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Notebook: Martin improving offensively, but still has room grow

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Head coach Dan Hurley believes the URI transfer has the potential to be a force on both ends of the floor.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrese Martin has shown he can make winning plays in his short 11 game career in Storrs. The transfer from URI is UConn men’s basketball’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder.

The 6-foot-6, 215 lb. wing out of Allentown, Pennsylvania has scored double digit points in each of his last six games and has a pair of 20-point games already this season.

He numbers closely mirror what he was able to do last season at URI, except for one thing – his shooting has drastically improved.

Despite moving up a level of competition from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East, Martin has improved his 3-point shooting by more than 15% from last year (32.1%) to this year (47.8%).

He has only taken one three per game, though, and just two per game over UConn’s last three games. The most he’s taken in a game this season is four, which he did against both Butler and St. John’s in January.

“He probably could get himself another look or two a game,” head coach Dan Hurley told reporters when asked if Martin showed be shooting from range more. “I think he’s done a good job of only taking good shots, which has helped his percentages drastically, relative to his first couple years.”

If he qualified for the KenPom shooting rankings, which he doesn’t due to a lack of volume, he’d have the second-best three-point shooting mark in the Big East behind only Nate Johnson of Xavier, who’s shooting 52.2%.

Martin has attempted a 3-pointer in nine of his 11 games. Of those nine, he has shot over 50% from deep in six games.

Hurley said he wants Martin to get back to playing stellar defense and crashing the glass. He also wants the junior to take on more of a playmaking role as well, which Martin hasn’t quite shown in his career. He has averaged around one assist per game in all three of his collegiate seasons.

Martin began his UConn career with three 10-rebound performances in his first four games. Since then, he has topped out at seven and hovered closer to the five to six range. He put on a show defensively as well against DePaul and St. John’s with six and five steals per game, respectively.

“He’s not a prolific offensive player at this juncture, so he’s got to be all over the glass, he’s got to be in passing lanes, he’s got to be making plays,” Hurley said. “He’s supposed to be a dog on the wing not a finesse, super-skilled player, that’s not who he is.”

Most of all, Hurley is looking for Martin and the rest of this team to show more toughness.

“I need toughness from my team,” Hurley said. “You could play hard, but not be tough. I think that a kind of a lack of toughness has shown up from us in some of these losses down the stretch here.”

UConn plays Providence at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. It will be televised on FS1.