Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Ho-Hum Victory

After Tuesday night's misleading 67-53 win over Rutgers (it wasn't anywhere near even that close), Jim Calhoun planned to go to his Pomfret home, get the fireplace going and enjoy his first day off in over a week.

The Huskies won't practice Wednesday, enjoying a well-earned day off after a whirlwind prior couple of weeks that saw lots of travel, a marquee road win and Tuesday night's rather blase victory over the woeful Scarlet Knights.

Here's some notes and quotes coming off the Rutgers game:

***UConn (13-2, 2-2 Big East) blitzed out of halftime on a 12-0 run as Rutgers misfired on its first nine shots. Mike Poole ended the Scarlet Knights' drought with a driving layup with 14:45 left, but UConn countered with an 8-0 run and the rout was on.

"Coach really got on us," sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi said. "He said they're showing more energy than we are, they're playing full-speed and we're not. We told each other we've definitely got to pick it up in the second half, at least defensively. The offense is going to come."

Added Kemba Walker: "I thought we came out with a lot of intensity and we just played hard. We played with a lot of effort. That's all it was."

Rutgers (10-6, 1-3) missed 12 of its first 13 to start the latter half, wound up shooting just 35 percent from the floor (including just 3-for-17 on 3-pointers) and earned a verbal lashing from its first-year coach, Mike Rice.

"The mental softness of this team is unbelievable," Rice said, "so you can't expect it to be successful on the road. To do what they did in that six-minute stretch … we'll have to figure it out, that's for sure."

"You've got to fight back," Rice continued, "and, boy, we took a standing eight-count."

***Calhoun sported a Band-Aid on his left cheek during the game, but shrugged it off as a cut while shaving.

"If I could handle that Gillette, I'd be an awful lot better," he said.

*** Roscoe Smith turned his ankle while going in for a layup with 13:17 left in the first half. He made the shot and was fouled, but left the game favoring his ankle and Oriakhi took the free throw (and missed). Smith returned a little less than two minutes later.

***The crowd of 12,527 was fairly impressive, considering that Rutgers is hardly a big draw, and that blizzard-like conditions were in the forecast later in the night.

***Napier is such a sparkplug for this team, whether he's scoring (33 points in two games last week) or distributing (seven assists on Tuesday).

He's also the closest thing I've seen to John Linehan since the little guard was setting Big East steals records at Providence a decade ago. Now, Napier is no John Linehan -- not yet. But his pesky ability to poke away steals, without getting called for reach-ins, is quite Linehanesque.

(For the record, Napier said he's never heard of Linehan but promises to look him up on the Internet to see what I'm talking about).

***Mike Rice on Kemba Walker: "I thought he had it on cruise control all night. Once Oriakhi got it going, he just fed the big fella a little bit."

***Calhoun on:

Oriakhi: "Him touching the ball gives him a boost."

Charles Okwandu, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Napier and Donnell Beverly: "It doesn't show in the stats, but (Charles) is a factor in the middle. Jamal gave us a very good lift. Shabazz was very good again, Donnell Beverly was very good off the bench."

And, on the flip side, on Jeremy Lamb: "I still think Jeremy Lamb has a lot more to show us. He's a terrific offensive player, an incredible kid, he works so hard. He's going to have to work to overcome that he's probably the weakest kid on our team, and he can't keep getting banged on screens."

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