Monday, January 9, 2012

Calhoun: 'They May Throw Me Out, But I'm Gonna Fight'

I'm not fully prepared to credit Jim Calhoun's technical foul for UConn's renewed vigor and intensity over the final 11 minutes or so Monday night.

Several players, after all, said they didn't even know Calhoun had been slapped with a 'T' by Pat Driscoll after arguing an Andre Drummond over-the-back foul during a timeout.

"We didn't even pay attention," claimed Ryan Boatright.

But some inspired talk by Calhoun at some point after that 'T' certainly did seem to light a fire under the Huskies, who suddenly started to rebound and defend with urgency. Drummond and Jeremy Lamb stepped up big-time, an effective zone press certainly helped as well, and UConn rallied to victory.

“I told them, ‘If we’re not going to fight, they might throw me out of here, but I’m going to fight,’” Calhoun said. “(The technical) wasn’t planned, but we just couldn’t keep them going the way we were going.”

Added Boatright: "Coach has got our back, he’s on the refs. If he sees something going on, he tells us not to say anything to the refs and he’ll take care of it.”

Ah, Boatright. A real trick-or-treat player, someone who is going to draw Calhoun's ire quite a bit over the next few years. He certainly did on Monday. With about 14 1/2 minutes left and UConn trailing by five, Boatright threw an inbounds pass over Tyler Olander's head that went out-of-bounds. The freshman seemed to be upset at Olander, and Calhoun yelled from the sidelines, "Don't blame your teammate!"

Boatright appeared to say something back, and Calhoun soon called a timeout, raced out to near midcourt and started screaming right in Boatright's grill.

“I don’t even really remember what he said," Boatright recalled. "It was just the heat of the moment. Coach is going to be Coach. That’s what he does all the time. He does it to everybody. I made a mistake, and you’ve just got to be culpable and be able to play through it.”

Indeed, Boatright later had one of the plays of the night when he stole the ball at midcourt and flew in for a dunk that tied the score at 48 and put a huge charge in the near-sellout crowd of 15,805.

“I just played ‘D’, like I always try to do – stay in front and not gamble," Boatright said. "Coach has been preaching to us not to gamble. He lost it by himself, he gave it to me, and once I got the steal, I was preparing for the contact. I thought he was going to jump and I just went up strong and tried to dunk it, and I got up high enough. That definitely fired the crowd up and fired the crowd up.”

Oh, and about that crowd -- Calhoun has rarely heaped so much praise on an XL Center gathering (even if it was a snooch short of a sellout).

“The crowd was more than special," the coach said. "We were down eight, we cut it to six and I thought we went ahead by four … just by the way the crowd reacted. In the past, we’ve had crowds waiting for us to do things … "

*** Andre Drummond was immense, particularly in the latter half. He followed Lamb in the scoring column with 20 points while also hauling in a game-high 11 rebounds and three blocks – including a Darryl Bryant 3-point attempt in the waning seconds that sealed the deal.

“Andre Drummond was special tonight,” said Calhoun. “He hasn’t been special all season – he’s been good – as you would expect from a freshman. But tonight, he was special.”

Drummond’s biggest play of the night came with 1:27 left and the Huskies clinging to a one-point (58-57) lead. Lamb misfired on a 3-pointer, but Drummond grabbed the rebound and hit a short baseline jumper – one of several such shots he made throughout the night in between rafter-shaking dunks.

I also thought Drummond did a decent job on Jones, the Big East scoring and rebounding leader who finished with 22 points but just five rebounds -- by far his lowest total of the season.

Jones, a 6-8 forward, is a tough guard for Drummond when he steps out to shoot the 3. He buried a trio of treys in the first half but none the rest of the way.

“I think I did a pretty good job of keeping him off the boards," Drummond said. "That’s what he really feeds off of, rebounds to get his points. I slipped up a little bit near the end of the half, letting him get three quick rebounds. Coach said you’ve got to stop letting him to that.”

WVU missed all 10 of its 3-point attempts in the latter half.

*** UConn didn't grab its first offensive rebound until late in the game, though it finished with six.

“I thought we might set the all-time record without getting an offensive rebound," Calhoun quipped afterwards.

He can quip about this after a win. Had UConn lost ... not so much.

*** Neither Drummond's 20 points or 11 boards were career-bests, but he matched his career-high with four fouls. He's starting to learn what Big East refs are going to call.

“Yeah, I mean, they were killing me," he said. "But they were great refs, man. I’m not going to complain or say anything bad, because they’re good refs. I did something wrong and they called it. I’m not going to argue with them. They’re the higher power, so, it was a good call by them.”

*** Bob Huggins didn't seem quite as enamored by the officiating crew.

"There's some things I'd like to say about that, but I can't, y'know what I mean?" he said, in reference to a fourth foul call on Deniz Kilicli.

*** Hate to nitpick, but UConn is really getting very little out of its small forwards -- DeAndre Daniels, Roscoe Smith and now Niels Giffey, who has yet to score a field goal in his two starts the last two games.

I think that's all I've got for now.

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