***Don't put too, too much stock in this loss. A young UConn team couldn't have had a worse opening-game opponent: a big, physical, veteran team in one of the more hostile homecourt environments in the country.
The Huskies were still within striking distance with less than four minutes to go, but didn't have any answers other than Kemba Walker. And he was fatigued at the end after a Herculean effort (31 points ... on 27 shots).
"Kemba decided he had to take on too much of the burden," Jim Calhoun said. "I would prefer that he give the ball up … (but) he certainly kept us within fighting distance."
"They made me work for every basket," Walker said. "It was a tough night for me. Every point I had was tough."
*** Now, if the Huskies lost to South Florida at home on New Year's Eve, I'd start to worry.
***Alex Oriakhi – plagued by early foul trouble – grabbed his lone rebound of the night with less than five minutes to play and met the wrath of Calhoun.
"I'm not sure if he was better sitting or when he was playing," Calhoun snapped.
Said Oriakhi, who missed the final 14 minutes of the opening half after picking up his second foul: "I thought I played bad, I could have definitely played better. Hopefully I can just learn and get better from it."
***Don't blame the Huskies' youth, insisted frosh Shabazz Napier.
"It has nothing to do with youth," he insisted. "It has something to do with us as a basketball team. We didn't come out to play … we just made mental mistakes, and that goes for everybody – more for myself. I felt like I could have played a better defensive game."
*** UConn did boast a 36-33 rebounding advantage over the Panthers, who entered the game outrebounding their opponents by more than 16 per game. But the bulk of that was thanks to swingmen like Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith, who had eight boards apiece. Oriakhi and 7-footer Charles Okwandu (who wound up fouling out) combined for just five.
"Which is always good to have in a game like this," Calhoun said, sarcastically.
*** Calhoun wasn't being a wise guy, however, when he complimented the officiating crew of Jim Burr, Ed Corbett and Jeff Clark, who called a combined 49 fouls on the night.
"That's the best game, far and away, I've ever had officiated here in Pittsburgh," said Calhoun, who a day before equated playing the Panthers with playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. "You can laugh if you want, normally I don't say that about officials. It was the fairest game for both teams. Both teams are physical … right off the bat, they jumped on both teams, said this is going to be a fairly officiated game, whether it's at Pittsburgh or UConn. It was a terrifically officiated game.
"There was a bad call here, a bad call there," he added. "I certainly had some bad calls on the bench, and our players had plenty of bad plays."
*** The sellout of 12,725 was the sixth-largest in the history of The Pete.
*** Last time I'll bring this up: you can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/DaveBorges