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Consistent play keeps evading Huskies

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published February 09. 2014 4:00AM

Prior to embarking on a two-game road trip, UConn coach Kevin Ollie spoke about the importance of establishing some consistency.

The Huskies appeared to be heading in the right direction, winning six of seven.

"We still want to get that consistency," Ollie said. "It can't be one night and then you revert back to playing average basketball. We want to be allergic to average. We want to play UConn basketball every night out."

No. 22 UConn failed to play its brand Thursday night in a 63-58 loss at No. 7 Cincinnati, the American Athletic Conference leader.

The Huskies (17-5, 5-4) will attempt to salvage a split of their road trip today, visiting slumping Central Florida (9-11, 1-8) at 6 p.m. (ESPN2) at the CFA Arena in Orlando, Fla.

Ollie was as upset as he's been all season after losing to the Bearcats. After a strong start, the Huskies stopped attacking and settled for too many jump shots, converting only 8 of 25 field goals in the second half and shooting 39 percent overall. They suffered defensive breakdowns during the game's crucial stages.

UConn goes from playing against the AAC's stingiest defense to one of the most generous tonight. The Knights, who've dropped a season-high seven straight, are allowing 77.4 points per game and AAC opponents to shoot 48.8 percent from the field.

The Huskies will be bolstered by the return of junior DeAndre Daniels to the starting lineup. He's expected to play after sitting out the last two games because of a high right ankle sprain and back spasms.

UConn's regular season title hopes realistically vanished with its loss at Cincinnati. The Huskies reside in fifth place at the midway point of the conference season, but have a great opportunity to improve their position over the next two games, hosting South Florida Wednesday after playing UCF.

In the first meeting with UCF this season, UConn seized control early and cruised to an 84-61 victory in Storrs on Jan. 11. Graduate student Lasan Kromah helped contain leading scorer Isaiah Sykes, who scored the bulk of his 17 points with the outcome basically decided.

Freshman center Amida Brimah had a career best performance, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Since that night, Brimah has scored just 33 points in the last six games.

Ollie is pushing for more consistency out his rotation of big men that includes Brimah, sophomore Phil Nolan, senior Tyler Olander and freshman Kentan Facey. They're only averaging a combined 11.3 points and 9.1 rebounds this season. They had just six points and seven rebounds versus Cincinnati.

"They've got to keep working," Ollie said. "They've got to keep a chip on their shoulder. There's no time to relax because as we got better, other teams' bigs got better.

"... They are improving. When you improve, you've got to improve each and every day. That's our mindset."

g.keefe@theday.com

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No. 22 UCONN at CENTRAL FLORIDA

Location: CFE Arena, Orlando, Fla.

Tip-off time: 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

Records: UConn 17-5, 5-4; Central Florida 9-11, 1-8

Last game: UConn lost at No. 7 Cincinnati, 63-58, Thursday; Central Florida lost to South Florida, 79-78 (OT), Wednesday

Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 sr. guard Shabazz Napier (17.8 pts, 5.6 assists, 5.9 rebs), 6-0 jr. guard Ryan Boatright (12.2 pts, 3.5 assists), 6-8 jr. forward DeAndre Daniels (13.4 pts, 5.6 rebs), 6-6 grad. forward Lasan Kromah (7.3 pts, 2.7 rebs), 7-foot fr. center Amida Brimah (4.1 pts, 3.0 rebs, 2.6 blks)

Central Florida, 6-0 fr. guard Brandon Goodwin (3.3 pts), 6-1 sr. guard Calvin Newell (11.5 pts), 6-6 sr. guard Isaiah Sykes (15.2 pts, 6.9 rebs), 6-8 sr. forward Tristan Spurlock (10.9 pts, 5.6 rebs), 6-9 so. forward Staphon Blair (4.4 pts, 3.3 rebs)

Noteworthy, Second stop in two-game road trip. … UConn 3-2 in last five games. … UCF lost seven straight. … Series: UConn leads, 4-1, winning 84-61 in first meeting this season on Jan. 11. Brimah had his best game with 20 pts, eight rebs and five blks. … Sykes leads team in scoring, rebounding and assists. … Top reserve: 6-7 jr. forward Kasey Wilson (10 pts, 5.8 rebs). … UConn 2-2 in AAC road games. … Injury update: Daniels (high ankle sprain, back spasms) expected to play. ... Hot: Niels Giffey shooting 53 percent (16-for-30) in last five games. Cold: Boatright hitting 35 percent (16-for-46) in last five games. … Napier needs four pts to move into 12th place on UConn's all-time scoring list. … Up next: UConn hosts South Florida Wednesday in Hartford.

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