Report card: Purvis, UConn find their groove in Bridgeport

A look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the UConn Huskies following Monday night’s 80-65 win over Columbia at Webster Bank Arena in Bridegport. UConn (5-4) is on a break until Friday, but the win at least game the Huskies a lift going into Christmas.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

1. HEY, IT’S RODNEY! UConn fans have been waiting for the sophomore guard to become a factor and he delivered, tying a career high with 21 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including 4-for-5 on 3s. If he can stay healthy, Purvis can be the perfect running mate with Ryan Boatright and even Daniel Hamilton to fuel the UConn offense.

UConn coach Kevin Ollie’s take: “His last two or three practices have been outstanding. He’s been playing hard, getting his rhythm back and playing defense.”

2. HOT SHOTS: It’s amazing that even on a team that doesn’t have a lot of great shooters that the Huskies seem to live or die on how well they shoot 3s. UConn is now 5-0 when they make at least six 3-pointers – this time netting a season-best 9-for-16 from outside, including 5-for-8 in the second half with three coming from a struggling Hamilton. And how about matching 57.1 percent performance from the field in the two halves?

Columbia coach Kyle Smith: “UConn hadn’t shot the ball well – kudos to them. They made some adjustments and ‘beat the scout’ as we say.”

3. HANDLE WITH CARE: Ollie had to be smiling inside when he saw the 18 assists/10 turnovers for the Huskies on the stat sheet afterwards. The players worked the ball around to find good shots instead of chucking up poor ones. They also protected the basketball better.

Ollie’s take: “We were sharing the basketball and we were passing up good shots for great shots by playing out there when the ball was moving. I think they just found their spots and our shooters stepped up.”

4. DEFENSIVE LOCKDOWN: After letting the Lions hanging with them in the first half by shooting 57.1 percent, too, the UConn D got busy in the second half, scoring 10 points off five turnovers and holding Columbia to 33.3 percent shooting.

Ollie’s take: “Our defense was great the last 12 minutes.”

WHAT NEEDS WORK

1. SLOW GO: The Huskies swapped a fast start on offense for a softer defense in the first half, allowing the Lions to hang with them by hitting 4-for-11 from the perimeter and breaking off a 25-11 run. Overall, Columbia made eight 3s, but the Huskies’ offense was able to keep pouring it on.

Ollie’s take: “It was a great game for us. It started off a little spirited. We were up 9-0 and they hit a couple 3s, then it became a grind it out game.”

2. BOXING OUT: UConn won the board battle 28-26 and got Amida Brimah going with a team-high six (three offensive). The two concerns are the Lions getting 10 offensive boards and sometimes they seem to out effort the Huskies on the glass. After two solid games, Kentan Facey was a bit quiet with two points and one board.

UP NEXT

Sunday, vs. Central Connecticut State, 1 p.m. at XL Center in Hartford: Former UConn asisstant Howie Dickenman brings his Blue Devils to the XL for a post-Christmas contest in UConn’s final game before opening The American schedule.

William Paxton