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Film Review: UConn Men's Basketball Over Tulane

What have we learned from the second game with Kevin Ollie's new starting lineup?

Ian Bethune

The UConn Huskies had a quick turnaround following a win in Houston on Sunday, hosting Tulane at the XL Center on Tuesday night. UConn coughed up a 19-point lead against the Green Wave when the teams met on Jan. 2 but this time, at home the Huskies jumped up early and cruised to a 60-42 win.

UConn will head into Saturday's matinee with Georgetown with a 13-5 record overall and 4-2 in the American Athletic Conference. After watching the tape again, here are some notes on the Huskies' performance.

Miller Time

We have noted before that good things happen when Shonn Miller gets the ball. On Tuesday night, Miller was the best player on the floor. The fifth-year senior not only scored a game-high 18 points, but also matched Kentan Facey with a game-high seven boards, adding a pair of assists and a block.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that someone with the brains to play at Cornell has a great feel for the game. He finished through contact, including a pretty flush plus the foul on a nice dish from Rodney Purvis in transition which helped spark an early 8-0 run. He was efficient in the half court, knocking down a pair of baseline jumpers as well as a tough turnaround over the much bigger Dylan Osetkowski.

The Huskies routinely used Miller as their high-ball-screen man, capitalizing on his ability to roll or pop. Known more as an inside scorer, Miller was proficient on the perimeter. Twice he made nice moves to the rim from beyond the 3-point line- €”wisely using only a single dribble on the first move and a dribble into a spin dribble on the second, never giving the Green Wave guards a chance to swipe at the rock.

Sensing he had the defense on its heels in the second half, the senior used a dribble pull-up jumper to score his final bucket of the game. Miller also showcased some savvy passing skills, twice burning the Tulane defense with well-timed big-to-big connections setting up easy buckets for Facey and Phil Nolan.

Bench Play

Ollie went with an eight-man rotation on Tuesday and aside from Purvis' continued shooting woes, the Huskies should be very excited about their bench production. Omar Calhoun (12), Facey (eight) and Purvis (seven) combined for 27 points, which was almost 50 percent of the team's offense.

Facey seems unaffected by his move to the bench in favor of Nolan and Calhoun backed up a solid performance against Houston with another positive outing, highlighted be a steal and thunderous first-half dunk.

The return of Amida Brimah in the next month will send Nolan back to the bench giving Ollie another piece to throw at the opposition. While Nolan started on Tuesday, his energy on both ends of the floor was noteworthy though his stat line didn't reflect it (two points, four boards; two steals).


Not a Good Day for the Guards

Freshman Jalen Adams again got the start on Tuesday but couldn't duplicate the performance he turned in against Houston. The speedy point guard was successful in getting to the rim in transition but had a difficult time finishing (0 for 4; 0 points; 18 minutes). At times, he forced it and was yanked along with Daniel Hamilton by Ollie in the second half for not taking care of the ball.

However, Adams did some nice things defensively. He had a nice show and recovery on a post double-team and a well-played dig on the post to force a second-half turnover. His slashing and quickness did free up shooters on the perimeter- €”but shots like Purvis' from the corner to end the first half just weren't falling.

It was a down game for Adams who will presumably have many up and down performances the rest of the season. He'll need to be better against Georgetown.

Sterling Gibbs came crashing back down to Earth after a couple stellar shooting performances on the two-game road trip, scoring 20 points in each contest. Gibbs too put up an oh-for from the floor (0-of-5; six points) but any cause for concern would be premature.

He played within the rhythm of the game, but couldn't find the bottom of the net on shots he previously had been knocking down. He converted at the free-throw line, didn't force his shot and was excellent in transition. Gibbs will return to form very soon.

It doesn't appear the move to the bench has helped Purvis. Unlike Gibbs, the junior was forcing a bit, throwing up one contested three that drove Ollie nuts. Connecting at just 20% from the floor, Purvis needs to get going for the Huskies to be a complete and formidable team. Purvis was effective when he went to the rim but the jumper looks to be missing in action.

Does Ollie put Purvis back in the starting lineup or ride with Adams? It will be something to watch over the course of the next couple games especially if both struggle like they did against Tulane.