STORRS – We were having tech troubles with the blogs on Monday, so note our stuff on Andre Drummond appears on the main website.
Here are some notes, quotes, thoughts from UConn’s pre-practice interviews on Tuesday:
With no postseason, UConn has to look for ways to keep the chip on its shoulder as the season winds down. The game against St. John’s on Wednesday is a natural; it will be the Huskies last trip to Madison Square Garden, site of the off-limits Big East Tournament this year.
“Coach [Kevin] Ollie stressed that to us after the game Sunday,” Shabazz Napier said. “the site of the Big East Tournament. “It kind of hit us that it will be our last game there this year. As a freshmen coming to UConn, you want to play in the Garden, it’s a beautful thing to play in the Garden. We want to go give 110 percent because it’s our last time there this year.”
Here is our preview of the game for the Wednesday Courant.
Said Ollie: “I don’t want to put any added pressure on them, but it’s a special place to play.”
The Huskies, and Boatright in particular, thought UConn let one get away at The Garden on Dec. 4, with the 69-65 loss to NC State. Now, UConn plays St. John’s, which had won five in a row before losing to Georgetown on Saturday, with a chance to move into contention for the Big East regular season title.
The Huskies, 5-3 in the league, are one game back from the league leaders, Syracuse and Marquette, in the loss column. And they have a game against Syracuse to come on Feb. 13.
“We still have a chance to win a conference championship,” Ollie said, “and those are elusive.”
St. John’s has an injury issue, with guard Jamal Branch’s sprained knee. When he plays, Ollie says, they have five guards on the floor. He worried about JaKarr Sampson, who is 6-8 with the speed and agility of a guard. “He’s going to be a problem,” Ollie said.
If Branch doesn’t play, the Storm is likely to play freshman Chris Obekpa, 6-9, who leads the NCAA with 99 blocks. UConn recruited Obekpa hard. Omar Calhoun, who knows him well, said he tried to get him to come to UConn. “We’re close frends,” Calhoun said. “He’s not the biggest, but he knows how to time his blocks.”
Ryan Boatright on postseason ineligibility: “It’s frustrating that teams that aren’t even doing as well as we are will be playing. I can’t even watch ESPN with those dadgum ‘journey to the tourney’ commercials.”
(Analyzing the tape, he might have said ‘dag-gone,’ but you get the gist.)
The UConn-Syracuse game will be on ESPN on Feb. 13. Brent Mussburger and Bob Knight will be calling the game.