Monday, January 10, 2011

A Matter of Trust

Kemba Walker made the highlights (along with, for different reasons, Roscoe Smith), but it was the play of Walker's supporting cast that was the most significant development of UConn's thrilling OT win over Texas on Saturday.

Alex Oriakhi emerged from a slump with 21 rebounds, Shabazz Napier (the Big East rookie of the week) stayed hot, Smith played well (save for his fullcourt heave with 10 seconds left), and even Donnell Beverly gave UConn some big minutes.

“Everybody kept saying (good) things about me, but I don’t think I should get any credit for that game,” Walker insisted. “Those guys just showed their heart.”

The junior guard added that he developed a lot more trust in his teammates after the Texas game.

“That’s something that I haven’t been doing in the last couple of games, up until Texas,” Walker admitted. “I had kind of been forcing the issue a little bit. The way Texas played me, I had to trust those guys, and they stepped up big-time. I think for the rest of the season, it’s going to be a different ballgame.”

Jim Calhoun certainly hopes so.

“The more other people show up, the better off we are,” Calhoun said. “Shabazz is showing up pretty consistently, offensively. We’d like to get Jeremy (Lamb) and Niels (Giffey) to show up a little more, then get the ball to our big guys.”

***On that note, Giffey will replace Lamb in the starting lineup tonight. Lamb, who had started all 14 games to this point, has hit a bit of a rough patch, going scoreless against Texas. Calhoun is hoping Giffey, who’s defense has been strong, can help UConn get off to a strong start defensively, and that Lamb can provide a spark off the bench.

“He’s going to be fine,” Calhoun said of Lamb. “He’s going to be a terrific scorer here.”

***Calhoun also hopes that, despite dire reports of blizzard-like conditions, the home fans show up for tonight’s game. UConn hasn’t sold out a home game yet this season, but has seen the energy a sold-out home crowd can give a team at Pittsburgh and Texas.

“They are a very likeable team,” Calhoun said of his players. “I like coaching them, I like doing things with them. It really is fun. Winning and losing is still winning and losing, but there’s something very embraceable about them. That’s the first thing Mike Brey said to me.

“Young teams need as much support as they can get.”

***Rutgers has been playing better under first-year coach Mike Rice. It's 10-5 overall (1-2 Big East) with wins over Miami (Fla.) and Providence.

“They play almost like Pittsburgh does, in many respects," Calhoun said. "They’re very well-disciplined, they get through their stuff, they play very good defense."

OK, that maybe so ... but comparing Rutgers to Pitt? That's a bit of a stretch.

***Always a bit mesmerized by this stat: UConn has won nine straight against Rutgers and 26 in a row in the regular season against Big East teams from the tri-state area (Rutgers, St. John’s, Seton Hall). The Huskies, of course, did lose to St. John's in last year's Big East tourney.


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