The seldom-used freshman from Germany was rewarded for his efforts in practice with some important minutes, eight in the first half, and he hit a three-pointer to temporarily halt South Florida's momentum.
"Leon has been working his tail off in practice," Ollie said. "He deserved some minutes. They played a longer lineup, they didn't have a 'breakdown' guy at the two, the three or the four [positions], so I thought we could get some minutes for Leon."
Tolksdorf, from the Berlin area like Niels Giffey, committed to UConn in May, after all the transfers and draft departures left the Huskies in dire straits. At 6 feet 8, he has a thick build and has the reputation of being a good outside shooter. Tolksdorf also has had some knee problems.
Through the first 19 games, he appeared in only five, getting significant time (20 minutes) only in the 34-point rout of hapless Maryland Eastern Shore in December. Tolksdorf had played only six minutes in Big East games, all against DePaul on Jan. 8, when he scored at the end of a 99-78 victory.
He was among four Huskies to make the honor roll in the fall semesters, and he frequently was seen on the court very early, or late after practices and games to work on his shooting. He hit his three from the left wing with 9:15 left in the first half, pulling the Huskies to within two points, 12-10. He made 1 of 3 shots, grabbed a rebound and showed a lot of intensity on defense.
"Leon came in, knocked down that three and kind of sparked us a little bit," Shabazz Napier said.
Said Ollie: "He plays hard, and I love the kid. He sacrifices time, not playing in the games, he still comes and gives you full effort every day. I know I can stick him in there now. Hopefully, we can get some opportunities for him."
Tolksdorf, Napier and Niels Giffey, both juniors, and R.J. Evans, a graduate student, were on the court before the game with Ollie, athletic director Warde Manuel and academic adviser Ellen Tripp, and honored for achieving a 3.0 grade point average or better during the fall.
"I'm glad my mother was here to see that," Napier said. "She took care of me and I wasn't always a good kid, I was kind of a headache. I'm doing this for her."
With the Huskies ineligible for the postseason due to sub-par Academic Progress Rate scores from past seasons, before any of the current players were at UConn, academic achievement is an area that the program wants to promote, and make known.
"These guys are talking care of basketball at 15-5," Ollie said, "and they're taking care of other things as well. I'm proud of them."
DeAndre Daniels, who had 18 points and seven rebounds at Providence, couldn't follow it up against South Florida. He got into foul trouble, was 2 of 10 from the floor, getting six points and six rebounds in 26 minutes before fouling out. Omar Calhoun, who scored 13 and made a crucial three-pointer at Providence, also struggled Sunday, going 1 of 8 from the floor, 0 of 5 on threes, in 33 minutes. … UConn had 10 turnovers in the game, but only 11 assists as South Florida's defense stymied their usual ball movement. … Ollie's 15 wins in his first 20 games as head coach is tied for the best start in program history; J.W. Tasker won 15 of his first 20 as head coach in 1921-22. … UConn is 3-1 in its four overtime games, beating Quinnipiac, Providence and USF, losing to Marquette. … The Huskies' 10-0 run to start the second half was the second game in a row that the Bulls suffered through such a spurt. Marquette started the second half with a 10-0 run against them last Tuesday.