***HALFTIME: UConn 28, USF 24***
This was not a particularly artful first half, but UConn has gotten the job done.
For much of the opening 20 minutes, the offense was MIA. Thankfully, the rebounding effort was fantastic. The Huskies grabbed 8 offensive rebounds, leading to 14 second chance points. In a game where the two sides have combined to shoot 23-55, whichever side makes the hustle plays is going to triumph.
Center Amida Brimah has made a big impact so far, on both ends. Defensively, he's been all over the place and made a play I have never seen before. Because Amida still struggles to you know, stand up, he fell after blocking a shot. The shot was recovered by USF and immediately put back up. Brimah sprung up off the ground to swat the attempt away. What an athlete. He finished the half with 6 points, 5 boards and 3 blocks.
Late in the half, UConn got a nice shooting boost from their bench. Omar Calhoun, Rakim Lubin and Sam Cassell Jr combined for 12 points, turning around a weak offensive effort from the starters.
Going forward, UConn just needs to continue their high pressure defense. USF simply doesn't have the offensive talent to break down the Husky defense. Offensively, keep the effort level high and continue to work for open shots. UConn has a chance to turn this game into a laugher in the second half. Just have to put the foot on the gas.
The University of Connecticut, coming off their most important win of the season, look to make it two in a row as they head to Tampa Bay to take on the University of South Florida.
UConn enters tonight's game at 7-5 and are looking for their first victory in the American Athletic Conference. In their last game, UConn rallied from a double digit second half deficit to defeat the Florida Gators. In what has at times has looked like a year from hell, the Huskies' ability to comeback was an overwhelmingly positive sign.
As for the Bulls, this is a year of new beginnings. First year head coach Orlando Antigua is in the process of overhauling the program. A former assistant of John Calipari at Kentucky, Antigua has USF playing competitive ball. This season, they sit at 7-8. Like UConn, USF dropped their AAC season opener.
USF is led by senior guard Corey Allen Jr.. He's averaging over 15 points per game. All season, the lead guards have given UConn fits. With Ryan Boatright still not 100%, expect Allen to at least match his averages. The Bulls are averaging just under 68 points per game as a team, which fits right into UConn's wheelhouse. The Huskies have played their typical stout defense, and USF lacks deep firepower.
This is a major opportunity for UConn. Finishing their two game Florida swing 2-0 would be a big momentum boost into the conference portion of the schedule. Against the Gators, UConn got strong contributions all across the roster. With Boatright still banged up, the supporting cast needs to come through again. Look out for another big Omar Calhoun game. With the way Sam Cassell Jr has struggled to make an impact, Calhoun has reemerged to steal his minutes. As Calhoun's body continues to acclimate to high level competition, his impact will only grow.
UConn and USF square off down in Tampa Bay. The game will be shown on ESPN 2 at 7 pm.
Also, here's a quick Q&A with our friends at VoodooFive:
Your answer was brilliant, but to avoid copying you I'll pick someone other than USF. I'll say UCF, because I think their fans would be hilarious if they were once again in a worse conference than the Bulls despite doing absolutely nothing to deserve the demotion.
Follow me on Twitter @ElanDeCarlo for my updates, and check back here at The UConn Blog at halftime and after the game for in depth coverage from our staff.