Saturday, November 15, 2014

After stuffing stat sheet Friday night, Ryan Boatright has one thing to improve on -- body language

It's gonna take some time, folks. It's a process, as Kevin Ollie once again pointed out Friday night, following UConn's too-close-for-comfort (the Huskies were down nine points early in the second half) win over Bryant in its season-opener.

UConn struggled early, looked a bit disjointed. Sort of like a team full of newcomers that hasn't had a chance to jell as a unit yet. The Huskies played much better in the second half, when it mattered most, clamping down on defense and relying heavily on Ryan Boatright's Herculean effort (24 points, eight boards, five assists, four steals).

In short, this may have been a microcosm of UConn's upcoming season, if that makes any sense -- early struggles, probably a few unexpected losses along the way, but the talent coming together at the right time in the latter half of the season. And Boatright leading the way.

We'll see how it all shapes out, but the first part seems virtually certain -- UConn will have some struggles early. Fans need to be patient. It's a process, one that Ollie hopes his team falls in love with along the way.

A few odds and ends:

Boatright's mom, Tanesha, surprised him by flying in from Aurora, Ill., for the game.

“I didn’t know she was coming," he said. "I’m in the warm-up line, I hear somebody screaming my middle name. Nobody calls me by my middle name. I’m like, ‘it’s gotta be my mom.’ She surprised me, I’m glad she was there. She’ll be able to take the ring back home.”

Kentan Facey had a game-high, career-high 11 rebounds. Ollie on the difference between Facey this year and last year.

“He’s on the court. He wasn’t on the court last year, because we had DeAndre and Niels, who were two great players for us. His energy was great, he went after every rebound. We want Kentan to be a ball-hunter.”

I've never seen a ball-hawking defender quite like Providence's John Linehan some 15 years ago. But Boatright was a reasonable facsimile thereof on Friday night, pick-pocketing four steals, three of which led to fast-break dunks (two by him).

As well as Boatright played last night, there's still one area where Ollie wants him to improve.

“We still want to work on his body language," the coach said. "But he’s being what a leader’s supposed to be. He’s seen what Shabazz did. He’s learned. He’s gonna have some up-and-down games, like everybody, but we need him to stay connected, being a leader.”

Body language as in not showing up the refs? Not sulking when the team makes freshman mistakes? Neither of the above, according to Boatright.

“He knows that I put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to be excellent," Boatright said. "When I make bone-head mistakes, I just get down on myself, shake my head, stuff like that. Nothing extremely negative, but he just tells me I can’t get down on myself, I’ve just got to keep playing and know everything is gonna be OK.”

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