Friday, December 21, 2012

After 'Beautiful' First Half vs. Fordham, UConn Plays to Scoreboard in Second

Kevin Ollie labeled UConn's 88-73 win over Fordham on Friday "a tale of two halves."

I have to admit that, while working for my college paper, I wrote that line once and thought I was the first ever to think of it. Turns out its one of the oldest cliches in sports writing.

Still, it's a fair assessment of tonnight. Shooting over Fordham’s matchup zone and getting out on the break as well as they’ve done all year, the Huskies posted 57 first-half points and led by 29 at the break. UConn shot 58 percent from the floor (including 8 of 16 3-pointers), scored 21 fast-break points and turned the ball over just twice in the first 20 minutes.

But UConn somehow let Fordham go on a 19-0 run in the latter half, and the Rams closed their deficit from 32 to 13 before the Huskies pulled away.

Ryan Boatright poured in a career-high 26 points to go with nine assists, Shabazz Napier added 19 points, six assists and seven boards and Omar Calhoun tossed in 19 points to lead the Huskies (9-2).

Boatright had 20 points by halftime and also finished with three steals (and six turnovers).

“I took what the defense gave me and made my shots,” the sophomore guard said. “I’ve been in the gym, really focusing on my jump shot.”

OLLIE:

(on the second half)

"We played to the scoreboard. We let them get back in the game, gave up layups after layups after layups.”

(on beating Fordam's zone in the first half)

“We were making them shift from side to side, moving the basketball. It was beautiful to watch.”

UConn, of course, was once again outrebounded -- this time by a disturbing, 40-28 margin. Ollie was asked how close he was to determining a set rotation among his big men.

“Not that close. It’s still a work in progress. We’re going to keep trying to find somebody. We can’t go out and get Patrick Ewing. We’ve got to go with the guys we’ve got … To answer your question, I’m not close.”

“We’ve gotta go pursue the basketball. We’ve got to play desperate. Rebound like you’re desperate. Gotta change. We’ve gotta change. I’m a probability guy, and we’ve got to change.”

Ollie turns 40 on Dec. 27.

“At the end of the day, it’s a great Christmas give. And birthday. I usually just get one gift.”

CALHOUN:

“We played good defense and pushed the ball (in the first half). We kind of slowed it down in the second half, didn’t push the ball. We played a lot of halfcourt offense and weren’t really getting our guards moving. We were playing at their tempo.”

BOATRIGHT:

“I took what the defense gave me and made my shots. I’ve been in the gym, really focusing on my jump shot.”

(on whether this game -- or at least the first half -- was the best UConn's played this season)

“The Michigan State game, I think we played awesome. But it was very similar. We were all knocking down shots. We had 16 assists in the first half … we were playing UConn basketball.”

NAPIER:

(on Boatright)

“When you see a guy playing on-the-ball, tough defense, it’s kind of inevitable for you do to the same. If you’re not going to do it, there’s something wrong with you.”

“He’s a different guard than I am. He’s shorter, but he’s a scorer. That’s why I asked to move to the one, because I felt like we’re not using Ryan to his best abilities. I can get my points, but I feel like Ryan’s more of a scorer coming off picks. He doesn’t have to waste his energy coming up the point. That’s where we understand each other. I’m looking to give him the ball.”

I tried to get Napier to say he and Boatright were the best 1-2 guard tandem in the Big East, better even than Louisville's Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. But Bazz wouldn't bite.

“I don’t know, I haven’t seen those guys play. They’re probably playing great. But I wouldn’t doubt that my competitiveness would say, ‘Of course we’re better than them.’ But we won’t know until we actually play them. They’re terrific guards, we’re great guards.”



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