Blaney Wins Again
Blaney, of course, would love to pick up another win tomorrow night in Providence -- a game that has "letdown" or "trap" written all over it, on the heels of the Huskies' emotional win over then-No. 1 Texas on Saturday.
"In that Texas game, they accomplished something historical … to become only the second (UConn) team to beat a No. 1 team," said Blaney. "It was something they could remember the rest of their lives, they should be very proud of it. But they can throw it all away if they don't come to play Wednesday night."
Indeed, as Kemba Walker simply stated: "We've got to come out and play Providence as if they're Texas."
UConn is still looking for its first true road win of the season.
"A Big East road game has as much a bearing on our season as the win over Texas," Blaney said, without a hint of exaggeration.
Providence (11-8, 3-4) is coming off a terrible home loss to South Florida on Saturday. The Friars had a 13-point lead with just over two minutes left in regulation, only to squander it and lose in overtime 109-105. USF's Dominique Jones poured in 46 in that one, earning Big East player of the week honors (Jerome Dyson earned honor roll recognition). A week earlier, Providence had been blown out by 30 at Marquette.
But, perhaps with that bad loss to USF still on their minds, the Friars could be a dangerous team tomorrow night at The Drunk ... er, The Dunk. PC ranks second in the Big East in scoring (and last in defense), and have tossed up more 3-pointers (156) than anyone except Louisville and Rutgers.
PC has only made 33 percent of its treys, but it goes beyond that.
"Providence presents the problem of people not understanding how good athletically they are," said Blaney. "(Bilal) Dixon and (Jamine) Peterson and Marshon Brooks and (Sharaud) Curry and (Vincent) Council – these are really good athletes. They really get up and down the court, they really spread the floor on you, which means you have to come out further to pick them up and guard them, which then leads to easier baskets for Peterson and Dixon and guys inside. While they're a 3-point shooting team, probably the tougher part to guard is their slipping to the rim for dunks. Those guys are pretty good, pretty athletic. Much more athletic than you think they are."
"They get a lot of second possessions, and they don't hesitate to shoot a 3, rebound a missed 3 and shoot another 3 on the next pass. It's a game we've got to really defend and really make them pay at the other end."
The Friars are led by "Greedy" Peterson, a sophomore who leads the team in scoring and is second in the Big East in rebounding (10.1 per game). After the loss to USF, head coach Keno Davis hinted at wholesale changes, so there could be changes in the starting lineup.
The game should be a sellout, or near-sellout. About 1,000 tickets still remained on sale as of about 5 p.m. today, per PC's sports information director Arthur Parks.
***Ater Majok appears to have supplanted Charles Okwandu in UConn's starting lineup, particularly after his strong effort against Texas.
“That's the motor we saw last year,” Blaney said of Majok’s game vs. the Longhorns. “That's the motor we saw when he was playing against Jeff (Adrien) and Hasheem (Thabeet) every day, where it was difficult for both of those guys to score. What I liked about it was the energy level he gave us, and gave to the crowd and the rest of the team.”
***Still no word on Jim Calhoun's return, though I wouldn't expect it within the next week.
"He's talking more aggressively. I think he's doing fine. I think he's going crazy, yeah," said Blaney. "I think they're taking it pretty much day-to-day. He's just listening to Dr. Schulman. When he's going to see him again, I don't really know that, but I assume it will be shortly, and they'll make some more decisions after that. We have not talked a lot. We talk when we need to, whether he needs to or I need to. He's been great about it."
"To my knowledge," Blaney added, "this is the best he's ever done with following instructions -- towards anything."
Incidentally, all of these games go towards Calhoun's record. If, for whatever reason, Calhoun doesn't return this season, that could be revisited (a la Coach K). But as things stand now, the last two wins belong to Calhoun.