Pictures at an Exhibition
The biggest – and most surprising – news of the night came about 45 minutes prior to the opening tap, when we got an e-mail from UConn stating that Jerome Dyson, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Donnell Beverly would not be playing "pending evaluation of recently submitted paperwork pertaining to their annual eligibility certification."
Dyson and Beverly were awaiting "routine educational document review for eligibility certification," and the school was anticipating a resolution as early as Thursday.
A source told the Waterbury Republican-American, however, that the NCAA has requested "documentation" from Dyson and Beverly regarding alleged recruiting violations in UConn's recruitment of Nate Miles. The source told the paper that Dyson and Beverly had yet to turn over that documentation.
Jim Calhoun strongly rebuked the report.
"You're so far off-base, it's unbelievable," he said afterwards, without naming any names. "If you feel like you need to speculate and throw dirt at us, that's fine … the university has already made a statement about what happened, and you need to understand that if you take that side, that's fine, but stay on that side, because you will not be coming back on my side … If you want to write anything to get it out there nationally, that's great – it really helps our recruiting and all aspects of our game when you speculate on something that you have no knowledge of, and quite frankly, couldn't be farther from the truth."
Asked if he believes the trio will be all set to play in Sunday's exhibition game with UMass Lowell, Calhoun responded: "I can't answer that, but right now, I do anticipate that. I'm speaking what I think, but that's not always the way it goes."
So, limited to just seven scholarship players – three of them freshmen, one of them Charles Okwandu – the Huskies went out and laid a 106-67 beatdown on outmanned AIC. UConn shot 68 percent (42-for-62) from the floor and outrebounded the vastly outsized Yellow Jackets, 47-19. Kemba Walker had 28 points and 12 assists, Stanley Robinson netted 25 on 12-for-16 shooting, Gavin Edwards had 17 and freshman Alex Oriakhi notched 16 points and 16 boards before an announced crowd of 10,770 that was more like 5,000 (presumably mostly Red Sox fans).
"I'll take that effort for the first time out," said Calhoun. "You need a starting point, and this is a starting point."
Added Robinson (as only Stanley can): "Overall, we played a great game. That team's the easiest team we're ever going to play in our life. We know the Big East play is going to be harder, 10 times more physical. It's going to be hard for us just to get shots off in the Big East. We can always just build off it and say we did play a good game."
In fact, Robinson wasn't overly impressed with his performance.
"I don't think I played very well. I wanted to score more points, I wanted to get more rebounds. I felt like there was so much more I could do, but I didn't know I had 25 points until I looked at the scoreboard."
***What prog rock band recorded the album 'Pictures at an Exhibition'?
*** It was the performance of the three freshmen that may have been most pleasing for Calhoun. Jamaal Trice, starting in place of Dyson, netted nine points, as did Darius Smith, who also contributed six rebounds and five assists off the bench.
But it was Oriakhi, the hulking 6-9, 240-pound center, who raised the most eyebrows.
"It was a nice initiation for people to see Alex," Calhoun said. "I understand with the World Series, not too many people saw him, but … it was a good way for him to start."
Oriakhi wasn't concerned that it was just an exhibition.
"I don't care what it was, I was excited like it was the first game," he said. "My thought was to just go out there and grab as many rebounds as I can. I'm happy, but never satisfied. Coach said it's only going to get harder from here, so I've got to work on things, go back to practice and get better."
About the only negative was the play of Okwandu, the junior center who had two points and one rebound (in the final 10 seconds) in 18 minutes of action.
"I thought Charles was good on defense," Calhoun insisted, "but he was just horrendous on offense He dropped the ball about six times. He didn't have a particularly good game."
Calhoun isn't about to give up on Okwandu, however – in part because Oriakhi is just a freshman.
"(Referee) John Cahill said to me, 'that big young kid (Oriakhi) understands how to play – which is nice to hear. But he still is going to get into foul trouble, because he's going to go against the (Luke) Harangodys and those kind of guys who can draw fouls better than a 6-4 kid can. If we don't have Charles, that means our fifth big guy becomes Stanley. I don't want that, he's too good on the wing. We need Charles to play a lot better. He's better than what he's shown."
***Le Moyne's shocking upset of Syracuse in an exhibition at the Carrier Dome the night before was on the Huskies' minds.
"We didn't want that to happen to us," said Robinson, "so we just had to come out and play as hard as we can play, and just leave it out on the court. I thought we did that."
Added Calhoun: ""Le Moyne's becoming a buzz word to everybody, I guess. Right now, Jimmy (Boeheim) is 0-0. He does have a point in practice to bring up for the kids."
***Senior center Jonathan Mandeldove also didn't play due to academic issues, according to a team spokesman.
***AIC didn't grab its first rebound until there were 9 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half.
***Calhoun had the World Series on his mind. He closed out his postgame presser saying, "Let's hope that Pedro wins, for the Red Sox."
So much for that.