Well, that wasn't what we expected to happen.
In their first live action of the 2014-'15 season, UConn held on to defeat Southern Connecticut State by a final score of 70-62.
It was supposed to be a laugher, a way to start the title defense on a high note. SCSU did not get the memo.
"That's why they call it an exhibition. We'll get better from it and make sure we come out and play a little harder. We got the first one out of the way and we'll just keep building forward," coach Kevin Ollie said.
Both teams came out flat to start the game, especially shooting the ball. Neither team broke double digits in points until 10:57 in the first half. UConn would only shoot 37% for the game.
Ollie was not concerned about UConn's shooting struggles.
"We're not worrying about anybody's shots right now. The only thing we're worrying about is bringing energy...I'm not worrying about the shooting right now," he said.
Behind 10 points from Desmond Williams, SCSU led UConn 32-29 at the intermission.
SCSU, rated No. 2 in Division II, returned 10 players from last year's team, which finished 30-3 and reached the Elite Eight in the D2 National Tournament.
Their strategy was apparent early on- shoot the three. The Owls launched 36 three pointers during the game, making just nine. Until the last 10 minutes, SCSU was able to consistently hit threes to keep UConn from running away with the game.
"That's a good, solid team. They played hard, they're well coached...They're not a Division II team, that's just what it says. They're going to beat a lot of Division 1 teams," Ollie said.
In the second half, UConn began to round into form. The action started early, with freshman Daniel Hamilton lobbing up an alley-oop to Brimah that got the confused Gampel Pavilion student section on their feet. Soon after, Ryan Boatright hit a pair of three pointers to give the Huskies a 37-34 lead.
Sophomore center Amida Brimah, who struggled all of last season with foul trouble, was unable to stay on the court in the first half- which is a shame because his presence on the floor dramatically influenced the game. He would finish with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks. His 4 fouls limited him to just 20 minutes of actions.
Boatright, the senior captain, was optimistic following the game.
"I see the potential we have. We can be a great team. We just have to clean a lot of stuff up," he said.
Although the Huskies played much better in the second half, they were far from perfect. UConn committed 21 turnovers, leading to 16 points for SCSU. They allowed 13 offensive rebounds, which translated to 14 second chance points for the Owls.
"It was a grind. It was ugly. It was definitely an ugly win," Boatright said.
Daniel Hamilton shined for the Huskies throughout his first game in a Husky uniform. Hamilton showed a strong all-around game, finishing with 4 points, 9 rebounds and a team-high 4 assists.
For Sam Cassell Jr. was the star of the night- exhibiting the kind of confidence you'd expect from a son of an NBA player. He was able to stretch the defense tonight as a legitimate outside threat, finishing with 17 points on the night.
"It comes from watching my father play all the time. I know how to pick different spots on the floor and my teammates get me open," Cassell Jr said.
Not all making their UConn debut had a good night. Rodney Purvis, the junior transfer, struggled shooting all night. He finished 2-12 from the field, for 7 points.
Although the shot wasn't falling, Purvis looked comfortable on the floor. He's tremendously athletic and was getting good looks at the basket, he just couldn't get them to fall. This feels like an aberration. Purvis should be fine.
Ollie said he felt the same way.
"We want Rodney to play at a Level-5 defensively and bring energy and his shots will come," he said.
The Huskies were truly challenged tonight by a team that was not intimidated. UConn trailed as late 12:16 in the second half.
Eventually, UConn's talent overcame the Owls, but they had to fight for this win tonight.
Luckily for the Huskies, tonight's contest was just an exhibition. They cannot enter the season this sloppy. Chalk it up to rust and move forward.