Category Archives: Amida Brimah

UConn vs. Villanova: Setting The Scene In Buffalo

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Syracuse basketball, UConn men's basketball
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BUFFALO, N.Y. – We’re in the First Niagara Center, been watching Syracuse and Dayton having a terrible time offensively.

The UConn traveling party, players, coaches and staff, walked past me in the hallway as I made my way back to the work room. The Huskies had their game faces on, I assure you (I mean, whatever that is, coach Knight.)

Okay, Dayton beats the Orange in dramatic fashion, the Huskies are about to take the floor. We’re maybe 25 minutes away. … Let’s set the scene at 9:30 p.m.…

UConn is playing for its season tonight, in a couple of ways. They are battling Villanova for survival, to get to the Sweet `16. They are also playing for the perception of the season. If the Huskies reach the Sweet 16, then whatever was to happen in New York next week, the season would have to be considered an unqualified success. No one can quarrel with 24-7, no one can quarrel with reached the AAC final and losing to Louisville, and no one could quarrel with being one of the last 16 standing.

If the Huskies lose, you could say they fell came up a tad short. Past UConn teams, it seemed, always went as far, and usually a step or two further, than they were expected to go in March. That’s the history. That’s the standard.

These two teams, Villanova and UConn, are more evenly matched than the No. 2 vs. No. 7 seedings suggest, IMO.

Same lineup UConn has been using since March 13 – Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan. … Amida Brimah, off his clutch play against St. Joe’s, will probably be in before long. By not starting him, it keeps him from getting a foul in the first minute. If there’s a change, we’ll update.

Villanova’s usual lineup: James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Aarcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Darrun Hilliard.

The refs are Jamie Luckie, Antinio Petty, Kip Kissinger

Look for Josh Hart, who played very well off the bench in the Wildcats first game, to get in there quickly tonight.

 Programming note: With the late start, and early Saturday night newspaper deadlines, I will not be able to do as much on twitter as usual, but I’ll do what I can on that front. (@AmoreCourant and @JacobsCourant are our handles.)

UConn Vs. Villanova, Kevin Ollie, Jim Calhoun, Notes and Quotes From First Niagara Center

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Jeremy Lamb, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Kemba Walker, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball, Warde Manuel
Date:

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Let’s start with the “news of the day.”

Is Jim Calhoun going to coach Boston College? I don’t believe so. Will he coach somewhere? I wouldn’t bet against that, would you?

It is hard to imagine Calhoun severing his ties with UConn, a school that named a street after him. He has the run of the place, and can do what almost anything he wants. … Almost.

Let’s face it: every great coach misses it after retirement, and many come back. Sometimes it’s a mistake, but it happens. Where do we start? Vince Lombardi came back after a year to coach the Redskins. Bill Parcells came back multiple times. Red Holzman came back. Earl Weaver, Jim Leyland. You think  there’s a chance Phil Jackson, whatever his title, will end up on the Knicks bench? This list goes on and on. Bill Snyder. Bud Wilkinson. Dick Vermeil.

As he neared 70, Joe Torre flirted with retirement each year but would always say, “I don’t want to miss out on any fun,” and he’d come back. Jim Boeheim expressed similar sentiments today, that he won’t retire until he is sure he is ready, because every coach he has talked to misses it.

The attention Larry Brown has gotten at SMU clearly intrigues Jim Calhoun, and it could also intrigue a school out there, one that needs to be put on the map. A school like that would love to have Calhoun for however long they could get him, and gladly take whoever he’d want as a designated successor.

I’m not saying this is going to happen, I’m saying don’t be shocked if it done, because this type of comeback has happened a hundred times before. When coaching is in the blood for 40 years, it never completely gets out. And Calhoun is tanned and rested.

Here is my story on it for the Saturday Courant, and Jeff Jacobs’ take on it.

