It is easy to overlook issues sometimes in a 34-point win, but there were some glaring concerns for the UConn Huskies after Monday night’s win against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Playing against a team that was 0-9 going in and posting numbers that ranked in the 340s nationwide should have meant domination from UConn in all aspects of the game. But the sad truth is that the Huskies still struggle above the rim grabbing rebounds.
For years, UConn was one of the most dominant big teams in the nation. They ranked No. 1 in blocked shots for the better part of a decade and they could outplay anyone on the glass. That is no longer the case.
For as bad as Maryland-Eastern Shore is, they still rank higher than UConn in rebounds nationally at 315 compared to 318. A team of the Huskies’ pedigree should not be in the 300s in rebounding.
So what is the issue? Well, frankly UConn is soft down low. Junior power forward Tyler Olander has always had trouble playing tough on the posts and keeping his hands on a loose ball. Freshman forward Phil Nolan is still developing and should become a tough player once he puts a little muscle on. Sophomore DeAndre Daniels rotates between playing the three and the four and has regularly been the best rebounding option of the consistent-minute players. But that is still not anything to brag about.
For all the wonderful things there are to say about Kevin Ollie, there is one flaw that has become apparent. For some reason, there appears to be a lack of faith in junior center Enosch Wolf.
The German big man was the talk of Connecticut entering the season. Before the year even started, Dom Amore, the men’s basketball beat writer for the Hartford Courant, told me in conversation, “Be ready. This is Enosch Wolf’s year.” When Wolf heard this a few hours later, his response was, “I freaking hope so.”
The scrawny giant that came to Storrs from Wilbrahim and Monson Academy in Dec. 2010 is no more. He has been replaced by a 7’1″ strong big man who has also developed a considerably consistent mid-range shot, a dual-threat if ever there was one to be had for UConn.
With all the struggles down low so far, Wolf should be seeing more time.
In three of the seven games in which he has played more than 10 minutes this season, Wolf has grabbed at least six rebounds – and in two of those games he had 12 points. For some reason, even Wolf’s best performance of the season, a 12-point, nine-rebound night in the loss to No. 25 N.C. State did nothing to warm Ollie’s heart.
Clearly there are issues down low, and Ollie has even acknowledged these flaws himself, saying after Monday night’s win that his big men needed to play better and everyone knows it. How does he expect Wolf to make an impact though if he is getting the start but only playing 13 minutes, despite being productive in those 13 minutes? Wolf had four boards, an assist and a block, and for the second straight game went without a foul, the one issue he had been dealing with.
UConn should be using these nonconference games to prepare for the always-physical Big East campaign. The Huskies will need everyone ready to go against the likes of Louisville, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and the other big, rough teams they will be facing. Wolf will be an invaluable resource come January when the going gets real tough for the Huskies.