Monday, November 14, 2011

Hone Us, Wagner: UConn Shows Improvement

Jim Calhoun's not having fun yet. At least not too much.

"Last year's team was fun to coach," he said Monday night after UConn's 78-66 win over Wagner. "Thus far, (this team is) somewhat fun to coach."

Calhoun was happy enough as the Huskies, after giving up 44 offensive rebounds in their prior two games to a Division II team and an Ivy League foe, dominated Wagner on the boards, 42-24.

But there's still plenty of room for improvement. UConn let an 18-point lead whittle away to eight late in the second half. The Huskies turned the ball over 19 times against just seven assists. They're still not getting terribly good play inside, even though Alex Oriakhi and (particularly) Andre Drummond bounced back big on Monday.

"We didn't play bad," Calhoun summed up. "We rebounded better. We're just not invested into the whole process of 40 minutes of basketball."

*** Wagner is pesky, as you'd expect a Dan and Bobby Hurley-coached team to be. Dan said his father, legendary New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley, Sr., has always admired Calhoun from afar.

"My dad respects him as a coach," Dan Hurley said. "My dad doesn't respect everyone as a coach -- trust me."

Calhoun has plenty of respect for Wagner and the entire Northeast Conference, pointing out teams like Central, Quinnipiac and Long Island.

Mutual admiration society tonight at Gampel.

*** Oriakhi wasn't particularly good but he was certainly better than on Friday, with eight points and a team-high nine boards.

"We need to get Alex back," Calhoun said. "He was somewhat back tonight."

Oriakhi isn't getting the rock a whole lot. It seemed early in the second half, the Huskies made a better effort of getting him the ball (and Oriakhi made a better effort of wanting the ball)and he scored six of his points in the first 4 1/2 minutes. Not much after that, however.

"I've just got to get it off the backboard," Oriakhi said. "I've already been told, 'Nobody's going to get you the ball, so you've got to go get it.' But, I would like more touches down there."

*** Drummond had "killed everybody" in practice over the weekend and responded with a nice, eight-point, five-rebound, three-block effort.

"I loved the way he responded," Calhoun said. "I didn't expect any different. He's a wonderful kid."

Drummond’s best sequence came with about 8 minutes left in the first half, when he swatted away consecutive shots, then slammed home a Lamb miss (it didn’t count, however, since Lamb had been fouled on the play) to energize the crowd of 9,217.

“I think I’m getting more of a rhythm right now,” the Middletown resident said. “I think we’re all coming together as a team, collectively.”

The foul shooting could be an issue going forward, however. Drummond made 2 of 5 from the charity stripe, with one of his makes coming on a bank. And a couple of those misses weren't pretty. Something to keep an eye on.

*** Real nice effort from DeAndre Daniels. Fella can fill up a box score: 11 points, five boards, three blocks and a steal. He hit both his 3-pointers and five of his six free throws.

"I like the way he just plays," said Calhoun. "He plays hard."

Said Daniels: "I just go out there and do whatever Coach tells me. When I make a mistake, I just put it in my head to try not to make that mistake (again) and play even harder."

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