Furman-UConn Preview

BY foxsports • November 20, 2015

Connecticut brought in two fifth-year seniors after missing the NCAA Tournament last season because coach Kevin Ollie said his team needed players who have ''been through the wars.''

That experience has paid off early on as the 19th-ranked Huskies have won both of their games in very different fashions.

Connecticut hosts Furman on Saturday in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament before heading to the Bahamas to take on No. 24 Michigan next week.

The Huskies entered last season as the defending national champions but stumbled to a first-round exit in the NIT. That led to Ollie adding graduate transfers Sterling Gibbs and Shonn Miller.

Gibbs, who began his career at Texas before playing two seasons with Seton Hall, leads UConn with 20.5 points per game. Miller, named first-team all-Ivy League last season while playing for Cornell, is averaging 10.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 69.2 percent.

Gibbs scored 20 and Miller had 17 points and 10 rebounds in a season-opening 100-56 win over Maine on Nov. 13, a game in which the Huskies dominated inside by holding a plus-12 rebounding advantage while throwing down 11 dunks.

They shot only 5 of 22 from 3-point range, but then relied on their outside shooting Tuesday. UConn hit 13 of 27 from beyond the arc to beat New Hampshire 85-66, with Gibbs making five 3s on 10 attempts.

"This showed we have a team that can play in any type of game," Ollie said.

Rodney Purvis, another player who didn't start his career at UConn, went 5 of 9 from deep and scored 20 as the Huskies made their most 3s since going 14 of 25 against Maine two years ago.

"We work hard each and every day on 3-point shooting, that's something we put a lot of emphasis on," said Purvis, who played for North Carolina State in 2012-13.

Furman (2-1) has allowed its last two opponents to go 12 of 34 (35.3 percent) from deep and was outscored by 14 in the second half of Thursday's 77-68 loss at Charlotte.

Senior guard Stephen Croone made his season debut after undergoing thumb surgery and scored a team-high 17 off the bench. He led the Paladins with 17.3 points per game in 2014-15.

Matt Rafferty was held to 10 on 3-of-7 shooting after the freshman forward shot 11 for 17 and totaled 36 points in the first two. He's leading Furman with 9.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.

The Paladins, who haven't won three of their first four since 2011-12, lost 93-54 at No. 4 Duke in their only game against a ranked opponent last season as Croone missed 11 of 15 shots.

UConn won the only previous meeting between these schools in the championship game of the Connecticut Mutual Classic on Dec. 28, 1991, in Hartford.

Ollie is trying to become the second-fastest coach to reach 75 victories for UConn. His .692 winning percentage ranks fourth among the seven coaches who have won at least 72 games with the Huskies.

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