HARTFORD, Conn. – The UConn men’s basketball team makes its 2017-18 home debut Monday at 7 p.m. when it plays host to Merrimack College in an exhibition game at the XL Center in Hartford.
The game is the second of three exhibition games for the Huskies, following last Wednesday’s game against Providence at Mohegan Sun Arena and before their final exhibition game on Nov. 5 against Queens College at Gampel Pavilion. UConn opens its regular season on Nov.10 at Gampel against Colgate.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie will be looking for more consistency from his team after it struggled to find some in the loss to Providence.
“Hopefully, we can make more shots, that’s the first thing and then, you can’t allow teams to shoot 66 percent,” Ollie said. “But I know I had some funky lineups out there because of foul trouble and also because it was an exhibition game and I wanted to play everybody. It was a learning experience for them and I was glad to see them out there.”
Junior college transfer forward Eric Cobb sees plenty of room for improvement.
“I saw a lot of things we can improve on, but it takes time – we’re going to get it together,” the 6-9 Cobb said. “One way I can bring my presence to the game is by rebounding. That’s what I can do to help the team.”
Meanwhile, a returning player like sophomore guard Christian Vital figures it’s just a matter of shaking off the rust.
“I think it’s just a matter of us making shots,” he said. “It was Terry’s (Larrier) first game back, Alterique’s (Gilbert) first game back – a lot of those shots they took and missed, they are going to make. I’ve seen them make those shots a million times in practice. I definitely liked the shots we were getting.”
“I loved the energy they showed,” Vital said. “Tyler played really well in the second half and Josh was getting some good shots in the post. Isaiah was really active. I was glad they got the chance to get their feet wet.”
Merrimack, out of North Andover, Mass., and the Northeast-10 Conference, is coming off a 19-victory season and returns fix of its top six scorers. The Warriors have been ranked as high as No. 14 in the Division II Preseason Top 25. They are led by junior forward Ryan Boulter, who led the team in scoring last season (18.0) and sophomore guard Juvaris Hayes, who led the nation in assists (9.3).
“Merrimack is going to come in and run a lot of two-cutter and one-cutter stuff, Michigan sets,” Ollie said, “so this is going to be good for our young guys too, just from a communication basis on the defensive end.”
Tickets are available at uconnhuskies.com/tickets.