Friday, December 2, 2011

Highway to Hell

They now call it "The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball." I remember when they used to call it "40 Minutes of Hell."

Whatever you want to call it, it's what Mike Anderson employs at Arkansas, where he was once a longtime assistant to Nolan Richardson (including the Razorbacks' 1994 national championship squad). It means pressure, pressure and more pressure, lots of run-and-gun and, often, high-scoring affairs.

Of course, Anderson was employing this style with Missouri the past five seasons, including in 2009 when the Tigers went up against UConn in the Elite Eight in Glendale, Ariz. The result: an 82-75 Husky victory in what was Kemba Walker's coming-out party (23 points in 25 minutes).

Jim Calhoun says he's watched tape of that game to help prepare for Saturday's SEC-Big East Challenge battle with Anderson's Razorbacks. Ryan Boatright is certainly up for the challenge.

“That’s how I’ve played my whole life, because I’m so small, I’ve got to use my speed to my advantage,” the diminutive frosh guard said. “I love when a team wants to come out and press us like that.”

The Huskies expect to throw a lot of three-guard looks at Arkansas, meaning Boatright, Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb could be sharing the court a lot on Saturday.

That's fine with Boatright, too.

“We can hit you from every angle, it’s hard to stay in front of all three of us," he said. "And the chemistry we’ve all got, we play so well with each other. I think that comes from the preseason and us understanding what we all want to do, and that’s win. It’s fun playing with those guys.”

Boatright's season debut was certainly impressive Saturday in the Bahamas. Now comes his debut on the "mainland." He said sitting out six games (plus two exhibitions) for receiving improper benefits was frustrating.

“I wasn’t expecting eight games,” he admitted. “The little thing I was in trouble for, I was expecting maybe three or four, five at the most. It came out to be eight. But I’m just happy I got to come back quick enough to help my team in the Bahamas.”

Calhoun said that Boatright, Niels Giffey and Roscoe Smith have been the team's best players in practice the past few days.

A few other tidbits:

*** Calhoun looks for his team to get three defensive stops in a row at least five times a game. He says that when the Huskies did so last season, they went 18-0.

*** Frosh Michael Bradley could being practicing with the team by next week.

*** Arkansas is led by guards Julysses Nobles (12.2 ppg) and Mardracus Wade (10.8) but suffered a tough loss when one of their top returning players, junior forward Marshawn Powell, suffered a season-ending knee injury a few weeks ago.

*** Calhoun says his team isn't "fully connected yet," but concedes few, if any, teams in the nation are right now. He believes No. 1 Kentucky is easily the best team he's seen thus far.

*** The obligatory what's-up-with-Alex-Oriakhi update: “He’s always a hard worker, he was in late last night shooting. I don’t worry about his attitude, I worry about his confidence. He’s not a particularly over-confident kid," Calhoun said.

*** SEC, easy as 1-2-3: The Huskies are 15-5 against the SEC under Jim Calhoun, including 3-0 last season. They’ll also play at Tennessee on Jan. 21.

*** Tell Larry Lucchino & Co. that Calhoun, a huge Red Sox fan, is very much on board with the Bobby Valentine hire.

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