Monday, December 26, 2011

Blaney Ready to Take Bulls by Horns

Just got off a conference call with George Blaney, who’ll be coaching UConn in its first three Big East games, including Wednesday’s opener at South Florida.

Blaney said the fact that he’s known about Jim Calhoun’s three-game suspension since last February doesn’t make things any easier this time around.

“I don’t think ‘easy’ is a good word,” he said. “You knew about it, the other ones kind of came more as a surprise or much quicker. We’re just trying to keep things going the way Coach would like them to go.”

Blaney said Calhoun attended UConn’s practice last night, told them what he wanted from them and watched the rest of the short practice. The Huskies had a long practice today and will have another tomorrow morning before departing for Tampa.

“You just try to maintain what we do, and what we do well,” Blaney said. “You try to really talk to the team about giving the kind of effort that he would demand of them. The more competitive we’ll be, the more successful we’ll be. It’s never easy to try to simulate what Jim would do. I don’t do some of things he does, he wouldn’t some of the things I do. We just try to keep it in line with what we do in practice.”

Blaney isn’t worried as much about the team’s first true road game as he is 7-6 South Florida.

“I think South Florida’s really good,”he said. “They have really excellent players, big big’s that can score inside and pop out outside and shoot the ball well. They have a number of good, swing-type athletes, and I think they’re vastly improved from last year.”

Indeed, Augustus Gilchrist has been somewhat of a UConn-killer over the years. The Bulls took UConn to overtime before losing last year in Hartford, beat the Huskies in Tampa the year before and were slain by a Craig Austrie last-second shot in Tampa in 2008.

Blaney expects to have Roscoe Smith playing some power forward to counter USF’s versatile big men, and stressed UConn needs a big effort from Alex Oriakhi on the boards and on defense.

He’s also happy to have a supporting staff of Kevin Ollie, Glen Miller and Ben Wood with him for the next three games.

“They really have been through this before, they know how to help, so I’ll rely on them a great deal,” Blaney said. “Their energy will help us a lot, too … Sometimes as a head coach you don’t see things, where when you’re watching as an assistant, you see the overall picture a little bit more.”

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