ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands – It’s 2 a.m. Atlantic Time and we’re back from the locker room with some post-game reaction after UConn’s first loss of the season, 66-60 to New Mexico.
The one stat that sticks out: New Mexico went to the line 21 times and hit all 21. UConn was 7 for 9.
“We didn’t make the plays at the end that we’ve been making,” Kevin Ollie said. “They got to the line, and we didn’t and that was the ballgame right there.”
After Ollie’s first loss, he had a long talk with Jim Calhoun. “He didn’t tell me anything I haven’t heard,” Ollie said.
Shabazz Napier scored 23 points and, again, turned it up when UConn fell behind and almost singlehandedly pulled them up over the top. But not this time. Here is the main game story for The Courant on Tuesday.
“Shabazz turned it up,” Ollie said, “we need some other guys to contribute. … I don’t want to wait til we’re down 10, don’t want to wait til we’re down nine to start playing.”
UConn was even in rebounding much of the game, but New Mexico pulled ahead down the stretch, a 12 to 4 edge to finish the game. “It’s something we’ve got to continue to work on,” Ollie said. “Tyler, Phil, Enosch, I don’t want those guys to come in and get one rebound, that can’t happen,. Rebounding is how they’re going to help this team.”
New Mexico coach Steve Alford, after watching UConn take 45 foul shots against Quinnipiac, was determined that wouldn’t happen and was thrilled that the Huskies got only nine against the Lobos. The plan, see who the Huskies could get to step up besides Boatright and Napier.
“We know those guys are talented guards,” Alford said, “and they score about half their points. We wanted to see who else could do those things. Napier did some nice things, but we did a pretty good job of controlling Boatright, and if you can control one of them it puts a lot of pressure on someone else to step up.”
Omar Calhoun was hot early, but cooled off, and finished with 10. Naper had 23, Boatright 12. UConn did not get much from the bench in this game, outscored 18 to 4 by t he Lobos’ backups.
It has been a long couple of weeks for the Huskies, with two long trips, changing time zones and ridiculous late starts.
“I’m just really tired right now,” Napier said. “All the traveling, it takes a toll on your body. Playing with the clock forward, the clock backward, that takes a toll. I’m glad to be getting back home and getting into a routine, I need that.”
So UConn is 4-1. Most would have considered that an acceptable start. “Through all the traveling and all the miles, we got to this championship game,” Ollie said. “I’m proud of the guys. This would have been a great win for us, we just came up a little short.”
Warde Manuel reached The Islands and had a lot to say about Kevin Ollie’s efforts so far, click here.
What have the Huskies establish so far? What’s their identity? Something I will look at for the Wednesday Courant as I make my way home from the Virgin Islands tomorrow.