Published January 31. 2013 4:00AM
No one knows better than Kevin Ollie that anything can happen - and usually does - when UConn visits Providence.
Ollie played in one of the most memorable and somewhat bizarre games in 1994, driving the length of the court to score the game-winning basket with 2.9 seconds left.
His big basket bailed out teammate Donny Marshall whose technical foul for "sarcastically clapping" cost the Huskies a late lead and nearly the game.
"I think that was my only field goal of the game," Ollie said Wednesday. "Good memories. I just remember saving Donny's life."
Now as a head coach, Ollie is looking to create another fond memory today (7 p.m., ESPN2) when UConn plays Providence in a Big East game at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Nearing the midway point of the conference schedule, the Huskies (13-5, 3-3) are looking to gain some traction and move up the standings.
Providence is traditionally a difficult hurdle for UConn to clear. The Huskies have lost eight of the last 12 in the series, including three straight on the road.
Ollie expects nothing less than another high intensity rivalry game.
"They're always tough in the Dunkin' Donuts Center," Ollie said. "We're going to have our hands full with them. Every team that comes there is going to have a challenge.
" … They're playing good ball and coach (Ed) Cooley is going to get that thing turned around. They're playing hard."
The Friars (10-10, 2-6) are finally settling down after an unstable period.
Senior Vincent Council is healthy after missing 10 games with a hamstring injury and junior Bryce Cotton has emerged as an offensive weapon, leading the Big East in scoring at 21.7 points per game. Forwards Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton are also enjoying productive seasons.
Containing Cotton will be one key for UConn.
"He puts up a lot of shots," junior Shabazz Napier said. "You've just got to hopefully contest him and hopefully he misses them."
Two new additions also are making an impact for the Friars. Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson and Kris Dunn, a McDonald's All-American out of New London High School, are growing more comfortable with each passing game.
Dunn, a 6-foot-3 guard, has dealt with a dual challenge, recovering from shoulder injury that forced him to miss the first nine games and trying to adjust to his first season of college basketball. He's energized the Friars with his speed and hustle.
"He adds an extra dimension to them," Ollie said. "Dunn is one of those long versatile guards that can play the point, play the two, or play the three for them."
The Friars and their fans also seem to be energized when their cross-border rival visits.
"It is definitely going to be a big time game for us, especially because we're playing at home and we don't want to lose at home, and also because it's UConn," Dunn said.
Dunn wasn't there last year when Providence added to UConn's list of painful memories by storming back from a 14-point deficit with 12 and a half minutes left to post a 72-70 win.
And, yes, that game, too, had its strange moment, as mild-mannered Andre Drummond got whistled for a technical when an official didn't care for the way the UConn freshman tossed him the basketball.
"Last year, we just didn't play well," Napier said. "We were winning the whole game and just kind of gave the them the game at the end. … We've just got to do our best and try to play UConn basketball."