With the Huskies, that means, "next man up," and the next man could be freshman Terrence Samuel.
"I've been ready," Samuel said. "I've been waiting for my time, I want to be stepping in, making the right decisions. If it's my time, I've got to show what I can do. … I want to show my coach I can play ball."
Like nearly all players who come to UConn, Samuel was the star of his high school team, South Shore in Brooklyn. Having to sit and keep working for a chance to play has been a new, and often frustrating experience for him.
"At first it kind of got to me," Samuel said. "I didn't have the right mindset. … I've talked mostly with veterans. [DeAndre Daniels] told me he didn't play much his first year, but you've got to keep working, keep improving. He patiently waited his turn."
Samuel, 6-foot-3, has appeared in just 10 of the Huskies' 18 games, and only twice, in blowout wins over Detroit and Maine, did he play more than seven minutes. He has made six of the 11 shots he has taken, and delivered seven assists.
" 'T' is getting better," coach Kevin Ollie said. "He's understanding the offense, understanding the defense and understanding that he [can't] be putting his head down. He's being confident in who he is. I see him being a terrific player at the University of Connecticut."
Minutes in the backcourt have been hard to come by, of course, because Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright are not only standout players, but durable. Boatright has never missed a game, or even missed a practice, before leaving the team on Sunday to return home to Aurora, Ill., to be with his family in a time of mourning. Boatright's cousin, Arin Williams, was killed in a shooting last week. Boatright, who described Williams as more like a brother than a cousin, played against Memphis and Louisville, then left for home.
"It's 50-50 that he'll be back," Ollie said. "I'm planning for him not being here. If we have him, great. If he doesn't get back, like we say all the time, it's 'next man up.'"
Even if Boatright does try to return, the snow in the forecast on Tuesday figures to make travel into Hartford difficult.
With Boatright and Napier in the backcourt, the Huskies have the benefit of two point guards. Without one of them, Ollie can use grad student Lasan Kromah, perhaps his most versatile player, for more ball-handling, though that could take him away from some of the things he does well on the wing. If Kromah is in the backcourt, it could present sophomore Omar Calhoun, who lost his starting job in late December, a chance to play more minutes again at small forward. He has been averaging 11 minutes a game off the bench the past six games.
"This is why these guys have been practicing so hard," Ollie said, "they've been waiting for this opportunity. I would be [saying], 'It's my time, I'm ready to go.' Hopefully, Terrence, Lasan, Omar understand that."
The Huskies (14-4, 2-3 in the American Athletic Conference) cannot afford to skip a beat. After winning at Memphis, but losing at home to Louisville last week, UConn is 29th in the most recent RPI rankings and to stay in that range and secure a tournament berth, it needs to win its home games, especially against teams like Temple (5-11, 0-5).
"The record goes out the window, this is a good team," Ollie said, "that's not a 5-11 team. … We need to win. There are going to be two desperate teams out there, not one."
New league rivals, the Owls and Huskies, though storied programs in the same region, have not played since Jan. 27, 1965. Toby Kimball, Wes Bialosuknia and Tom Penders all scored in double figures in an 81-70 Huskies win at the old UConn fieldhouse.
The current Owls are rebuilding after winning 24 games and knocking off NC State in the NCAA Tournament last March. They are shooting 44.8 percent from the floor as a team, and have productive scorers in Dalton Pepper, Quentin DeCosey and Anthony Lee. Cummings, returning from an injury, is Temple's distributor, averaging 4.1 assists.
In Lee, 6-foot-9 and 230, the Huskies face a forward similar in size to Louisville's Montrezl Harrell, who killed them inside last Saturday. Although Lee averages 9.9 rebounds, Temple as a team has been out-rebounded by opponents by 3.2 a game.
The Huskies need to get DeAndre Daniels, 1-for - against Louisville, back in the flow – not only to counteract Lee, but to provide the go-to option in the middle against the zone.
After an intense practice on Monday, Ollie called for more "physicality," by his definition:
"I want us in attack mode offensively and defensively," he said, "I don't care if they're in a zone [defense] or not, We're going to be physical. And 'physicality' is not just banging people. 'Physicality' means you cut hard instead of being passive. You cut hard, you move, you be aggressive, confident when you get the basketball. That's 'physicality,' because we're not going to beat a team in arm wrestling."