How Jerome Got His Groove Back
He was 6-for-26 from the floor in his prior three games, and 1-for-8 two minutes into the second half tonight. That adds up to 7-for-34 in a 3 1/2-game stretch for Jerome Dyson.
Then, out of nowhere, Jerome got his groove back. Here's how:
***With 7:13 left, he hit a lefty driving bank shot.
***After Northeastern went up by six (54-48), Dyson hit a floater with 5:11 to play.
***Trailing by five again, Dyson hit an elbow jumper with 3:42 remaining.
***Northeastern's Chaisson Allen countered with a baseline jumper, but Dyson followed with a 3-pointer with 3:42 left to get UConn back to within two.
***Dyson tried an alley-oop pass to Stanley Robinson, which the senior forward bobbled. But Robinson retained possession and went up for the layup to tie it.
***With 1:12 left, Northeastern's Manny Adako missed a running hook shot, and with 53.6 ticks left, Alwayne Bigby was called for a blocking foul and Dyson hit both free throws.
Surprisingly, those would be the final two points of the game. Northeastern leading scorer Matt Janning missed a couple of decent looks down the stretch – a corner 3-pointer with 41 seconds left and a running bank shot with :13.3 to play – and UConn was able to survive Kemba Walker's two missed front ends of 1-and-1's to score the narrow win. Baptiste Bataille's good look at a 3-pointer at the buzzer rattled in and out to seal the deal.
Dyson hit his final five shots and scored 11 of UConn's final 13 points.
"I couldn't let it end like that," shrugged Dyson, a senior who hit his final five shots. "The coaches were telling me the whole time they need me to shoot the ball and get to the middle."
"Jerome Dyson stepped up and made some big shots, exactly when his team needed it," said Northeastern coach Bill Coen. "That's what great players do, and he certainly is a great player."
Dyson finished with a game-high 18 points. After his clunkers over the prior couple of weeks, Dyson had been criticized publicly in the media, on Internet message boards, etc., that he didn't play with enough heart. Calhoun scoffed at that notion.
"If they question his technique, if they question how hard he works at his game, how skilled he is at this particular point – they have a right to say that," said the coach. "I've said it to him 1,000 times over. But if anybody questions his heart during his four-year career, you're barking up the wrong tree. You really are. I've questioned the fact that he doesn't get himself as ready as he should all the time – and I'm comparing him to Ben Gordon's 500 jump shots every single night, Emeka, Caron, some of those kind of guys. But I've never questioned his tick-tock."
Calhoun seemed to indicate that Dyson heard some heckling from the home crowd on Tuesday.
"I think when he got out there early, there were a couple of things being said to him by some people that he heard, and he came in pretty inspired."
Whether or not there were catcalls or criticism in the media, Dyson was oblivious.
"I don't pay attention to that stuff," he said. "They're going to like you when you're up and hate you when you're down, so I'm not really paying attention to them. I'm just trying to help the team win."
Calhoun waxed about Dyson's awful performance a week earlier in a Big East tourney loss to St. John's (six points, nine turnovers).
"I honestly thought that he tried so hard during the St. John's game, that he couldn't play. I've never seen him try harder than what he did in the St. John's game, and everything he touched turned into a layup. Stolen. You never see him get picked three times in a row going to the hole, that never happens to him. I mean, he'll throw it away. Trust me, he'll throw it away. He'll turn it over – he could open a bakery, no question about that. But I would never question his heart. I've questioned his focus, questioned the abilities that he has that he needs to utilize them more … but never his heart."
Said Dyson: "It kind of felt like that against St. John's. I was trying to get it going, and that's what caused a lot of my turnovers. Today ... I was able to turn the corner."
***Robinson was UConn's only other player in double figures, with 14. Gavin Edwards, making just his fourth start of the season (and career) and first since Nov. 17, and Alex Oriakhi (all in the first half) had eight apiece. Walker struggled through a 1-for-9 shooting night and had just five points.
Janning (17 points) led four Northeastern players in double figures.
***Oh, I won the bet among beat writers in coming closest to guessing the attendance. I guessed 6,100. The final tally: 5,571. Obviously, 'Price is Right' rules about not going over the actual retail price didn't apply.
"Thank God it was at home, in many ways," said Calhoun. "I remember there were 3,800 people here a couple of years ago when we played South Carolina. Tonight, we had 5,500 people ..."