NEW YORK – UConn guard Shabazz Napier scored 19 points against N.C. State.
Guard Ryan Boatright scored 18 points.
Those are numbers that the Huskies expect from their top players.
If the Huskies are going to make any impact on the season they are going to have to get more from other places.
In Tuesday's 69-65 loss to N. C. State in the Jimmy V Classic the Huskies looked around and despite a stunning performance from Enosch Wolf (12 points, 9 rebounds), there wasn't much else to hold on to.
Inside, the starting frontcourt forwards – it's inaccurate to call DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander a power forward and center combo – combined for seven points and four rebounds in 40 minutes. Their counterparts in C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell had a combined 29 points and 23 rebounds.
The lack of production extends across the UConn roster. Omar Calhoun had five points on 1 of 5 shooting in 28 minutes. Niels Giffey was held scoreless and took one shot in 20 minutes while R.J. Evans, rusty after returning from a chest injury, was 2 of 8 shooting in 19 minutes.
The Huskies are reliant on Napier and Shabazz to be hot and that comes and goes. Napier had 15 first half points and 10 in the first five minutes before cooling off. Boatright continues to miss open looks and began forcing shots in the second half out of frustration.
UConn (6-2) head coach Kevin Ollie is content with having Boatright and Napier lead the show, but the Huskies need some more supporting actors.
“We need to face the challenge,” Ollie said Tuesday night. “We need Omar (Calhoun) to step up and he will step up. We are going to go with what we have and our guards are definitely the leads of that...Yes, we have some faults like every other team.”
All teams have faults, but the Huskies' faults inside are most glaring. Daniels, the leading rebounder at only 5 per game before Tuesday night, was battling a back strain and couldn't hold his own down low with the athletic and strong Leslie and Howell. Daniels only two took shots inside the 3-point line in the game and continues to commit turnovers off the dribble.
“He has to play better,” Ollie said of Daniels. “Everybody knows that and he knows that. I believe he has the talent and the ability..He feels the worse. He feels bad, he's a competitor and he wants to play better.”
Daniels has shown flashes of good play this season, but Olander's struggles continues to mystify. The junior forward had more fouls than rebounds in his last five games coming in and had another difficult night inside. Olander managed only three rebounds in the game and didn't take a shot in 19 minutes. Olander is an excellent perimeter shooter for a player his size and has a fine touch offensively. But, after some early season success his production and scoring have dropped off markedly.
“I told Tyler (Olander) his time is going to come,” Ollie said. “We use the words stay alive. I told Tyler in trying times, you can't stop trying. I have faith in the guys in the UConn jersey. They are going to keep playing hard and we are going to get ready for Harvard (on Friday).”
While Daniels, Olander and Co., struggled against N.C. State, the performance of Wolf was a revelation. The little-used couldn't get off the bench in two seasons at UConn and wasn't counted on for much this year. At 7-foot, his size is desperately needed in the frontcourt and the junior from Germany delivered a terrific 12 points and career-high nine rebounds against the Wolfpack.
Wolf has a nice outside touch for a big man and hit two jumpers and was also a factor on the boards tipping the ball and creating offensive rebounds and space. Wolf also had 12 points in a win over Wake Forest in the Paradise Jam and is averaging 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 12 minutes a game.
“He is an important part, it seems like he likes the big stage,” Ollie said. “He has confidence and he gets to his spots and he knows his limitations, which is a great strength of his. He did a wonderful job and he boxed out and he was aggressive and we need that.”
The Huskies play Harvard on Friday before taking time off for exams. When they come back and look forward to Big East play they are going to need Wolf and a lot more to get through the season.