STORRS – Notes, quotes, thoughts from UConn’s post-practice interviews at Gampel …
Though reporters were not allowed to witness, word was that Kevin Ollie ran a more-spirited-than-usual practice on Monday morning. Afterward, he called for more “physicality,” but he had his own definition:
“I want us in attack mode in offensively and defensively,” he said, “I don’t care if they’re in a zone [defense] or not, we’re going to be physical. And ‘physicality’ is not just banging people. ‘Physicality’ means you cut hard instead of being passive. You cut hard, you move, you be aggressive, confident when you get the basketball. That’s ‘physicality,’ because we’re not going to beat a team in arm wrestling.”
Certainly the Huskies were beaten in a “wrestling match” against Louisville. Temple’s Anthony Lee, who is 6-9 and 230 and averaging 16.4 points and 9.9 rebounds, is similar in size and stats.
“What he does do, that’s similar to [Montrezl] Harrell, is his activity is off the charts, his energy is off the charts,” Ollie said. “I don’t want to say ‘we need to match his intensity.’ … I want him to have to match our intensity, and I know DeAndre [Daniels] can do that, I know whoever we put in the 4-hole can do that. We didn’t make Harrell work. We didn’t go at him and challenge him and make him block out. We can’t make that same mistake again.”
As noted in our main advance for the Tuesday Courant, Ryan Boatright is a 50-50 proposition. He went home to Chicago to be with family as they mourn the death of Arin Williams, Ryan’s cousin, who was killed in a shooting in Aurora, Ill. Ollie said when he first spoke to Boatright, it was assumed he would not make it back for the Temple game, then it appeared he might. If he does try to get back, the snow in the forecast wouldn’t make it easy, so Ollie, sensibly, is “planning on him not being back.”
If Boatright can’t make it back, it could mean more playing time for freshman Terrence Samuel, who has played very little. More likely, Lasan Kromah will get time in the backcourt and Omar Calhoun more time at his old starting spot at the wing.
When Boatright does come back, Ollie hopes basketball can provide “a sanctuary” from his grief.
“Hopefully he knows there’s nothing but love here,” Ollie said, “he has a brotherhood and we all have his back, so he can just go out and play his game. I hope it can provide him some relief from it.”
Jim Calhoun left the Louisville game early on Saturday because he had travel/vacation plans. He and Ollie have not talked about the ejection.
Ollie did speak to his mother, Dorothy. “She just told me to calm down a little bit,” he said, sheepishly. “She’s the best mentor.”
I was reminded, to go off on a little tangent here, that Calhoun was ejected from a game in Pittsburgh during his first or second season, and afterward he said it didn’t matter if he got ejected – there would be no more “dumping on Connecticut.” I remember seeing a picture of him in the New Haven Register with the caption, “Jim Calhoun: No Dumping Allowed.”
I bring this up because it’s part of the process with a new coach, or an up-and-coming program or team in any sport. It’s not a bad thing for Ollie to establish something with officials – that he’s not going to just take any old thing they dish out. His player was clobbered, after all.
When Casey Stengel was managing the Mets in the 1960s, the legend goes in New York, the umpires took neither him, nor the Mets, seriously. When Gil Hodges took over, his first chore was to stand up to the umps, and his franchise. Buck Showalter makes some kind of statement everywhere he manages.
Same principal when Jim Calhoun worked refs hard back in the day, to establish that UConn wasn’t going to be the Big East doormat any longer. What Kevin Ollie did Saturday night, perhaps, was re-establish that, just because Jim Calhoun is gone, the refs can’t take the man on the UConn bench for granted. They felt his wrath.
“I wasn’t going to punch anybody,” Ollie said, “I just wanted to get my money’s worth a little bit. … Hopefully we can move on from it and [ref Mike] Stuart can move on from it and we can all be better for it.”
It was kind of surprising to see that UConn and Temple had not played since 1965. One would think, two high-profile programs in this part of the country, they would have met in a tournament or something, if they did not schedule one another.
But they have played only seven times, UConn winning three. Temple beat the Huskies during it’s Final Four season in 1956, lost to the Huskies during its Final Four season in ’58. UConn eliminated Temple during the 1964 NCAA Tournament, advancing to its famous game against Bill Bradley and Princeton in the next round.
The last time UConn and Temple played was on Jan. 27, 1965 in the old fieldhouse. It was packed, with 4,190, mostly non-students, because it was just afte exam break. Bill Newell covered the game for The Courant, writing that the Huskies showed the crowd “surprisingly good form despite the [11-day] layoff.”
It was a memorable Husky team, with Wes Bialosuknia (18 points) and Tom Penders (13) in the backcourt and Toby Kimball (16 points), who went on to a long career in the NBA, up front. All three scored in double figures, and the Courant featured a photo of Penders, dubbed “the million-dollar substitute” scoring a basket.
Bialosuknia “unloaded just enough of his long-range bombs to send the crowd into an uproar,” Newell wrote. “… Connecticut was in its sharpest form of the season; not only did the Huskies dazzle the capacity crowd with a variety of shots, but they handled the ball with consummate skill.”
The Owls did outrebound the Huskies, despite Kimball, 32-31 that night.
UConn did not crack the Top 25 in the AP Poll, but with its win over Memphis, it did gain some ground. The Huskies got 62 points, good for second in “others receiving votes,” or 27th Other American Athletic Conference teams: Louisville moved up from 18th to 12th. …. Cincinnati is 15th, Memphis 23rd. Arizona, Syracuse and Michigan State are your top three. Villanova is fourth now.
The Huskies were further back in the USA Today/Coaches poll, with 12 points, five spots from cracking the Top 25.
More importantly, the Huskies are 29th, holding steady, in the latest RPI. They are 7-3 against teams in the Top 100. Complete polls are here.
Looks like Temple is going to get point guard Will Cummings, who has missed the last two games, back for UConn. He’s a key player for the Owls. … The Huskies are 14-1 in games that start earlier than 9 p.m. Just saying.