For newly minted UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie this week has been about the numbers. He turned the big 4-0 this past Thursday. He officially signed a five year, $7 million contract and his Huskies notched their 10th win of the season with a 61-53 win over the Washington Huskies (8-5) winning their final tune up as they prepare to open BIG EAST play against Marquette on New Year’s Day.
It was a combination of strong play from the UConn (10-2) back court and a solid contribution from 7’1” center Enosch Wolf that gave the Huskies the win heading into the rigger of conference play. Guards Omar Calhoun (14 pts), Shabazz Napier (13 pts, 8 rbs) and Ryan Boatright (12 pts) all hit for double figures with Wolf hauling in nine rebounds as the Huskies outrebounded an opponent for only the second time this season. UConn came in ranked 323rd nationally in rebounding posting a -6.4 rebounding margin over the first eleven games.
The first half was a seesaw affair as the teams combined for eight lead changes and two ties before a pair of Napier foul shots put UConn up for good, 25-24, with 3:57 left in the first half. Neither team hit a bucket the rest of the way with free throws accounting for the scoring as UConn took a 31-26 lead into the half.
Punches and counter punches
Ollie’s Huskies jumped all over Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies right out of the half hitting Washington with a 6-0 run giving UConn its biggest lead of the game, 38-26, just over two minutes in. A Calhoun layup with just over fifteen to play gave UConn its’ biggest lead 44-30 as it looked like the host Huskies were getting ready to run away with the game. But, Romar’s Huskies turned up the perimeter defense and the Ollie’s squad got erratic letting Washington make a game of it.
Six turnovers over a seven minute stretch let Washington creep back within four 48-44 with just over eight to play. Then, it was UConn’s turn to apply the defensive pressure holding Washington to just one point while stretching the lead back out to a dozen with just over two to go. Wolf hauled in three big defensive rebounds during the critical six minute stretch.
Ollie inks the deal
Kevin Ollie, who became UConn’s 18th head coach signing a seven month contract in September, was finally rewarded with a much deserved five year, $7 million contract that will keep him on the sidelines until 2018. Not only did he have the pressure of heading a high profile program like UConn and taking the reins from Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun, he had to prove day in and day out that he was right for the job. But good fall semester grades from the players, a ‘thumbs up’ from Athletic Director Warde Manuel and UConn President Susan Herbst and strong backing from Calhoun himself all played a part in Ollie’s new deal.
“It’s a dream come true for me” said Ollie
UConn opens BIG EAST play on New Year’s Day, traveling to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI for an 8 p.m. conference opener with the Golden Eagles of Marquette (9-3).