Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Not 89-0 ... But 10-0 Will Do

The UConn men couldn't be happier with their 10-0 start to the season. Certainly, Jim Calhoun couldn't be.

The Huskies put a nice little bow on their impressive first two months of the season with Wednesday's 81-52 flogging of Harvard. Calhoun couldn't hide his happiness with UConn's defensive effort.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to get a Christmas present or coal under the Christmas tree," he said. "I got a Christmas present."

Calhoun went on to say that, if the Huskies continue to play this well defensively (holding Harvard to 4-for-31 on 3-pointers and 18-for-60 from the floor overall), "we can play anybody well."

He said this was the first time since beating Kentucky that UConn played "Maui-type defense," praised the performances of Charles Okwandu, Tyler Olander (seven points, seven boards and "his best game in the uniform ... he can do those things, and I think he's feeling a little more confident") and, of course, Kemba Walker (game-high 20 points).

He insisted he wasn't shocked by the 10-0 start and acknowledged the tough road ahead. And that was it. In what had to be his quickest press conference in years (at least without any yelling or F-bombs), Calhoun wrapped it up by wishing everyone a happy holiday, acknowledging his beloved grandchildren in the room, and was done quicker than Santa Claus up the chimney.

"It's a great time for us, the Calhouns," he said.

This disposition could all change on Monday, of course, when the young Huskies get thrown to the wolves in their Big East opener at Pitt. But for now, they've really brought a smile to Calhoun's face.

Are they ready for the Big East?

"I definitely think we're ready," said sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi. "Coach is going to get us ready, if we're not. I definitely think it's going to be a challenge that we're ready for."

"We're there, mentally," Oriakhi continued. "We're going to have some hard practices that are going to get us ready. The freshmen, this is going to be their first Big East game. They're probably not going to know what to expect, but that's what the veterans are going to step in and let them know."

Walker said the latter might be difficult.

"Words can't even explain what's going to happen (in Pittsburgh)," he said. "I can't tell them. They've got to be mentally tough, that's it."

Olander is one of those freshmen who have to be ready.

"This is the real season now," he said. "These are the games that really, really matter. They're all big games … From where we were projected to be to where we're at now, I think it's showing the country that we can play. We've got this target on our back now, with the No. 4 ranking going into Big East play."

How about Enosch Wolf, who had three points and four boards in 13 minutes in just his second game since joining the team?

"I think so," he said. "It depends. Coach will decide how much he'll play me. It's getting better, day-to-day, especially in practice."

Summed up Walker: "We're a good team, chemistry-wise. I'm looking forward to the Big East."

***UConn will have a one-hour practice this morning then have the next 1 ½ days off before returning for practice in the afternoon on Christmas Day.

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