Kevin Ollie doesn't spend a lot of time reminiscing about his playing career, but there was one moment that still stands out.
"It was a good memory, just a fortunate thing that happened," Ollie said, referring to his winning basket against Providence on Jan. 19. 1994. "I remember Donny [Marshall's] emotions got the best of him, and he went clapping in the ref's face and they teched us up."
"I remember it was my only field goal of the game," Ollie said, "and I saved Donny's life."
Despite the win, Ollie doesn't count Providence as one of his favorite venues, for obvious reasons. "They'll say anything," he said, "the crowd there."
It was, and is a moment typical of UConn-Providence games, emotions and hostility running high with the close proximity of the schools. The rivalry, which dates to 1928, with UConn winning 42 and Providence 28, is renewed Thursday at 7 p.m. (ESPN2).
"You've got to look at it as a rivalry," Shabazz Napier said. "They're a New England team; you always want to beat them. Just like when we played Quinnipiac [Nov. 18]. If we lost, all bragging rights would have gone to them."
Last year was another game typical of the series. Providence, near the end of a losing season, came from 14 points behind to beat UConn 72-70, a loss that put the Huskies' NCAA Tournament viability in jeopardy, though they later won enough games to get in.
"We just didn't play well last year," Napier said. "We were winning the whole game, and we kind of gave them the game at the end."
The Huskies (13-5, 3-3 in the Big East) are ineligible for postseason play, but are trying to collect as many wins as they can. They were picked ninth in the league's preseason poll. Providence (10-10, 2-6) was picked 15th, and is playing for credibility in coach Ed Cooley's second season.
"Coach Cooley is going to get that thing turned around," Ollie said. "This is a tough, tough matchup. They've got Vincent Council coming back from his injury and he's feeling more confident, they've got Kris Dunn coming back from his injury, and he's feeling more confident, and they've got Bryce Cotton scoring 22 points a game."
Cotton, who leads the Big East in made three-pointers, is the perimeter threat. Kadeem Batts (7.1) and LaDontae Henton (8.0) are both outrebounding everyone on UConn's roster by far. They will provide matchup problems for the Huskies down low.
Providence will put a lot of pressure on the Huskies. Dunn, the freshman from New London, has ramped up the Friars' defensive intensity since returning from his shoulder injury on Dec. 18.
"We can't let their pressure dictate the game," Ollie said. "We've got to dictate to their pressure."
Providence won eight of its first 10 games, all against nonconference opponents, while three of its top players, Council, Dunn and Cotton, were either out injured, playing hurt or just getting back. They are off to a slow start in Big East play, though they can count a win over Villanova on Jan. 19 as evidence things are getting better.
"Our chemistry is better," Cooley said in the Big East teleconference. "Our synergy is getting better."
The Huskies beat Rutgers on Sunday. Napier, who scored 19 points with six assists and five rebounds in that game, appears to be over the left shoulder injury that slowed him the previous two games. After a terrible start in rebounding this season, the Huskies are in positive territory, plus 0.1, in six Big East games.
"We're going to take a drive out there and be on a business trip," said Omar Calhoun, averaging 10.7 points. "We just want to keep taking steps forward, take games in the past and leave them in the past and go game by game, moving forward."