Today was 'The Boat Show,' no question about it. We'll get to Ryan Boatright (who confirmed that is his nickname) later. For now, let's get to the even bigger surprise of the day.
The UConn beat writer contingent was convinced that Jim Calhoun would come in breathing fire after the game, despite the Huskies' 13-point win over Arkansas. UConn, after all, had been beaten 47-35 on the boards. Worse, they were outrebounded on the offensive glass by a whoppiing 27-4 margin.
Instead, here's how Calhoun started his postgame presser:
"In sum total, I would say that might be our best game."
He continued: "The 15 turnovers, which are heading down to where I want them, at least four or five of them were beautiful passes that just went off guys' hands inside the post."
As for the rebounding: “We’ve got to catch the ball inside, and we’ve got to rebound. Otherwise, in a game where we got beat by 12 on the glass, I’m not as disappointed, because I can see the rebounds, I can see our heads under the net. You can’t rebound under the net, and we’ve got to do a much better job of that.”
And, as Arkansas coach Mike Anderson pointed out: “We missed a lot of shots (53), so there were a lot of rebounds to be gotten, I guess.”
True enough. And I can see Calhoun's point. There were a lot of good signs for the Huskies today, starting, of course, with Boatright and moving on to UConn's three-guard attack of Boatright, Napier and Lamb, who were never really rattled by the Razorbacks' aggressive, pressure style.
It's a real good sign, in fact, that Napier seemed perfectly willing to relinquish the scoring burden to Boatright and even Tyler Olander (career-best 12 points) while picking his spots carefully (taking just six shots, making three). Lamb was also saddled with foul trouble, DeAndre Daniels and Roscoe Smith were just about invisible, so it was good for UConn to get scoring from other sources.
And they have a lot of sources. Seems this could be the type of team that will be led by its superstar (Lamb) and get contributions from various other players on any given night.
Niels Giffey was a positive, as well. Shackled to the bench for the entire Florida State game, as well as the first 16 minutes of the first half Saturday, he wound up contributing with four points, two boards and some generally solid overall play -- particularly on defense.
In fact, Calhoun strongly considered starting Giffey over Daniels until backing of at the last minute.
“Niels hasn’t seen the light of day much. He’s had four good practices in a row. We were talking to him about starting him over DeAndre – who we think is going to be a very good player, he just needs to understand the level we’re playing at is highly different.”
“My assistants kept saying to me, and they were 100-percent right – for once – to leave Niels in on defense, because he’s doing a great job."
As for Boatright, what more can you say -- 23 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals, boundless energy. He's fearless taking the ball to the hole yet looks for his big men inside more than any of UConn's guards. He is the real deal.
“Ryan was pretty special,” said Calhoun. “He has those Allen Iverson kind of things where his athletic ability just allows him to do some pretty special things that you don’t normally see.”
Said Boatright: “I play with heart, so I never surprise myself. I came from high school scoring 40, 50, so I know I can score. But it’s not really about me scoring 23, as long as we got the ‘W’, I don’t care if I had three points, as long as we won, I’d be fine.”
Added Anderson: “He really gave them a big-time lift … I saw the game he played against Florida State and I thought he was the difference in that game, as well. He’s a good, crafty little guard. With Shabazz and him on the same team, and then you’ve got a guy like Lamb that can knock it down at any point in time, that’s a good tandem there.”
No doubt about that.
Calhoun mentioned how Boatright was going up against Ray Allen at Gampel the other day.
“He was saying ‘Ray, I got ya.’ (He was) going into Ray Allen. Not many guys can do that with Ray. They were kidding back and forth, but the point being: all he’s been doing through this whole process is, ‘Coach, get me on the floor.’ He never said a word about starting – obviously, I wouldn’t have listened to him anyway – but still, a lot of kids come back and say things.”