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Game Thread: UConn vs South Florida, TV: ESPN2 at 7 pm

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The Huskies look to stay hot down in Florida, take on the Bulls in an AAC clash

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

***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:

1. Tell us about your new coach Steve Mas-- er-- Orland-- actually on second thought, can you tell us how it felt to watch USF hire someone without a college degree to be the head coach, and how do you get excited about a different guy a few days later?

It was pretty ridiculous at first, especially because it seemed like the Most USF Thing Ever in an era when we were trying to be done with doing USF Things. After the fact, I actually think that most people are pretty okay with how things turned out. For the first part, it seems like the issue was actually on Masiello and that the university actually did their due diligence in spotting it. As for Antigua, he actually seems like a really good hire for what's been a pretty dormant program. He's been John Calipari's right hand man and recruiter for some time now, and has already begun to upgrade the Bulls' recruiting. As for whether he's better than Masiello... no idea, but it's safe to say most Bulls fans are pretty smitten with Antigua right now.

2. I had a chance to see and hear Orlando Antigua at AAC Media Days. He seems like a huge, enthusiastic dude. What are the preliminary thoughts on Antigua so far in USF-land?

I really think he's done as well as he could possibly do thus far. USF fans-- and I'm sure you guys can sympathize-- are getting a little tired of the "wait and see" attitude after the football program has turned into a dumpster fire in a dumpster fire conference, but this seems like a situation where it's actually applicable. More than half the roster (seriously!) transferred out after Stan Heath was fired, so most of this roster is in their first year of D-I basketball. Given that, I'm fairly happy with what Antigua's done. He's got the team playing entertaining basketball, working hard every game, and is doing a great job on the recruiting trail, which is all we can ask for at this point

3. Let's say you black out and regain consciousness 24 hours from now and I tell you USF won. How would you guess it happened?

Aliens. Alternately, I think USF has to avoid getting trapped in a half court game with UConn, or they'll get totally stifled by the Huskies' D. I think they need to hold their ground down low (unlikely) and not let UConn get easy baskets, and force some turnovers and get some transition buckets. Having a pulse from three would also help.

4. What would be your ideal, realistic outcome for USF this season?

Thankfully, the bottom half of the AAC is total butt in basketball, so there are plenty of wins to be has for the Bulls even if they're not playing all that well. I'd just like to see some of the young players progress and hope that they can steal a win or two against the upper tier teams. Putting a win-loss expectation on this team is probably unfair.

5. How's your football recruiting class shaping up?

This is a sensitive topic, because recruiting dominance over the AAC is really the only thing USF's had going for it the past few seasons. This class isn't shaping up nearly as strong as Taggart's first one, which makes sense, but it's still pretty decent and is probably up there with Cincy and UCF as far as the AAC goes. I still happen to think that the Taggart era is about to crash and burn no matter what players he brings in, but hopefully there are some decent athletes in place for the next guy up.

6. I'll ask you the same question you asked me, who would you kick out of the AAC?

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.