Wednesday, February 5, 2014

DeAndre Daniels "About 75-Percent" for Cincinnati Game; Shabazz Napier Draws Kobe Bryant Comparison

UConn isn't slated to leave Bradley Airport until about 7 p.m., meaning it won't land in Cincinnati until about 9 p.m. Usually, Kevin Ollie meets with the traveling UConn media when the team arrives at its hotel, usually just before dinner. But since the Huskies won't be arriving until later tonight, Ollie did a conference call with the beat writers today at 4:30 p.m.

First question, of course: How's DeAndre Daniels?

Ollie said that Daniels is "about 75-percent to play" in Thursday's Top 25 bout with Cincinnati. Daniels had been getting better but has experienced some back spasms lately. His ankle, Ollie said, is "about 85-percent."

Here's what Ollie had to say about Cincinnati:

“Their intensity, how they play every night, whether they score 40 points or 80 points, they have an identity. They try to take out your first, second, third options. I don’t want to get in a game where we’re playing against their set defense. We wanna be able to rebound. At the end of the day, it’s gonna be a grind-out game. We’re not gonna be in fast breaks all night. Cincy’s playing at a high level, we want to go in there and hopefully give them their first (AAC) loss.”

(what makes their defense so tough?)

"They switch a lot of things, take you out of your first, second options. We're gonna have to be disciplined as a team. They’ve got Justin Jackson back there on the back line, he's long, active, aggressive. That tends to lead to a good defensive team. They pressure, but also have length to play in the halfcourt."

(on Jackson)

“He’s found his niche, being that tough person on the back line for them, and using that athleticism on the offensive end. He’s a face-up guy, he’s able to take five-men off the dribble, and he’s been able to take that 10-footer, too. His touch is underrated.”

(on Sean Kilpatrick)

"He's their finisher for them ... When they need a bucket, he’s going to get the ball. Short clock situation, he attacks or shoots the 3. He’s a great player, he needs everyone’s attention. We’re going to do it as a committee. We want to make it hard for him each and every time he touches the ball. Not only the person guarding him, we want Sean Kilpatrick to see four other UConn jerseys staring right at him.”

*** Meanwhile, went over to Cincinnati's practice today at its nice facility at the Lindner Center (next door to Fifth Third Arena. Sort of the same idea as UConn's new basketball facility, although this building houses football and other sports' locker rooms, as well as staff offices, etc.)

Here's some of what Mick Cronin had to say:

Cronin added:

(on whether Napier and Kilpatrick are the two best players in the league)

"Obviously, you have to throw Russ Smith in there. If you throw out statistics, Justin (Jackson) has to be in the mix, as far as being impactful ... (Napier) makes NBA shots. I'm lying in bed with my iPad watching him make Kobe Bryant-type shots. You don't know how he's getting them off, never mind making them. When he gets in a rhythm like that, it's scary."

(on Napier also leading AAC in assists)

"Good coaching, getting the ball in the right guy's hands. They run a million pick-and-rolls for him. You can't give him the same look for 40 minutes. If he gets comfortable against you, you're in trouble, so we're going to be prepared to give him different looks."

(on the AAC)

"We've got a great league this year. You look around college basketball, there's a lot of parity. But we've got five really good teams in this league, and obviously we've got two of them this week (Cincy plays at SMU on Sunday)."

*** Justin Jackson, who leads the AAC in blocked shots:

"They've got great guards ... You've got Napier and (Ryan) Boatright ... Boatright is a younger Napier, that's how I feel. Same type of guard, same type of player, he shoots well, they've both got the same type of quickness."

Sean Kilpatrick on matching up against Napier:

Asked Kilpatrick about the game-winning shot he hit in Storrs two years ago to beat the Huskies:

"I'd say out of my top-five (college memories), that may be No. 2. I'll take the Syracuse game that we had in the Garden as the top one. But that atmosphere, playing in Storrs and being able to hit a big shot like that to help my team win, that was something that was a really inspiring moment for me. I appreciate that shot a lot."

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