Two newcomers step forward in UConn’s exhibition win

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While the biggest talking point this offseason regarding UConn’s hopes of defending its national title has been how they’ll account for the loss of a group of seniors led by point guard Shabazz Napier, head coach Kevin Ollie also has a perimeter rotation that’s expected to be among the best in the country. Sunday afternoon in the team’s 68-59 exhibition victory over Assumption College, two perimeter newcomers stood out for a team that hasn’t been as consistent as Ollie would like them to be in their two dress rehearsals.

Junior college transfer Sam Cassell Jr. scored 18 points off the bench and freshman Daniel Hamilton contributed in multiple areas (12 points, 12 rebounds and six assists), with senior point guard Ryan Boatright scoring 17 (and dishing out four assists) to join them in double figures. Both players were expected to be impact newcomers for the Huskies, so their play in the exhibitions isn’t a surprise.

The next step is to get NC State transfer Rodney Purvis going, as he committed five turnovers Sunday. UConn was able to create more opportunities in the open floor, thus establishing the distance needed to handle Assumption. And following the game, Ollie made note of his desire to see the Huskies play with more energy than they have.

“We had a couple of guys who played UConn basketball,” he said, “and a couple of guys who didn’t. … I want our energy to get better. Players have got to step up. We’ve got to step up together as a team. Hopefully, we’ll do that on Friday.”

UConn opens its season Friday night against Bryant, and the team has work to do ahead of that matchup with Tim O’Shea’s Bulldogs. Yet even with that being the case, the play of Cassell and Hamilton is a positive the Huskies can take out of their exhibition performances.