The UConn Huskies opened the 2015-16 season with a, 100-56, dismantling of the visiting Black Bears of Maine Friday night before a sellout crowd at the Gampel Pavilion on the Storrs campus. After a sluggish first half the Huskies unleashed a 35-4 run over the first ten minutes of the second effectively putting the game away. Newcomer Sterling Gibbs led four players in double figures and UConn Coach Kevin Ollie displayed his team’s depth with nine players seeing thirteen minutes or more of playing time.
Gibbs led all scorers with 20 points, with fellow newcomer Shonn Miller registering a double-double (17 pts, 10 rebs) and Amida Brimah adding 18. Rodney Purvis rounded the top four scorers with ten.
UConn (1-0), ranked 20th in the preseason AP poll, never trailed in this one and looked like it might put the game away midway through the first taking an eleven point lead just over ten minutes in and extending the lead to nineteen on a pair of Omar Calhoun (8 pts) free throws at the 4:14 mark.
“I think we started off the game really well”, said Miller, “Kind of got into a lull towards the end of the first half and reestablished ourselves after the half. We knew could play better. It was just a matter of playing selfless basketball.”
With the game seemingly in control in the first half, the Huskies took their foot off the gas and Maine (0-1) answered with a 9-2 run trimming the Huskies lead to, 42-30, heading into the locker room. During the run Maine shot four of five, attacking UConn in the paint, while the Huskies settled on the perimeter, shooting one of eight from the floor and missing all six of the their three point attempts.
“We shot too many three’s in the first half”, said Ollie.
The second half was a different story. UConn came right out of the gate taking their offense right to the Black Bear defense with Brimah scoring eight of UConn’s first nine points of the half, with three dunks and a pair of foul shots. The Huskies opened the second on an 11-0 run and tacked on another 16-1 run before ten minutes had gone by. What was a 12 point lead at the half mushroomed into a 42 point lead, 76-34, with 10:12 left to go.
On the difference coming out of the half, Ollie said, “We settled (down). We started getting to the free throw line. We had one turnover in the second half. Good basketball. I think they refocused after halftime and came out and played a great unselfish game.”
A dunk by Miller gave UConn its’ biggest lead, 88-37, with just over seven minutes to go before eventually settling for the 44 point margin of victory.
Maine Head Coach Bob Walsh was impressed with the Huskies effort saying, “I thought (UConn) played really well together. I thought they played really hard defensively. I grew up on the Big East as an assistant at Providence and they have led the country in blocked shots and have had a defensive philosophy where they have a goalie back there and funnel the ball in there with their pressure and they’re great at it.”
UConn continues the three game home stand, hosting New Hampshire Tuesday night in Storrs. Tip time is 7 p.m.