Men's Basketball: No. 12 Huskies take on Maine before break for exams
Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013 23:12
Coming off a thrilling 65-64 win over No. 15 Florida on Monday, UConn will play its last game before going on a 12-day break for final exams. The No. 12 Huskies (8-0) will host the Maine Black Bears (1-6) when they square off at the XL Center on Friday at 7 p.m.
This series dates back to the 1921-22 season, when both teams were in the Yankee Conference. Since then, the two sides have met 98 times. UConn has won 82 of those meetings, including the last 11, dating back to 1978.
This version of the Black Bears is led by guards Dimitry Akanda-Coronel and Xavier Pollard, who are averaging 16.1 and 15.8 points per game, respectively.
“They got some capable players over there,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “They got four guys in double digits so we’ve got to be on our game.”
Despite a 31.3 shooting percentage by Maine from beyond the arc, Ollie said the defensive focus would still be on the 3-point line.
“That’s one thing I’m concerned about, especially when you playing a mid-major team,” Ollie said. “They can get hot from 3 so we are going to have to keep doing a good job with getting their shooters off the 3-point line and control the backboards and make it an ‘us’ game.”
Maine has been outrebounded by its opponents by nearly 11 rebounds per game, but UConn is coming into the game ranked below No. 200 in the nation in that category.
Offensively, the Huskies are led by senior guard Shabazz Napier, who is averaging team-highs of 16.4 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists per game. DeAndre Daniels follows with 13.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg.
Napier scored a game-high 26 points, including the game-winner on Monday, but Ollie wants the players to remain focused after the big win.
“Like I tell them all the time, don’t get drunk off our success,” Ollie said. “Don’t start reading your press clippings. … You’ve got to keep working hard. You’ve got to come in and prepare like you’re playing Florida again. That’s how you’ve got to play.”
UConn has had some trouble closing out games when holding onto large leads so far this season; three of the team’s eight wins have been decided by just one point and another one was won by two.
“I’d like to get some more double-digit wins,” Ollie said. “I don’t like them as close as they are, I’d like to improve on when we do get a lead, we can sustain the lead.”
Ollie will also see a familiar face in the Black Bears’ 10th-year head coach, Ted Woodward, who served under former head coach Jim Calhoun from 1986-89. Ollie said he is “very fond” of Woodward.
“He’s part of the family,” Ollie said. “I know he’s on the other side now. He’s going to be coaching our opponents, but he’s still part of the family. It’s just great to see him and hopefully he can turn this around, after Friday, though.”
Friday’s meeting marks the 18th time UConn will play against one of Calhoun’s former assistant coaches. The Huskies have won each of the past 17 occasions and are 3-0 against Woodward’s Black Bears.