In a much more complete performance than their last outing, the UConn Huskies took care of business against Merrimack in a 79-63 win in what was originally scheduled to be their exhibition opener.
Division II Merrimack is, of course, a much less challenging opponent than Providence College, but still, it was encouraging to see the way UConn controlled the game. The Huskies dominated down low, scoring 70 points in the paint and shooting 51 percent from the field overall. Big man Mamadou Diarra scored an efficient 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 10 minutes to go along with three rebounds.
Ollie went with a smaller starting lineup for this one, sending out Jalen Adams, Alterique Gilbert, Christian Vital, Terry Larrier and Eric Cobb to begin the game and the second half. Larrier had a nice bounce-back performance after looking shaky against Providence. He led all scorers with 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with three rebounds and three assists. He did a really good job inside, where he was able to blow past defenders and either score or dish it off to an open man.
A lot of different players were in on the action at various times, with Isaiah Whaley and Tyler Polley probably looking the best out of the newcomers. Whaley finished with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including two put-back dunks, and five rebounds in just 10 minutes. Polley played 28 minutes, tied for third-most on the team, scoring four points and grabbing a team-leading six rebounds while showing some nice moves to get to the rim, though he wasn’t always able to finish well. Cobb also pulled down six rebounds while adding four points in eight minutes.
After today, it looks like the big man by committee thing should work out, and could even sustain some foul trouble since there are so many bodies in the group. With solid guard play from Adams (6 points, 5 assists), Gilbert (8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists), and Vital (9 points, 5 rebounds) and Larrier finding his exact fit as a playmaking wing, they won’t be asked to do a whole lot offensively anyway and will be able to focus on defense and rebounding.
The Huskies will be in action next in their exhibition finale against Queens College of New York, on Sunday, November 5 at 5:30 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion, where the regular season will start that Friday, November 10 at 7 p.m. against Colgate.