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A time of reflection for UConn, Ollie

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published February 10. 2013 4:00AM

With a blizzard in the forecast, UConn coach Kevin Ollie hunkered down inside in the days leading up to the big storm.

Ollie had other pressing issues on his mind. He focused on trying to find a solution to his team's issues.

"In a snowstorm you've got an opportunity to look at a lot of stuff," Ollie said Friday. "I'm sitting here going through all the stats."

Of course, the blizzard also created issues for the Huskies who were forced to alter their travel plans to Newark, N.J., where they play Seton Hall at noon today at the Prudential Center. They finally left at 7 Saturday night.

Ollie has his share of concerns heading into today's Big East road game. He stayed up until 3 a.m. to watch videotape after returning from a 71-65 road loss to St. John's on Wednesday.

A few things jumped out at him.

"We shoot too many 3s," Ollie said. "We need to attack the basket. ? Last game against St. John's we missed 17 layups. That's unbelievable. We have to convert on some of those easy buckets around the rim."

Statistics certainly back Ollie up.

In the last two games, the Huskies (15-6, 5-4) suffered through their worst offensive stretch this season. They've shot a combined 30 percent overall due in part to shot selection - 45 percent of their field goal attempts came from 3-point range.

Instead of attacking zones, they've settled for perimeter shots. Guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are two of the biggest offenders, with only two of their 15 made field goals from inside the 3-point arc in the last two games.

Not having any reliable inside scoring presence hasn't helped.

The Huskies have been particularly dreadful in the first half of the last two games, trailing by double digits against both St. John's (11) and South Florida (12) while shooting a combined 13-for-61 from the field, or 21.3 percent.

Following the St. John's game, Ollie talked about making some changes, but he didn't mean personnel-wise. He was referring to the team's mindset.

"We can't shoot close to 30 percent and expect to win consistently in the Big East," Ollie said. "It's just a mindset and it's just confidence. It's coming up with some new plays in the zone and it's just attacking and believing that you can make those shots. ? That's what it all comes down to."

Ollie also pointed out positives, including his team's free throw shooting percentage and stingy defense that have enabled the Huskies to stay in games despite their offensive struggles.

Today they're playing a struggling Seton Hall (13-10, 2-8), which has lost eight of nine. The Pirates might be without leading scorer Fuquan Edwin, who's considered questionable due to a sprained ankle. Edwin suffered the injury in a 10-point loss at Pittsburgh on Monday.

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard has seen his team make progress recently.

"We've been playing a little bit better of late," Willard said. "We haven't been winning games. ? But we've been giving ourselves a better chance against very good teams. Obviously, we're going into a tough matchup Sunday. Kevin Ollie is doing a terrific job for UConn."

UConn has feasted on teams with losing league records, winning all four games in those situations.

The Huskies have won 12 of the last 13 in the series, but lost last season in Newark.

"They're 2-8 in league but they played Pitt very, very tough," Ollie said. "I know they're a good team. ? They're 2-8, but could be easily 8-2. It comes down to possessions and they haven't been doing a good job in possessions late in the game.

"It is a dangerous, dangerous team. I just don't want them to start rolling on our watch. So we want to come in there and play very hard. ? Hopefully, we can come out with a win and get back on the winning track."

g.keefe@theday.com

 

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UConn at Seton Hall

Location: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

Tip-off time: noon (SNY)

Records: UConn 15-6, 5-4; Seton Hall 13-10, 2-8

Last game: UConn lost at St. John's, 71-65, Wednesday; Seton Hall lost at Pittsburgh, 56-46, Monday

Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 jr. guard Shabazz Napier (17.0 pts. 4.3 rebs, 4.1 assists), 6-0 so. guard Ryan Boatright (15.6 pts, 4.6 assists), 6-5 fr. guard Omar Calhoun (11.1 pts, 3.3 rebs), 6-8 so. forward DeAndre Daniels (10.9 pts, 4.9 rebs), 6-9 jr. forward Tyler Olander (4.5 pts, 3.8 rebs)

Seton Hall, 6-1 fr. guard Tom Maayan (2.4 pts), 6-6 jr. guard Faquan Edwin (16.9 pts, 5.9 rebs), 6-5 so. forward Haralds Karlis (3.1 pts), 6-9 so. forward Brandon Mobley (9.0 pts, 5.7 rebs), 6-9 jr. center Eugene Teague (11.5 pts, 7.7 rebs)

Noteworthy: Edwin, Seton Hall's best player, questionable with a sprained ankle suffered vs. Pitt. ... Series: UConn leads, 43-19, winning 12 of the last 13 games but dropping 75-63 decision Jan. 2012 in last trip to Newark. ... Top reserve: guard Aaron Crosby (11.6 pts). ... Pirates lost four straight. ? Seton Hall's only two Big East wins versus South Florida and DePaul. ... Four of UConn's five BE wins against teams with losing league records. ... Hot: Huskies converting 83 percent from foul line in last 10 minutes of games plus OT. Cold: UConn shooting 30 percent in last two games. ... Boatright coming off season-low five points vs. St. John's. ... Slow starts have hurt Huskies who've trailed by double digits at half in two straight games. ... Up next: UConn begins a three-game home-stand Wednesday, hosting Syracuse in Hartford.

- Gavin Keefe

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