O's and X's for Texas
Nothing really new to report on Jim Calhoun's health situation. George Blaney, who ran practice again today, said he spoke with Calhoun Thursday night but didn't divulge any new information.
Blaney did, however, report that Calhoun apparently watched Wednesday night's win over St. John's on TV.
"I think he watched … I don't know if the doctor's supposed to know that, I want to be careful about that," Blaney said, with a smile. "By the way we talked, he knew what was going on. He was really happy with it. He was happy that we fought."
***The Huskies had a real good practice today and seem energized to play the No. 1-ranked team (at least for now) in the nation.
"They realize who's coming to town, and are anxious to play the game," said Blaney.
Added Gavin Edwards: "It's a huge game for us, probably one of the biggest games we've played this season. We really haven't won any big games against teams that are ranked, so this would definitely be a great game for us to win."
And Jerome Dyson: "Practice has been good. We're getting a lot of energy from everybody, everybody's been focused."
If you needed any evidence that tomorrow is a big game, the students camped outside of Gampel already this afternoon was all the proof you needed.
"We can be assured Connecticut kids are very intelligent, because they were out in the sun, not in the shade," noted Blaney, who said he spoke with some of the students on his way out to grab a lunch.
***We know UConn will be up for tomorrow's game, but what about Texas. The Longhorns are, after all, coming off their first loss of the season (to Fightin' Curtis Kellys of Kansas State). Texas will almost certainly lose its No. 1 national ranking when Monday's new poll comes out, but that could only fuel their desire tomorrow.
"The three best teams I've seen in the country this year so far have been Kentucky, Kansas and Texas," said Blaney. "They have enough talent to play with anybody, to beat anybody, anyplace. I'm sure that they'll be ready, ripping and roaring to come back after a loss. But I also think we'll be pretty ready, too."
Is it dangerous to face an angry team coming off its first loss, Sticks Robinson?
"I truly believe that. When a team comes off a loss, nobody wants to be in a slump. When we lost three games, we felt terrible … We've just got to overmatch their intensity."
Don't count Texas coach Rick Barnes among those who believe getting a loss out of their system is a good thing for his team.
"A lot of people say that you can't win them all," he said. "My response is that you can lose them all so if you can lose them all, then you can certainly win them all. We lost that game, but we're just going to get better from now on."
***Sticks said he played against Texas star Damion James several times in AAU ball.
The Longhorns are a deep and talented team, with nine players who average at least 13 minutes per game. But James is easily their best player, leading the team in scoring (17.3), rebounding (11.0), steals (29) and double-doubles (10).
"He's expanded his game," Blaney said of James. "He can be a 3 man, a 4 man, a 3 ½, whatever you want to call him. He handles it better, shoots it better, and you don't have to expand your game when you get 11 rebounds a game, but he has."
***It doesn't appear any UConn player has had contact with Curtis Kelly, the ex-Husky, on any secrets on how to beat the Longhorns. Kansas State beat Texas 71-62 on Monday behind 17 points and eight boards from Kelly.
"I was glad to see Curtis do well," said Edwards.
***UConn is 1-6 all-time against the No. 1 team in the nation, 0-1 at home (losing to Kansas on Jan. 19, 1997 in Hartford). The Huskies are also 0-4 this season against ranked teams and 0-2 against top 10 squads, with two more (Villanova and Syracuse) still to come. UConn is 3-2 all-time against Texas.
***UConn is 18-4 in games that Calhoun has missed all or part of over his 24 seasons at the school. Blaney has coached eight complete games in Calhoun's absence, and UConn is 5-3 in those contests.
With 22 games missed (and counting) over the past 24 seasons, Calhoun has missed more UConn games than Phil Chardis, the Journal-Inquirer beat writer. Chardis, who's been covering the Huskies since their Yankee Conference days, has only missed about a half-dozen games over Calhoun's tenure.