                                                                                   *****

Shabazz Napier said if Calhoun does come back, he’d apply for a job as one of his assistants some day. He was joking, but Kevin Ollie was serious when he said Napier could be a coach one day. Then he said he would fight Calhoun for his services.                                        ********

Ollie was exceptionally good on the podium today – relaxed, funny, charming.Here’s more from his press session, as we shift the focus back to UConn-Villanova and the NCAA Tournament:

“[Villanova’s] a great, amazing three?point shooting team.  I think they’ve taken probably, I think, top ten in three?point attempts.  I think they’re in the top five of made three?point field goal shooting teams.
So we’re going to have our work cut out for us.  We’ve got to run them off the three?point line.  We’ve got to play Pinkston down low.  He’s a great player also.  That’s what gives them their balance, and that’s what makes them tough to guard. Jay [Wright] does a wonderful job exploiting matchups.  So we’re going to have to be able to be matched up and play our type of basketball and just play with energy and passion.  Hopefully, we can come out with the win tomorrow night.”

“I don’t care who we’re playing. We want to get to the next round.  It’s great to see Jay [Wright].  It’s great to see a foe that we’ve had so many battles against.  Villanova’s a great team.  We’re going to go out there and play.
But we’re worried about and concerned about UConn and our keys to the Continue reading

UConn 89, St. Joseph’s 81 (OT) Wrapping Things Up At First Niagara

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Harvard Basketball, Kevin Ollie, Lasan Kromah, NCAA, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball
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First things first – UConn will play Villanova on Saturday in the late game at Buffalo. Syracuse vs. Dayton is at 7:10, Huskies-Wildcats will be after the conclusion, or about 9:30 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y – A reporter from Buffalo asked Phil Martelli if he ever stopped to think what a great basketball game he was involved in.

“I appreciate that,” Martelli said, “and if I worked for the network and I could care about viewership, I’d be cool about that. But it wasn’t so great.”

Reminds me once that the Raiders lost a close game on Monday Night Football, and after ward, Howard Cosell approached John Madden and said, “John, you gave us a great show …”

Madden responded, “A great show? A great show? That’s a game we just lost. Laverne and Shirley – that’s a show.”

The point being, the NCAA Tournament is filled with great games, games like Dayton-Ohio State and UConn-St. Joseph played at First Niagara on Thursday. The local folks got a great show for their money.

But those who participate are all about the winning and the losing, because a loss and it ends the season, a career if you are a senior.

“When you work hard for something and it goes down the drain, that saddens me,” Shabazz Napier said, after the Huskies finally outlasted the Hawks in OT. “I’m glad I came out on the other end of it. I just wanted to go [to St. Joe’s seniors] and show them my respect.”

Nice gesture by Napier, and a nice snapshot of what the NCAA Tournament is about. It’s dramatic, it’s emotional and Thursday in Buffalo was a good day, unless you were part of the Ohio State or St. Joseph camp. … Here is the game story for the Friday Courant.

Now, about the Huskies … They were outplayed pretty badly for much of the game, and they were outworked for rebounds and loose balls much of the time. But St. Joe’s had no bench, got into foul trouble and the players were out of gas. UConn was relentless down the stretch and in OT, and  earned the win.

“They’re not a 10 seed, and I don’t think we’re a 7 seed,” Kevin Ollie said. “But at the end of the day it’s about planting seeds …”

Yep, new Ollie-ism.

Here’s more of the coach’s take at the podium:

“First of all, I thought it was a great game by both teams.  Unfortunately, someone had to lose.  I’m just glad we came out on top.
The guys right here [Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels], they played hard.  They played with grit.  They played with grind.  At the end of the day, we wanted to outwork our opponent.  It took a little longer than I thought, but fortunately, we got it done at the end.
We started making plays.  It’s all on my players, and I thank them for having a great game for this great university.

“… It was a great win.  It’s for the university.  I love this university.  Those players right there, that’s what kept this university alive.  They could have transferred.  They could have done anything.
Like I said, they have even now faith.  Even now we’re going through a dark time, we’re Continue reading

UConn vs. St. Joe’s: Setting The NCAA Scene In Buffalo

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
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BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Huskies just jogged finished their warm-ups and jogged off the court, the start of their game against St. Joseph’s about 15 minutes away now.

Let’s set the scene at First Niagara Arena, as the UConn Pep Band did the national anthem honors. The building is about half full at the moment.

