STORRS – There are many reasons for Kevin Ollie to be pleased these days.
“We’ve been doing a good job with that,” Ollie said, after UConn’s practice Friday. “Especially Tyler [Olander], our guards coming in … Omar [Calhoun] getting six rebounds. And we’ve finally got a guy over 5.0, DeAndre [Daniels]. So we’re moving in the right direction.”
Daniels, 6-foot-8, is averaging 5.0 rebounds, and 5.6 in Big East games.
“He’s going and getting the basketball,” Ollie said. “He’s making it a ‘must’ instead of a ‘should.’”
(Yes, note the new Ollie-ism.)
The Huskies, who were mauled on the boards most of the nonconference season, are getting out-rebounded by 2.6 per game in the Big East, but take out the aberration at Providence, where they won despite being outrebounded 54 to 23, and they are plus 0.5 in the other 10 league games.
“Coach Ollie talks to me about that all the time,” Daniels said, “we’re at our best when we’re rebounding well.”
Villanova, plus 4.1 for the entire season, is one of the better rebounding teams in the Big East. The ‘Cats have grabbed 77 more defensive rebounds than their opponents.
There were about 2,000 tickets left for this game, as of 4 p.m. Friday. Go to the Huskies website or the XL box office for info.
The Huskies hosted kids from the Newington Travel Basketball program at practice, fifth- through eighth graders, visiting and signing posters after practice.
With Enosch Wolf out, Phil Nolan played 14 minutes against Syracuse. Ollie also used a lot of Niels Giffey and Daniels in the front court together, a smaller, quicker lineup. “We’re thin,’” Ollie said, “so everything is an option for me. You might see some of Leon [Tolksdorf] at the five. Seriously.”
After seeing a lot of zone, especially against Syracuse, Seton Hall, St. John’s, the Huskies figure to see much more man-to-man against Villanova. “They pose a different challenge,” Ollie said. “We haven’t seen man to man in I don’t know how long.”
‘Nova’s guards are big, and most UConn opponents have bigger guards than Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. But it never seems to stop them. “I’ve always been the littlest guy on the court,” Napier said. “I find ways to get around guys.”
Boatright said playing against his father and grandfather as a kid taught him to get around bigger players. “I’ve been small all my life,” he said. I’m planning to write more on this for the Saturday Courant, so check the main website later.