used to describe a team that just lost a game by 33 points. The Huskies, however, managed to turn that into a motivation.

"I think that through struggle, you get progression, and that [loss] was a struggle for us," UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. "We were looking at it as a possibility for us to get better as a team."

Six wins out of seven tries later, the Huskies stand as one of the last four teams remaining at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Now with hopes of bringing back a fourth national championship to Storrs, UConn first draws the No. 1 team in the country in Florida, who hasn't lost in 30 straight games.

By now, Shabazz Napier's buzzer-beater over the Gators has been shown over every media outlet and the storyline of UConn being the last team to beat Billy Donovan's squad has been written on every page.

For Ollie and the Huskies though, that win carries little to no meanings for this weekend.

"It hasn't done anything," Ollie said. "Coming out with the victory, that's four months ago. They had a different team. We're a different team."

The Gators were without Kasey Hill and Chris Walker, with the former out with an ankle injury and the latter sitting due to a suspension. Senior guard Scottie Wilbekin also sat out the final three minutes of the game with a twisted ankle as well.

What Ollie hoped his player could learn from that game, however, is the intensity that Florida brings.

"It really helped going forward playing against a different scheme and playing against a pressure that they apply each and every play," Ollie said. "It really allowed our team to understand what level we have to play and compete to ultimately get to a Final Four.

"I just wanted our guys to see how we were rotating, how we were playing, how we were challenging them and that they can have that same experience again and play that same type of way."

The Huskies look to become the first team to beat the Gators twice in one season since Tennessee during the 2011-12 season when they face off in the national semifinals on Saturday at 6:09 p.m.

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