Jim Calhoun put it succinctly, as only he could:
"You keep fooling with Mother Nature, she'll put that lightning bolt right through us."
Break out the Calhoun-to-English dictionary and here's the translation: if UConn continues to play like this – weak off the boards, hapless foul shooting and, perhaps most worrisome, startlingly thin off the bench – they could be in some serious trouble, starting on Wednesday night against fifth-ranked Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies simply couldn't put the pesky Harvard on Sunday, despite pumping their lead up to as many as 16 points two different times.
"If we play in spurts against Kentucky," Calhoun concluded, "we can't beat them."
The 14th-ranked Huskies will more than take the box score-filling effort of Jerome Dyson, who fell an assist shy of a triple-double (24 points, 14 rebounds, nine dimes) while doing his best to guard Crimson top scorer Jeremy Lin. They'll gladly take the 18 points and 12 boards from Stanley Robinson, the 20 points from Kemba Walker and 12 off the bench from Gavin Edwards.
But with freshman center Alex Oriakhi turning in his "worst performance in a Connecticut uniform," per Calhoun, and just five points coming from other sources, the Huskies clearly need a more balanced team effort Wednesday night.
Unless, of course, you ask the UConn players themselves.
"We don't really base our play off a previous game," said Edwards. "We'll just kind of take a step forward after this and get ready to play Kentucky on Wednesday."
Added Walker: "We have no reason to be concerned. As long as we go in with our game plan, we should be perfectly fine."
***Calhoun's enthusiasm over Dyson's overall effort was somewhat tempered.
"He was brilliant, at times. But he's reflective somewhat of our team."
Late in the game, Dyson was called for a charging foul – one of numerous times on Sunday where he aimlessly drove into trouble.
"If he continues doing that, it will cost us a game," Calhoun predicted.
***The coach didn't mince words regarding freshman center Alex Oriakhi:
"That was his worst game in a Connecticut uniform. He couldn't catch the ball, couldn't rebound the ball, couldn't play defense. Besides that, he was terrific."
In fact, Oriakhi's Okwandu-esque effort had Calhoun wishing he had played Big Chuck for more than just the game's first three minutes.
"Charles did nothing today to deserve only playing three minutes," Calhoun said. "I probably should have given him a chance."
Indeed, Okwandu stuck a 13-footer just over a minute into the game and managed to grab a rebound and block a shot in his short stint.
Back to Oriakhi: "I don’t think he's getting better," said Calhoun. "As a matter of fact offensively, he's heading the other way. He's a freshman, that can happen to you. Alex is too good a player, too good an athlete to play the way he played."
***Edwards had six blocked shots and now has 23 in the Huskies' first seven games.
"Those are starting to get to Hasheem and Emeka numbers," Calhoun noted.
***Jamal Coombs-McDaniel wasn't any better than his high school buddy Oriakhi. The frosh had one point (1-for-4 foul shooting) in eight minutes.
"He's our best 3-point shooter in practice," Calhoun said. "(In games), he's not just missing, he's putting up air balls."
***Calhoun was far more complimentary – and rightfully so – of Lin, who poured in a career high-tying 30 points, including the Crimson's final 11 of the game (replete with a spectacular driving, two-handed dunk with 13.5 seconds left).
"What I really like about him as that he's athletic, more than you think," Calhoun said. "He controls his temperament to a real nice tempo, he knows how to play. He's one of the better kids, including Big East guards, who have come in here in quite some time."
"He's a little more athletic Doron Sheffer … I can't think of a team he wouldn't play for."
*** Harvard coach Tommy Amaker blew off several telephone interview requests over the past week, and apparently did the same to the UConn radio team prior to Sunday's game.
***In the "Just Sayin'" Dept.: Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis, a Farmington resident and son of former UConn star Jim Abromaitis, poured in 31 for the Fighting Irish today in a win over Central Florida.
***UConn is offering a holiday ticket promotion to fans of its nationally-ranked UConn men's and women's basketball programs for a total of five games over the upcoming holidays.
For each ticket purchased (up to a maximum of eight) for any of the selected games, purchasers will receive an additional ticket for the same game at no charge.
The promotion is for two women's games and three men's games. The women's games are Sunday, Dec. 20 against Iona (6 p.m.) at Gampel and Wednesday, Dec. 23 against No. 2 Stanford (5:30 p.m.) at the XL Center.
The men's games, all at the XL Center, are Sunday, Dec. 20 against Central Florida (1 p.m.), Tuesday, Dec. 22 against Maine (7 p.m.)and Sunday, Dec. 27 against Iona (2 p.m.). Orders can be placed by going to UConnHuskies.com and clicking on the "Buy Tickets" link in the Ticket Center. Fans can then click the "Promotions" link.
Labels: Alex Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu, Doron Sheffer, Gavin Edwards, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Jeremy Lin, Jerome Dyson, Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker, Stanley Robinson, Tim Abromaitis, Tommy Amaker