It has already been an exciting day of tournament action here, with Dayton upsetting “big brother” Ohio State in the first game. Kind of game that has made the tournament, and the first round, the unofficial national holiday that it is.

Vee Sanford’s layup with 3.8 seconds left won it for the Flyers, 60-59.

“It’s amazing the way that, defense has kind of been my thing, and it’s amazing how it’s going to end with a kid getting the game winner on me,” said Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, who was devastated. “Obviously, I think I knew he wanted to go right.  There’s so many things that are going through my mind right now that I wish could have gone differently, but they didn’t.  He made a big shot, made a big time play, and we couldn’t come back.”

Syracuse cruised in the other game, beating Western Michigan by 25.

So here we are, UConn vs. St. Joe’s,  the Huskies back where it started in 2004, with wins here against Vermont and DePaul.

The Huskies starting lineup is the same as it was for all three games at the American Athletic Conference Tournament: Phil Nolan, Niels Giffey, DeAndre Daniels, Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright.

Amida Brimah, Lasan Kromah come off the bench.

Starters for St. Joe’s are as expected – Langston Galloway, Ron Roberts Jr. Halil Kanacevic, Chris Wilson and DeAndre Bembry.

Your referees for the night are Antinio Petty, Jeffrey Anderson, Gary Maxwell.

The St. Joe’s Hawk has VIP status, we hear. We also hear he flaps non-stop during games. We’ll be on the lookout for that.

Maybe the Huskies got a break in being seeded seventh. As a No. 5, they might have drawn Continue reading

Huskies ‘Back Where We Belong,’ Notes, Quotes, Thoughts from Selection Sunday at Gampel

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, Big East, DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, UConn men's basketball
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STORRS – It’s the most wonderful time of the year, if you’re a college basketball player. So that’s really what it was like around Gampel Pavilion a year ago, around the men’s program, at least. It was as if the holidays were cancelled.

The Huskies waited two years to unwrap their presents, so what did it matter that a No. 7 seed, a trip to balmy Buffalo and a matchup against a tough Saint Joseph’s team was stuffed in their stocking? It’s a “precious gift,” Kevin Ollie said.

So the Huskies did not come out of the bunker whining about seeding, respect. They were surprised at the way the American Conference got hosed, and felt badly for SMU, a team and coach they respect a great deal. But they embraced their own opportunity, as well they should.

Lots of content tonight and in the Monday Courant and on Courant.com and on FoxCT. You can the main story here, and Jeff Jacobs’ take here. This is Paul Doyle’s national overview.

And, of course, The Bracket.

 

Now, in their own words, here’s the stream of consciousness from Kevin Ollie and the players.

Ollie’s take:

“I’m happy with the seeding. You always want to get a [higher] seeding but I’m happy for our team. This is their prize for having a great season, for having a great postseason in the tournament down in Memphis.  Now we got to see what we’re going to do with our prize, and hopefully we can go deep in  this tournament.

“It’s been a great journey. There were some dark days there, but everybody in life is going to have dark days. I’m just so proud of the guys how they’re staying together and planting seeds. We just keep trying to do that. I was proud of the guys this week and I thought we got better from that Louisville game last week to the last three games that we played. I’m excited for this tournament, I’m excited for them. We’re back where we belong.

“I don’t know what  [the selection committee] criteria is, I never know. It’s always a little different every year. I feel bad for Larry Brown, not making the tournament. But I know him, and he’s working right now, getting his team ready for next year. They’ll probably be right back in it.

“Louisville, fourth seed, I mean,  you know, that team beat us three times. I think they’re one of the best teams in the country. But seeding doesn’t matter, it’s about what you do on the floor. Hopefully we can go to Buffalo and prove ourselves and hopefully get that first game and we could be playing an old Big East foe [Villanova] if we can get past St. Joe’s.

“I was getting a little worried. Back two years ago, we were like the first one picked. Man, we had to wait a little longer this time. But it was great, knowing what these kids went through last year, just to see your name up there.  Going to Buffalo. Warde [Manuel] was back there, I know he had a couple of smiles on his face. It’s going to be an exciting time for these guys and I just can’t wait to step on the court on Thursday and take care of this precious gift we got. I hope they understand that.

