Judging by the first three games of the season, it’s been pretty hard to tell that No. 25 UConn is transitioning into a new era.
After losing four of their top five leading scorers from last season, the Huskies will look to win their fourth straight game to open the new campaign when they host UNC-Wilmington on Friday night in Storrs, Conn.
Much of UConn’s early success has hinged on forward Adama Sanogo, who is averaging 19.0 points and 9.0 rebounds through the first three games.
Sanogo was one of the centerpieces of last season’s squad, though, so his early production comes as no surprise.
But now others are starting to fit into head coach Dan Hurley’s game plan.
One of those players is senior guard Tristen Newton, a transfer from East Carolina. He answered nine- and 11-point performances in his first two games by erupting for 22 points to go along with 11 assists and 10 rebounds in an 84-64 victory over Buffalo on Tuesday.
It’s been an adjustment to get acclimated to the hard-nosed coaching style that Hurley brings to the table, but Newton said it has contributed to his success.
“I really appreciate it,” Newton said. “Love the coaching and it’s going to make me better. … He’s hard on us but keeps the confidence in us, so tells me to keep going. He’s pretty much hard on me for not being aggressive and defense obviously.
“Having him put that confidence in me makes me feel like I can go out there and play well every single game, so I thank him for that.”
UNC-Wilmington (1-2) could use an uptick in confidence after falling 74-53 at Oklahoma on Tuesday. Trazarien White finished with 19 points on 7-for-17 shooting, but he was the only Seahawk to score in double figures.
“We just didn’t have it tonight,” UNCW head coach Takayo Siddle said. “It was one of those nights and you have some of those. We were a couple steps too slow and we didn’t have (the) same type of energy that I’m used to us having.”
White is the team’s leading scorer thus far with 18.3 points per game, but a solidified No. 2 option has yet to be established. Shykeim Phillips (9.7 points per game), Amari Kelly (7.7) and Eric Van Der Heijden (7.0) are positioning to take on that role, but nobody has been able to eclipse the 10-point mark in more than one game.
Although the offense is still trying to figure some things out, the Seahawks have been crashing the glass with ease on the young season.
Prior to getting outrebounded by the Sooners, UNCW hauled in 42 rebounds against Division II Allen University to follow a performance against No. 1 North Carolina in which it tallied five more boards than the Tar Heels.
Victor Enoh leads the team with 5.3 rebounds per game, while White and Kelly are each averaging 4.7.
Friday marks the second all-time meeting between the Huskies and UNC-Wilmington. UConn took the first contest, 93-55, on Dec. 20, 1997.
–Field Level Media