LOUISVILLE – One thing UConn has never been under Kevin Ollie is embarrassed. Shabazz Napier threw that word out post-game, and if I remember right it was the first time I remember a UConn player saying it since the last loss here, 80-59, in 2012.
It was apt, too. This was an embarrassing loss. UConn was out run, outhustled, outmuscled, and, by Ollie’s admission, out-coached (see below). Louisville is playing its best basketball at the right time of the season, as Rick Pitino’s teams often do.
The Huskies are not. Really, the last five games – the loss to SMU, the come-from-behind win at lowly South Florida, the ugly win over Cincinnati, the too-close-for-comfort win against Rutgers and this 81-48 debacle at Louisville do not constitute an impressive, end-of-the-season body of work. Though, at 24-7, 12-6 in the league, UConn’s season must be considered a good one. But it’s hard to take the Huskies seriously as a title contender when they lose like this, and go 1-5 against the top three teams in their league.
Really, same old stories – no inside game, no crisp passing game against a quality zone defense, too many ill-advised shots. Like in the SMU game, UConn shot less than 30 percent.
Ollie, who spoke for about 3 ½ minutes, was pretty blunt.
Here you go, in his own words:
“Louisville took advantage of everything we did, and I’m the first one, I’m on the front line. We weren’t ready to play. Louisville took advantage of everything. Coach Pitino coached a hell of a team and those players played. They played like champions and we didn’t. I told the guys if we play like that, then we have two games [left] in the season and that’s it.
I didn’t see anything like this coming, and I’m glad it came because now we know how tough we have to play to be a champion. Louisville is a champion. We weren’t tough enough. We weren’t together enough. Louisville took every opportunity and took advantage of it and that’s what champions do. That’s why they’re champions.
Russ [Smith] played the game. Russ is a great player. He let the game play him. If everybody is loading up, he passes. That’s what great players do. That’s what All-Americans do and he’s an All-American. I told my guys to pass. They don’t pass. And that’s why we ended up with a defeat like this.
“We have to play. We have to play hard. We have to play together. That’s what has to happen. We have to play harder and it starts with effort. I have to coach better. I have to get the guys prepared better. We have to do it together as a team, and we didn’t do it together as a team. Louisville saw weaknesses and they exploited every last one of them. That’s what a great coach does, and that’s what a great team does and I was a bad coach today.
“I don’t know if we are elite, so how can you tell [if they are]? How we played, I don’t know. But Louisville is a good team. They are national champions and they played like it. They played hard, they played together. Their seniors played well, they shared the basketball. That’s what a team is supposed to do. But I don’t know what you compare it to because we didn’t play our ‘A’ game.
We have [Montrezl] Harrell dunking backwards. We have him hanging on the rim. We have [Like] Hancock shooting open threes. Yeah, lack of effort.
I don’t know [why]. I’m going to look at the tape. We’ve been playing good basketball so we have faith in ourselves. We’re at the bottom right now. This is the worst we could ever play. But guess what? As bad as we played, we can turn it around. I’m not giving up on the season. I’m just talking about right at this moment, we didn’t play together. This season is not over yet, but I told them if we play like this we have two games and then they can go on spring break.
Coin flip after the game – awkward. With Mick Cronin participating via Face Time, Cincinnati won the toss and is the No. 1 seed.
Here is your AAC Tournament sked:
Wednesday, March 12 – First Round (ESPNU/ESPN2)
7 p.m. No. 10 USF (12-19) vs. No. 7 Rutgers (11-20) – ESPNU
9:30 p.m. No. 9 UCF (12-17) vs. No. 8 Temple (9-21) ESPN2
Thursday, March 13 – Quarterfinals (ESPNU)
1 p.m. No. 6 Houston (16-15) vs. No. 3 SMU (23-8)
3 p.m. USF/Rutgers winner vs. No. 2 Louisville (26-5)
7 p.m. UCF/Temple winner vs. No. 1 Cincinnati (26-5)
9 p.m. No. 5 Memphis (23-8) vs. 4 UConn (24-7)
Friday, March 14 – Semifinals (ESPN or ESPN2)
7 p.m. Thursday afternoon winners
9 p.m. Thursday evening winners
Saturday, March 15 – Final (ESPN)
6 p.m. Semifinal winners
All times Eastern • Memphis is in the Central time zone.
… Shabazz Napier scored only nine, but did pass Kemba Walker for seventh place in UConn history. … Napier noted after the game, “Harrell is a man. He and Luke Hancock played like men.” … Pitino thought they fouled Napier too much in January, giving him a breather as well as 11 points at the line. Napier went to the line only six times Saturday, making four. He said he had scratches on his arm from plays on which he thought he was fouled. “Some days the calls go your way, some days they don’t,” he said.
Here is your UConn notebook for the Sunday Courant.
Jim Calhoun made the trip to Louisville, and probably wishes he didn’t. … Tyler Olander fouled out – in only four minutes. … The Huskies were 29th in the NCAA’s most recent RPI rankings, released on Friday. This loss, on the road, probably won’t hurt too much. You’re looking at a five or six seed, one supposes, depending on what happens in Memphis.
Last time UConn lost by 33 was vs. St. John’s on Feb. 1, 1992. Last time they lost by more was early in the 1977-78 season, a 40-point loss to Syracuse.