"We're going to embrace the struggle," Ollie said. "We're going to rebound and we're going to go on the break. One of these days, it's going to explode and you're all going to say, 'Wow, look at those guys.'"
The Huskies have been outrebounded in each of their first six games, with numbers ranging from palatable to ugly. Last Sunday, they were outrebounded 38-35 by Stony Brook, whose coach, Steve Pikiell, was disappointed that the margin wasn't bigger.
UConn got enough rebounds to win, as they have in five of their six games, but everyone around the team knows that's a tough way to live — and Ollie makes sure they know it.
"K.O. — Coach Ollie — emphasizes it so much, it gets annoying sometimes," guard Ryan Boatright said. "We know we have to rebound to win. We escaped the first four or five games, getting outrebounded, but against New Mexico it came back and bit us in the butt."
The Huskies (5-1) were outrebounded by eight against Vermont, and on Thursday, go at it against their third America East opponent in New Hampshire (2-3), which has an unusually big front line for that conference. The game starts at 7 at the XL Center.
"You have to know who you're boxing out," said Niels Giffey, who led UConn with eight rebounds against Stony Brook. "And when the big guys box out, the other guys have to jump in sometime. It's a team thing."
UConn's first six opponents have outrebounded them 38.2 to 30.5 a game. The Huskies' minus-7.7 in that column ranks 323rd in Division I-A.
New Hampshire starts 6-foot-10 redshirt junior Chris Pelcher at center, and 6-9 senior Chris Matagrano at forward, but has lost three in a row, to Bryant, New Jersey Tech and Holy Cross, so this could be a game where a team approach to rebounding and stress on fundamentals could be effective.
That's what the ever-optimistic Ollie, who has been introducing new drills to address rebounding, is banking on.
"I'm seeing progress," Ollie said. "I'm not going to say I haven't. Guys are working hard at it."
The better the Huskies are able to rebound, of course, the more they can run, and that's what Ollie, given the guard-heavy makeup of his team, wants to do. The Huskies, trailing early in the second half against Stony Brook, were able to break the game open with a barrage of three-point goals, seven in a row, eight of nine, several of them coming in transition.
"That gives us a dynamic we haven't had," he said.
Guards scored 69.4 percent of UConn's points in the first five games, but 56 percent against Stony Brook, with Giffey scoring a career-high 15. More balance, meaning more scoring from Tyler Olander (5.0 per game) and DeAndre Daniels (8.8) would open the floor up for Shabazz Napier, the leading scoring at 20.8, Boatright (12.8) and Omar Calhoun (10.0).
"I just want Tyler to be aggressive," Ollie said. "We want him, against some of these teams, to give us a double-double, and we think he has the ability to do that."
Leon Tolksdorf, who missed a game with a sore left knee, has been practicing full-tilt and will be available for New Hampshire. R.J. Evans, who is out with a sprain in his collar bone area, is back to light shooting. He would love to play against N.C. State in New York next Tuesday, but athletic trainer James Doran considers that "very optimistic." More likely, Evans will return against Harvard on Dec. 7. … Ollie on the ACC's rejection of UConn: "I'm happy we're breathing," he said. "I'm happy we're in the league we're in and have the games we have. Wherever we are, we are going to be trying to win games and conference championships. I have faith in Warde Manuel and our great president [Susan Herbst] to do the right things for this university, and I love this university."