“I know Phil Martelli. He plays solid basketball, a nice tempo game. They’re an older group. They have almost five guys in double figures, the fifth guy is like nine points, and Langston Galloway is a great player. He’s shooting about 45 percent from the three-point line and they make almost seven threes a game. But they’re going to play calculated basketball, Phil’s been there for a long time, 300 plus wins there, and it’s going to be a challenge for us to get past them. But we’re ready for it.

“[SJU's big man Halil Kanacevic] It’s a different look, but we’ve played teams like that. Continue reading

UConn 58, Cincinnati 56: Wrapping Things Up At Fed Ex

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie, NCAA, Niels Giffey, Sean Kilpatrick, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
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MEMPHIS – A tale of two Saturdays. Last Saturday was the worst of times, the most one-sided loss in 22  years for UConn.

Tomorrow, same opponent, a whole new basketball game.

UConn vs. Louisville,  the two top teams in the preseason poll, meet for the first AAC title.

“We’re right where we wanted to be,” DeAndre Daniels said. “We wanted to come here and end up playing them again.”

The Huskies have a chance for redemption and they are really playing with house money. They’ve stood tall against the top five teams in the conference now, perhaps earned a No. 4 seed for the NCAA Tournament. “Huge,” Ryan Boatright said, “huge, huge…”

The Huskies were jubilant, and rightfully so. Two great nights for them here, nothing to lose Saturday night. They can just let it fly.

Mick Cronin was asked of thought there was goaltending on Sean Kilpatrick’s last shot. “You really think they’re going to call t hat for Cincinnati? What games you been watching all year?”

Um, okay …

Here’s Kevin Ollie’s take:

 It was just a great game.  Seems like every time we play Cincy it comes down to a one?possession game.  They’re well?coached and they play hard and I think we stood up to them and we stayed in the middle of the ring and kept throwing punches.  It was a great victory for UConn and for our program and I told everybody coaching is overrated.  This is a players’ game and my players stepped up tonight Continue reading

UConn 72, Memphis 53: Wrapping Things Up At The Forum

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, Kevin Ollie, Lasan Kromah, Niels Giffey, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
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MEMPHIS – It’s on. Shabazz Napier and UConn , Sean Kilpatrick and Cincinnati in the rubber match.

They’ve split two grueling defensive games, and they’ll go at it Friday night in the AAC semifinals … With a little intrigue.

As Shabazz Napier was receiving the AAC player of the year award on Wednesday, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin and Kilpatrick both were clear in expressing their sentiment that Kilpatrick, who led the league in scoring for the regular-season co-champs, should have gotten the award. Kilpatrick vowed to make things “20 times tougher” on opponents in this tournament.

He scored 21 points Friday as the Bearcats struggled to get past No. 9 Cincinnati 61-58, a typical Cincinnati game. Cincy coach Mick Cronin casually referred to Kilpatrick as “the player of the year in the conference.”

After UConn’s impressive 72-53 win over the host Memphis Tigers, Napier was asked if he looked forward to facing Kilpatrick.

“… I don’t really care about him,” Napier said. “… He cares so much about the MVP. I don’t care about that, I mean, if he wants it, he can have it. I’m not into I’m not into individual accolades. I’m not looking to play Cincinnati just to play Kilpatrick, I’m here for my team.”

 

So, there you go. Going to be interesting.

Now, about this game …

Great win for UConn. You don’t need me to tell you that. Those of you, and there are many, who have called for Niels Giffey to get more shots can say “we told you so.”

Giffey was left open, and he caught and shot with authority. He made 9 of 11, and that was your ballgame right there. He demolished his previous career highs with 24 points and nine rebounds.

Napier, need we say, was a little more pointed. “It’s the way they play defense. They double Boatright and myself on the pick and rolls and leave shooters open. It’s kind of astonishing, Niels is one of the best shooters in the country. We’ll take those all night. Those are like warm-up shots for him.”

