Kevin Ollie: Great Character Game for Omar Calhoun, Phil Nolan
He's right, of course. But when a couple of usual starters come off the bench (Phil Nolan for the last two games, Omar Calhoun on Saturday), well, we in the media have to ask ...
Ollie continued: "His energy is like, out the roof right now. He’s running to screens, he’s calling out blue coverages, which is our pick-and-roll defense. I can hear him from the other side of the court. The ball always finds energy, and I think that’s what he’s bringing, and he’s getting rewarded for it.”
Nolan finished with a career-high 11 points in a season-high 22 minutes. He also went 7-for-7 from the foul line and has hit his last 11 from the stripe.
Calhoun had started every regular-seasaon game of his UConn career (except last year's season finale vs. Providence, which he sat out due to injury) until Saturday. He scored 12 points and grabbed a season-high six rebounds.
Both players have handled their respective situations well.
Calhoun: “It definitely means something. But, I know I’ve been struggling. Coach is working with me. Obviously, you can’t start someone playing the way I’ve been playing. He just wants me to get back after it and things are going to fall into place at the end of the day.”
Nolan and Calhoun's coach and teammates are impressed with the way they've responded.
Said Ollie: “Phil was great. He responded the right way. That’s what I like. It wasn’t a benching. He was out of the starting lineup, but he had his career-high tonight. It’s not about who’s starting, it’s about who’s taking care of their minutes. I thought Omar came in and finally got his shot going. He hit two 3’s, played very well, had six rebounds … All in all, it was a great character game for us. Two of the guys who showed great character were Omar and Phil.”
*** The crowd of 9,274 was the largest ever to watch a sporting event at Webster Bank Arena. Granted, the crowd was a bit ... umm .. quiet at times. But it was a good showing, nonetheless.
"I think there were a lot of families in the audience that probably hadn’t ever seen us play before," Ollie noted. "I felt the energy from the crowd, it was just a great family atmosphere. It took them awhile to really start cheering, because we didn’t really give them opportunity. We were playing good defense, then giving up offensive rebounds.”
So, will we do this again next year? Maybe more than once?
“We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board," said Ollie. "To have a great program, you’ve got to schedule the right way and recruit. I’m glad that Warde (Manuel) and Paul McCarthy, Glen Miller, we sat down and scheduled this game. If it comes to it, we have a favorable team we want to bring down here and it works out, we definitely won’t be opposed to it. I can’t speak because I’m not the only person making the decision. I’m part of the decision. But, I wouldn’t think twice if Warde said let’s play another game down in Bridgeport.”
“We’re gonna see. I’m very pleased with the fans, the turnout here. It’s been great, great for our team, great for the fans here. We’ll assess it after the women’s game, at some point. We’ll look at whether or not we’ll come back here next year, or how we’ll do it.”
*** UConn director of basketball operations Kevin Freeman wasn't at the game. His wife, Nicole, gave birth to a boy on Friday. He's the Freeman's third child.