Monday, February 15, 2010

Philadelphia Story

Here's the game story I just turned in that'll be in tomorrow's paper -- scooping myself? -- along with a few extra notes, quotes 'n stats:

PHILADELPHIA --- Jerome Dyson was uncharacteristically vocal during pregame warm-ups Monday night.

"Why not us!" the normally stoic senior guard kept shouting, in an effort to pump his team up two days after its most lethargic loss of the season.

Why not, indeed.

Paced by Kemba Walker's otherwordly 29-point, nine-rebound effort and uncommon hustle from the rest of the team, the Huskies answered Dyson's pregame question and topped fourth-ranked Villanova 84-75 before 18,123 at the Wachovia Center.

"We had to start somewhere, and we can start tonight," Dyson said afterwards. "Why not tonight? And we did it."

Signature win? The signature of that ol' City of Brotherly Love denizen John Hancock wasn't any bigger. Whether or not it's too late, with a 15-11 overall record and 5-8 mark in the Big East, remains to be seen. But an impressive road win – amazingly, the Huskies' first of the season – over a team with Final Four aspirations is a nice way to start.

"(Villanova head coach Jay Wright) has built a terrific team that's capable of getting to Indianapolis, certainly," Calhoun said. "And we're capable of getting to Rutgers right now."

The Huskies take on the Scarlet Knights on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J.

"For me to thinking about the NCAA tournament would be foolhardy," Calhoun added. "My job is to get our team to play the best basketball they're capable of. If that's good enough, fine. If it's not good enough, and they play up to their capabilities, that's fine. But we didn't do that on Saturday."

Indeed, Calhoun labeled Saturday's lethargic, 60-48 home loss to Cincinnati "embarrassing," and one of the worst of his 24-year reign at UConn.

"To use the word 'embarrassment' is a tough one," he said. "I certainly meant it. I'm trying to be very upfront with how I feel, that's how I felt in that situation, that we didn't give it everything we had. If we had lost tonight, they gave everything we had. We were on the floor for loose balls. We responded the way we were supposed to."

No one more so than Walker, whose scoring total (helped by a trio of 3-pointers and 14 of 16 foul shooting) was a career-best.

"He was outstanding," said senior forward Gavin Edwards. "I can't say a bad thing about it."

Calhoun was far more descriptive.

"That was his best game of the year, and certainly one of the best games of his career," the coach said. "It wasn't just the nine rebounds or the assists or the big 3's and the foul shots. Those have an awful lot to do with it, (but) an awful lot of it had to do with the way he competed. He did the same thing on Saturday too, by the way. He competed, in a tough situation."

Said Walker, who was kneed in the thigh with about 2 ½ minutes left to play: "We play hard, that's us. Tonight was a great team effort. Guys got on the floor for loose balls. We played extremely hard, and that's why we won."

Dyson added 15 (despite 3-for-14 shooting), and Stanley Robinson and Alex Oriakhi (off the bench) added 10 apiece. Robinson also had seven turnovers.

UConn had a 36-35 lead at the break after an entertaining, physical first half. The Huskies came out and hit their first eight shots from the floor and eventually built their lead up to as much as 11. UConn attempted just 15 field goals in the latter half but hit 10 of them, and swished 24 of 30 free throws over the final 20 minutes.
The Wildcats fell to 22-3 overall, 11-2 Big East.

"If we play hard like that," noted freshman forward Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, "I don't think anybody can beat us."

Why not?

RIM RATTLINGS: For the first time this season (and, by extension, his career), Oriakhi, a freshman, found himself out of the starting lineup. He found out at shootaround on Monday, when he wasn't among the first group. Junior Charles Okwandu started at center instead.

"I kind of used it as motivation," Oriakhi said, "and it worked."

Indeed, he finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes of action.

"I'll come off the bench," he said. "If I keep playing like that, I won't mind."

***Oriakhi's high school teammate, Coombs-McDaniel, also came up big, hitting a pair of big 3-pointers and finishing with eight points.

Some extras:

Calhoun: "How many times can you go to the well, and come back? Tonight they did. We were certainly at a crisis in confidence, there was no doubt in my mind whatsoever. So tonight I was Mr. Smiley Face – and understand that's a whole different kind of definition, my Mr. Smiley Face and the real Mr. Smiley Face. But the whole point was to try to get them through it and stay with it. If we stayed with it, we'd have a chance to win the game."


Calhoun on Walker: "I thought that was a special performance. The one great thing about him, anybody who loves the game, covers the game or cares about the game, he's fun to watch play. And I'm not talking just about the things he does quickness-wise, I'm talking about his enthusiasm for the game, and his approach to the game. It's fun to watch a guy who enjoys competing. And he's been like that through a season (which) we haven't had many like this, obviously."

Gavin Edwards on UConn's NCAA tourney hopes: "If we lose another one, it's pretty much 'game over', as far as the tournament goes."

(Not so sure about that. A win over No. 6 West Virginia next week could make up for another loss or two. Maybe).

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

robinson had 10 turnovers not 7

February 15, 2010 at 11:29 PM 
Blogger http://www.ehow.com/members/stevemar2-articles.html said...

This is the fourth major upset in Big East men’s basketball in the last four days! I guess I should follow this conference more to see what will happen next!

February 16, 2010 at 10:04 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually, robinson had 7 turnovers (according box scores at uconnhuskies.com, espn.com, and umm sportscenter this center). nice try though

February 16, 2010 at 10:09 AM 
Anonymous James said...

David, et al,

The way I figure it we need to win 6 more games to get into the tourney (outside of winning the BET outright, obviously). There are a number of ways we could do that. If we do that, we get to .500 in-conference and/or do some damage in the BET.

We can go 5-0 the rest of the way, win a BET game, and finish 21-12. We beat WV and probably finish w/ the #1 SOS. I think we're definitely in in this scenario.

We can go 4-1 the rest of the way and finish the regular season at 19-12. We got to get to twenty wins to make the tourney I think. If we win 2 BET games and then lose, we get to 21-13. I think we could get in, because by that point we're losing to a Top 25 team in BET after going 7-1 down the stretch.

If we go 3-2 the rest of the way I still think we can get in if we go to the BET finals. That would leave us us at 21-14, but we'd be playing on Saturday just before the Selection Show. I think we could still get in that way, largely owing to our SOS again.

I don't think our "rep" will help us.

I'm two minds in terms of rooting the rest of the way:

"The glass is 9/10s empty": every game is a tournament game. root like hell vs. Rutgers -- it means as much as San Diego or Purdue. [In other words, the season might end in Febuary, but at least you simulate a true elimination atmosphere w/ UConn playing.]

"The glass is 21% full": we can afford to lose one game...especially if we end up beating WV...and even still, we can still win the BET. once again, root like hell, but put off the "furnace-fear" of elimination for one more game if possible.

February 18, 2010 at 1:09 AM 
Blogger David Borges said...

Sounds about right to me!

February 18, 2010 at 9:30 AM 
Anonymous James said...

Thanks for the response, DB - and the brevity! :-)

I really enjoy your blog and all the insight and content. Take care and rock on!

February 20, 2010 at 1:17 AM 

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