UConn's most embarassing performance of the season came at the KFC Yum! Center a little over a month ago, in a loss to Louisville.
Thursday night's 77-64, "second-round" NCAA tourney loss to Iowa State may not have equaled that 80-59 thumping on Feb. 6 in terms of a blowout, but it may have even been more embarassing.
There was Roscoe Smith's latest bizarre, unnecessary long heave with 3.7 seconds left in the half. There was Jeremy Lamb's completely unnecessary windmill dunk attempt in the final seconds of the game (aptly, he missed).
But here's the number that sticks out to me, more than ISU's hot early shooting (not a shock), Royce White's early ability to whir by any UConn player who guarded him ("We got caught as being nothing more than a street sign as they went by us a thousand miles an hour in that first 10 minutes," said Jim Calhoun), or anything else: Iowa State outrebounded UConn, 41-24.
“I feel like we wanted it more,” said ISU guard Chris Allen, who led the team with 20 points. “When I say wanted it more, I mean rebounds. We out-rebounded them by almost 20. That’s a great stat line.”
It sure is.
It's not worth dissecting this game too much more than that. Iowa State wanted it more. It was obvious. It sounds like a cliche, but it was true.
So now, we look to the future. Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb could be lottery picks in June. Other players may want to transfer if UConn remains barred from next year's NCAA tournament. And, of course, there's the annual question of whether Calhoun will return.
Here's what everyone had to say after the game (Warning: it's not much).
Drummond: “I’m not worried about that right now. That’s in the future. I’m not really thinking about that right now.”
Lamb: "“I’m not even thinking about that. I was thinking about the game today. I didn’t step up and do the things we needed to do to win.”
Calhoun: “I’m going to get on the plane (today), go home, and do what I usually do, and meet up with the team on Monday. So as far as my own personal thing, I don’t think it has any relevance here, to be honest with you.”
Said Napier, simply: “Some people could leave, some people could stay. I’m not sure.”
I asked him if he thought Drummond should return for another season.
“That’s not my decision," Napier replied. "That’s him, his family, what he believes. That’s all up to him. If he decides to go, I’m behind him 110-percent. Decides to stay, behind him 110-percent.”
Drummond did have this to say, when asked if UConn has enough talent to do some damage next season (provided its eligible for the postseason):
“This team has so much talent, which has blessed it and cursed it at the same time. We have so much talent, sometimes we don’t know what to do it. All we’ve got to do is channel it the right way throughout the off-season, get a feel for each other even more, and I have no doubt in my mind we’ll be back here again.”
Personally, I think there's a sliver of a chance Drummond returns. Doubtful, but I'd say more of a chance Drummond is back than Lamb.
*** It’s just the second time in 18 appearances under Calhoun that UConn has lost its NCAA tourney opener. The only other time was in 2008, when A.J. Price sprained his ACL shortly before halftime and the third-seeded Huskies got popped by San Diego.
*** Calhoun was asked if perhaps his own squad looked ahead to a potential rematch of last year’s Final Four with the top-seeded Wildcats.
“If they did, they made a hell of a mistake,” Calhoun said. “I don’t think they did.”
*** Asked to summarize the season, Lamb simply said: “Ups and downs. That’s all I can say about it. Ups and downs.”