Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kevin Ollie Respects Providence, Not Crazy About The Dunk; Omar Calhoun Compliments Jordan Fuchs

UConn has its annual grudge match with Providence on Thursday at 7 p.m. at The Dunk, where strange things (marital aids, players' angry brothers) tend to happen. The teams will meet again in their respective Big East regular season finales on March 9 in Storrs.

No matter how bad the Friars are -- and they've been mostly bad in recent years, going 12-42 in Big East play the last three seasons -- they always seem to give UConn a battle. PC has won five of the last seven meetings and eight of the last 12, including a 72-70 win at the Dunk last February.

The Friars are stumbling through another season at 10-10 overall and 2-6 in the Big East, losers of three of their last four games. But you know they'll give UConn all they've got on Thursday -- they always do.

Here’s some of what Kevin Ollie had to say today:

On PC:

“They’re always tough in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center – I think it’s the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. They’ve got guards, (Vincent) Council’s coming back from his injury feeling more confident, (Kris) Dunn is coming back from his injury feeling more confident, Bryce Cotton averages 22 points a game. It’s a tough matchup. (LaDontae) Henton is also back down low, and Sidiki Johnson is getting minutes.”

"Coach Cooley’s gonna get that thing turned around. They’re playing hard, effective basketball. They’re passing the basketball, making the shots. And Cotton’s a tremendous scorer. We’re going to have to have an emphasis on stopping him.”

On how Dunn has helped Friars since he started playing on Dec. 18:

“His speed, how he attacks the basket, getting out in the passing lane. When they press, he puts tremendous ball pressure on opponents. He adds an extra dimension to them. (Josh) Fortune is real good, too.”

On whether he enjoyed playing at Providence back in the day:

“Not necessarily. They’ll say anything, that crowd. There were always competitive games – they had some great teams when I was playing – Michael Phelps, all the bigs they had, Michael Smith.”

(Ollie can be excused for his Jim Calhoun-like, name-mangling moment. Michael Phelps didn’t play hoops for the Friars before his Gold medal-winning swimming career. It was Robert Phelps Ollie was talking about).

Ollie recalled his game-winning shot against the Friars in 1994. It was a layup at the buzzer and his only basket of the game. It also got Donny Marshall off the hook after he had gotten a technical foul for "sarcastically clapping" at a referee after a call.

“I think it was (Jim) Burr,” Ollie recalled. “That’s the wrong person to clap to. He teched us up. I think that was my only field goal of the game. Good memories. I just remember saving Donny’s life on that one.”

Ollie on playing zone defense:

“I’m a man-to-man guy. I’m a Coach Calhoun disciple. I don’t really like playing zone, but to throw a team off, and with our guys who can get out and scramble a lot, it’s been effective – at times – for us.”

*** Omar Calhoun played high school basketball with Jordan Fuchs, the 6-foot-6 tight end who committed to UConn on Monday. Fuchs has hinted he might like to play hoops at UConn someday, as well, though that seems to be a long-shot, at best.

Anyway, Calhoun said he’s “good friends with him … a lot of people from New York like coming here because they know I’m having a good time here,” and added that Fuchs has some game on the hardwood.

“He’s pretty good … he’s like a wide-body kind of guy, runs the floor, he’s good.”

Calhoun said he hasn’t spoken to Fuchs since he committed, however, and has no idea if he intends on playing basketball.

*** UConn players gathered in a huddle after practice and seemed to be laughing and enjoying themselves quite a bit.

Said Calhoun: “Just having some fun, joking around. We have some good chemistry on this team. Everyone gets along. It’s a group of guys that like joking, but when we’re on the court, we get it done.”

*** Shabazz Napier said New England bragging rights are at stake tomorrow and recalled last year’s loss at The Dunk.

“Last year, we were winning the whole game and we just kind of gave them the game at the end. My freshman year, I think we played MarShon Brooks really well. I think that was when he was coming off his 55-point game. We’ve just got to play UConn basketball.”

*** Ryan Boatright sat out about the final 15 minutes or so of practice and had an ice pack wrapped around his left knee. However, Ollie said it was just a bout of tendonitis, which Boatright’s been battling all season, that flared up a little bit. Not big deal, it appears.

*** John Saunders will handle the play-by-play on espn2 and be joined by Tim Welsh as analyst. Welsh, of course, was PC's head coach for 10 seasons before being fired in 2008. This will be just the second time Welsh has done a TV game inside The Dunk since his firing. The first came last week against Pitt.

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