Wednesday, November 2, 2011

UConn Routs AIC in Exhibition Opener

A fairly typical exhibition opener for UConn. Some sloppiness, some poor play -- particularly in the first half -- but overall plenty of positives, as well. Here's my game story.

We'll start with who didn't play, either at all or in the first half. Ryan Boatright is being held out as UConn and the NCAA explore his eligibility, and Jim Calhoun had little to say about the matter after the game.

“I watched Bill Belichick today, and I really enjoyed it," said the coach. "I loved his answers: ‘Nope,’ ‘Yup.’”

He did add, however: “There’s probably 35-40 kids right now probably in similar situations (as Boatright).”

Roscoe Smith sat on the bench the entire first half, even as walk-ons and Enosch Wolf got some run. According to Calhoun, it was a disciplinary measure for violating "a commitment he had with us … no big deal … No more will come of it. It’s finished.”

OK, now on to who did play both halves. Andre Drummond appeared a bit uncomfortable early on, no doubt a combination of playing with a face mask and playing in his first collegiate game (or exhibition game, as it were).

But after missing his first three shots from close range, and picking up his third foul early in the latter half, Drummond started to settle in. He finished with 10 points and four boards and gave himself a "C-plus" for his efforts.

"I'll go with an 'F' for the first half," he added.

“I think he struggled a lot with the mask on," Calhoun said. "I don’t think he expected to. How do you ever know if a kid struggles because of the fact that it’s his first game … He doesn’t have any idea how great he’s going to be some day. You saw some slight things. When he has a layup, it’s not just a layup.”

Indeed, Drummond had a few rafter-shaking dunks.

*** Shabazz Napier also overcame a slow start (0-for-6) and finished with nine points, seven rebounds and a whopping 15 assists. Oh, and no turnovers.

"Fifteen to '0' was nice, but the '0' was because he wasn't doing anything in the first half," Calhoun said. "How can you have a turnover when you're not doing anything? But in the second half, he got us going."

*** Calhoun was most pleased with the play of Tyler Olander, who had nine points and nine boards and, along with Napier, was the team's best overall player, per the coach.

"He was always fundamentally sound, has a good feel for the game," Calhoun said. "But he blocked four shots – I don’t know how many he blocked last year, if he blocked 10 I’d be surprised – and he looked like he knew exactly where he should be, defensively and offensively. Happily, the things that we see in practice translated over into an exhibition game.”

In fact, Olander had just seven blocks last season.

“He would have been good playing against most anybody tonight," Calhoun added.

Said Olander: “I’m just a lot more aggressive attacking rebounds, not shying away when I get the ball in the post. I’m more confident in my moves down there.”

*** In his debut, DeAndre Daniels had 10 points and four boards. However, he earned a quick hook from Calhoun after hitting a 3-pointer and giving the "Monocle" sign to the student section.

“He can do that if we’re in New Orleans playing for the national championship," said Calhoun. "But playing a Division 2 team, up 35 points … and he’s one of the great kids in this program, one of the nicest kids. It’s atypical. I don’t think you’ll see that move again.”

Said Daniels: “Coach was right, I was wrong for doing that. I was just kind of in the moment. I learn from my mistakes.”

*** Calhoun wasn't happy with the play of Alex Oriakhi (13 points, eight boards)

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