Ollie’s goals were 15 assists, which UConn got, and better transition defense. Memphis blew past the Huskies for 20 fastbreak points in Hartford, but had only eight in this game. UConn outrebounded Memphis 36-35, but the Huskies dominated in the paint, 30-18.

Even Amida Brimah had three assists.

Memphis just played terrible, offensively and defensively.

 

Kevin Ollie:

“The game was played at a high speed and I thought our guys came in with the right mind?set and that mind?set is togetherness.  We shared the basketball.  We put on the Continue reading

UConn vs. Memphis: Setting the Scene at FedEx Forum

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, Niels Giffey, Phil Nolan, Rick Pitino, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
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MEMPHIS – Looking live at the court at the FedEx Center. Cincinnati has fought off Central Florida, 61-58, in a very characteristic, Cincinnati-like game. Sean Kilpatrick scored 21.

Now it’s UConn vs. Memphis in about 25 minutes.  Jim Calhoun and his son, Jeff, are sitting courtside. The FedEx Forum has been filling steadily the last hour or so, folks catching the second half of the early game. It will be completely loaded for the host team.

The Huskies heard the boos as they came out on the floor just now.

Hearing that UConn will tweak the starting lineup tonight:

Phil Nolan is expected to start at center in place of Amida Brimah, and Niels Giffey for Lasan Continue reading

In Choosing Shabazz Napier, the AAC Coaches Got It Right … Notes, Quotes and Thoughts from the League’s Luncheon

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, Sean Kilpatrick, Shabazz Napier, UConn men's basketball
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MEMPHIS – Let’s give Kevin Ollie and Shabazz Napier their Oscars. They did a magnificent acting job this week to hide the fact they knew by Sunday that Napier was going to be the AAC player of the year.

Ollie, on the coach’s conference call, made a better case for Sean Kilpatrick than he did for his own guy.

“Big-time players step up to big moments and Sean Kilpatrick has done that, not only for one or two moments but night in and night out,” Ollie said.

Napier, later on Monday, giggled a little and joked about how Jimmer Fredette won the individual awards instead of Kemba Walker in 2011, “but Kemba’s happy to have the championship Jimmer doesn’t have.”

Both had already found out Napier was the choice of the league’s coaches. Most of them seemed to favor Kilpatrick when asked on Monday, too, though several of the questions were more specifically about Kilpatrick. Rick Pitino responded, “Oh, did he win? I hadn’t heard.”

Here’s what league coaches had to say.

Anyway, it was all smiles – except on the Cincinnati side – when Napier walked into the Gibson Continue reading

UConn vs. Louisville: Setting The Scene At YUM! Center

by Categorized: American Athletic Conference, Amida Brimah, AP Top 25, DeAndre Daniels, Kevin Ollie, Lasan Kromah, NCAA, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Terrence Samuel, Tyler Olander, UConn men's basketball
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LOUISVILLE – Looking out on the court at KFC YUM! Center, where the Huskies are out shooting about 45 minutes before the game. We set the scene:

Louisville’s Senior Day ceremonies will start about 1:45. The game is scheduled to tip at 2:06 p.m. on CBS. There’s a football press conference going on down the hall.

Anticipating the regular UConn lineup – Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Lasan Kromah and Amida Brimah.

Will be interesting to see how Kevin Ollie manages his rotation today. Daniels and Boatright have been spending more time on the bench the last few games, Niels Giffey has been out there more and, against Rutgers, got off a few more starts. Terrence Samuel has been trusted with more quality minutes, too. … Wonder of Tyler Olander will play more today.

The Huskies are trying to get the third seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, and will need to win today to do that. Both teams are ranked in the AP Poll, UConn No. 19, Louisville No. 11. UConn, in the most recent RPI rankings released by the NCAA, is 29th,

 

The refs for today are Joe DeRosa, Tom Eades and Mike Sanzere.

Lot of scouts here today, as there were when these teams played at Storrs on Jan. 18. The Lakers, Spurs, Bulls, T-Wolves, Pacers and Nets have seats reserved for their talent assessors.

Louisville’s seven-game winning streak over UConn in the regular season is the longest such Continue reading