Huskies set for emo­tional bat­tle with No. 11 Florida State

Stamford Advocate - - Sports - By David Borges

STORRS — Dan Hur­ley is a one-man, emo­tional roller coaster on the side­lines dur­ing games. Happy, an­gry, frus­trated, ex­cited, be­wil­dered, an­gry again ... the UConn head coach pretty much cov­ers ‘em all.

It was a dif­fer­ent emo­tion that over­came Hur­ley as he spoke to re­porters fol­low­ing UConn’s prac­tice on Thurs­day. The Huskies are head­ing to Ne­wark, N.J. to face No. 11 Florida State on Satur­day (6:30 p.m., ESPN2) in one of two Never For­get Trib­ute Clas­sic games at Pru­den­tial Cen­ter. The dou­ble­header (Mis­sis­sippi State faces Clem­son in the opener) raises money for the ed­u­ca­tional as­pi­ra­tions of the chil­dren of the vic­tims of the Sept. 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Hur­ley is as New Jersey as they get, and like vir­tu­ally any­one from the TriS­tate area at the time, was af­fected by the tragedy. His close friend’s brother, a New York City fire­man,

When: Satur­day, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Pru­den­tial Cen­ter, Ne­wark, New Jersey

Records: UConn 7-2, Florida State 7-1

TV: ESPN2

Ra­dio: UConn/IMG Sports Net­work, WAVZ-New Haven (1300 AM), 97.9 FM-ESPN Hart­ford

KEEP AN EYE ON

BIG-GAME ERIC: Hur­ley has no an­swers for why se­nior cen­ter Eric Cobb is av­er­ag­ing 13.6 points and 10 boards against Power 5 foes (Syra­cuse, Iowa, Ari­zona), but only 2.6 points and 2.3 re­bounds in six games against mid-to-low-ma­jors.

That said, he’s an­tic­i­pat­ing some good pro­duc­tion from Cobb on Satur­day, telling him, “I guess we’ll be see­ing you, big fella, on Satur­day. Big Game Eric.”

Hur­ley did of­fer one the­ory on the dis­crep­an­cies in Cobb’s per­for­mance.

“I think it’s a func­tion of, when you play the low-to-mid (ma­jors), they are so small and they’re run­ning this Princeton stuff with the cen­ters be­ing 30 feet from the bas­ket. Eric’s been re­ally good of­fen­sively, re­ally good on the of­fen­sive glass. He has strug­gled at times de­fen­sively and on the de­fen­sive glass. I think that gets ex­posed when you get stuck in space, play­ing against real so­phis­ti­cated con­cepts. Ob­vi­ously, we’re play­ing a team that’s real phys­i­cal, real tall. So, this is a game that we ex­pect Eric to be ready to play in.”

SIZE MAT­TERS: Florida State fig­ures to have a size ad­van­tage at just about ev­ery po­si­tion, from 7-foot-4 cen­ter Christ Koumadje to 6-7 swing­man Ter­ance Mann to 6-5 point guard Trent For­rest. How does Hur­ley com­bat the Semi­noles’ over­all size and strength ad­van­tages? “We’ve got to be smart, op­por­tunis­tic with our tran­si­tion. I don’t think we can be real loose with our pos­ses­sions. Gotta be op­por­tunis­tic, try to push the pace and get some great shots early. I don’t think we’re nec­es­sar­ily gonna look to slow the game down, but we are gonna look to make sure we get qual­ity shots, make sure we don’t get into a wild, ath­letic af­fair with a team that prob­a­bly has more phys­i­cal ad­van­tages than we have.”

FSU does turn the ball over at a rather high rate — 15.6 per game. It also turns its op­po­nent over at a 17.5 per-game rate. The Huskies have been turnover-prone, par­tic­u­larly against their three prior Power 5 op­po­nents, av­er­ag­ing 18 per con­test in those show­downs.

SEMI­NOLE BLOOD­LINES: Sopho­more for­ward Tyler Pol­ley’s fa­ther, Tommy, starred as a line­backer at Florida State be­fore em­bark­ing on a six-sea­son NFL ca­reer. Tyler at­tended a lot of Semi­nole foot­ball games as a kid and wanted to play bas­ket­ball there, but was never of­fered a schol­ar­ship. He holds no grudges.

“It’s just an­other op­po­nent to fo­cus on,” Pol­ley said. “We’ve just got to get this ‘W.’ It’s a big­time win for us, if we do.”

IN­JURY UP­DATES: Phil Cofer, a 6-8 se­nior for­ward who led the Semi­noles in scor­ing last sea­son, has yet to play this year due to a foot in­jury. Cofer was slated to re­turn to prac­tice on Wed­nes­day for the first time, but FSU coach Leonard Hamilton doubted Cofer would play on Satur­day “un­less I see some­thing that changes my mind. But right now, I’d say it’s very un­likely he’ll be avail­able.”

Mean­while, UConn for­ward Ma­madou Diarra won’t be back by the early-to-mid-De­cem­ber time­line Hur­ley ini­tially had hoped for. Diarra, who had knee surgery over the sum­mer and has had problems with his knee the past few years, could be back for the Huskies’ Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence opener at South Florida on Jan. 2 — but even that seems some­what un­likely. “We just don’t want him back too soon,” said Hur­ley. “He’s had such a tough his­tory with (his knee), we want to make sure he’s right.”

Jes­sica Hill / As­so­ci­ated Press

UConn coach Dan Hur­ley calls out to his team dur­ing a game against Lafayette on Wed­nes­day.

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