HARTFORD – Grrrrrrr. As in grind, grit, gutting it out. All those G-words applied to UConn’s win over Cincinnati, a physical game, a guy thing. The Huskies have proven their mental toughness, here they showed mental and physical toughness (for the most part).
I’m not into style points or worrying about who plays how many minutes or the various stats at this time of year. You just need to put wins in the bank, and especially against a ranked, first-place team like Cincy, the Huskies need to win any which way they could.
They got it done. They’re 23-6. You know, things just aren’t that bad. Here’s the game story for the Sunday Courant.
Raspy voice and all, here is the full 10 minutes of Kevin Ollie, unplugged:
“Great game by us, not offensively, but defensively, which is what we hang our hats on. I told the guys, there are going to be droughts in the game, but you can’t have droughts on defense in your energy or effort. If you watched the game, there were no let-ups.
… I pretty much told them it was going to be 90 percent punches and 10 percent plays. There weren’t going to be a lot of X’s and O’s, there were going to be a lot of punches thrown. Thank God, we threw the last punch and got out with a victory. That team [Cincinnati] is as tough, mentally and physically, we took Kilpatrick out of the game, took Jackson out of the game – those were the two ‘aces of spades.’ My guys executed the game plan to a T.
… All in all it, was a great statement victory for us, to beat the No. 11 team in the country. I thought we took a step, in some other games, the SMU game, it became tic for tack and I thought we took our foot off the pedal. Tonight, we came defensively and I was real proud of the guys
… We just had 10 eyes on Kilpatrick. Lasan did a great job on him, Terrence came in and did a great job on him. Every screen and roll, we wanted to blitz him, we wanted to get the ball out of his hand and let somebody else score,. To hold him to 4 for 16 is a great job by our guys
… It’s just another game for us. I thought the USF game is even more important … because of the mental toughness our guys showed. I think our guys carried it over into today’s game. We’ve got to make more shots, we’ve got to do better rebounding but at the end o fthe day we got a win. It’s a big game from the rankings standpoint, and all this other stuff, brackets and seeding and all that stuff. But I couldn’t care less. I care about my team. I’m interested in my team getting better. Defensively, I think we got a lot better today.
[On officials, Cronin]: I better make no comments. I was thrown out. I’m going to leave the refs alone
… Like SMU, they’re one of the best teams in the country. We missed a lot of open shots, some layups, and things like that. But that was a great job. Mick does a great job, Pitino does a great job – everybody in our league does a great job with their guys. We know each other so well, from our Big East days. They know our play calls, we know their play calls, they loaded up on us, we loaded up on them. That’s the type of rivalry it’s going to be.
We outlasted them. We didn’t do that in Cincinnati. They kept hitting us and we folded a little bit in Cincinnati, the last three minutes they put a run together. Today, we outlasted them.
… I tip my hat to these guys, this run they’ve been on the last 10 days. Four games in 10 days, two midweek games where we get home at 2:30 (a.m.) and then those guys are in class at 8 O’clock. Then they got to travel again. That’s an amazing job, and that should be said. These guys are student-athletes,too. The traveling they had to do, it’s amazing they can come out and beat USF and come back out here today and the two teams we played had seven days off. You should start writing some of that stuff, too.
[On taking Brimah out] “You just got to make shots. You can’t fall on the floor, you’ve got to show toughness and show leadership. We ran another play for him to start the second half and he made it. I thought Neils and that group played well, that’s why DeAndre didn’t get back in there. He’ll be right back in there the next game. I go by feel. I don’t coach with fear, I coach with love. That’s how I want to coach. If I see an adjustment, one of my coaching staff will tell me, we’ll play it by ear.
… We wanted to get Phil [Nolan] in there and give Amida a break. Phil did a great job at the end of the game, getting that charge in there, and he leads our team in that stat. He’s just a great basketball player, moving his feet and getting in those defensive stances that we like.
[Samuel] has gained a lot of confidence. He’s playing the right way, he’s not overwhelmed by the situation, looking in the stands and wondering if I’m here. Terrence is like, ‘I’m supposed to be here.’ He’s playing that way, Shabazz and Ryan are talking to him and giving him more confidence. He’s working on his game. He’s listening to our coaching staff, that’s why I coach, to see players transform themselves. I’m not saying he’ s going to have impact every game but from now, it gives me an opportunity to put another guy in. Even Kentan [Facey], in his two minutes, he played well. I just couldn’t give him any minutes in the second half, but he keeps working. That’s what we talk about, the water-line that people don’t see. Keep working, working, working. They’re going to be great players in our uniforms.
Terrence is giving me those options, Tyler [Olander] is giving me those options because they keep working. Most guys, they put their head down, say ‘coach isn’t doing me right,’ and blaming the coaching staff and pointing fingers. These guys aren’t doing that. That’s a compliment to those guys, they’re staying ready and giving me the opportunity to really coach them. We needed everybody tonight and we’re going to need everybody for the tournament, these last two games to finish on a good note.
I couldn’t yell today. I’m glad I have ‘Bazz to do the yelling for me.
You definitely want to shoot well, but I like W’s and any way we get ‘em, we get’em and we just keep moving on. We’ve proven over the year, we’ll make our shots. It’s some hell-of-a-defensive teams we’ve been playing but we’ll get back in the gym. We’ll make our shots, but I like our wins, we keep getting wins the right way. I thought we did that today, it was a great team victory.
We still concentrate on that free throw line and we know conference games are going to come down to us making shots at the free throw line. We’ve been great all year, 77 percent, and that’s going to help us I n the NCAA tournament when we get in a tight game. We get in the penalty, we get to the free throw line and we can convert.
Guys, my throat’s messed up. This is like the longest press conference. You guys just want to hear me talk in my Barry White voice. … We just got to rebound. We’ve been outrebounded two games in a row, we’ve got to get back to rebounding. This probably drops us down to third or fourth. We’ve got to get back to rebounding because that’s what gets us out on the fast break. Now we’re playing against a set defense all the time and that’s not good. We’re going to get back to work Monday, depending on weather, we’re going to work Monday and Tuesday on our rebounding.
The XL crowd was great, this was Shabazz’s last game at the XL Center and Niels and Tyler, who have gave so much to our program, Lasan. I know it’s going to be an emotional night on Wednesday. I know there’s going to be a lot of tears in there and I’ll probably be one Boo-Hooing, too.”
That’s a couple of rough games, and diminished minutes, for DeAndre Daniels now, as Ollie explained earlier. Here’s the notebook for the Sunday Courant.
And here are John Woike’s great pics from the game.
Here’s some Mick Cronin, and he was in rare form:
“We played terrible. You play terrible, you lose. It’s not rocket science. Take any sport. We were awful. No sugar-coating it. We played terrible.
We played terrible, I didn’t stutter. Cincinnati played terrible. Kevin is a great coach, UConn’s got a good team, but Cincinnati played terrible. Zero excuses in the world to turn the ball over 20 times against a team that doesn’t press. We have three senior starters, there is no excuse.
You play good, you win, you play bad you lose. We were awful.
We were awful from pillar-to-post. We were bad – our offense was bad. Our passing, careless turnovers. We weren’t connected. We want things to be easy, well, welcome to March. UConn, they need a win, they want a win, they want to make sure they get a bye in the conference tournament. We walk in here thinking it’s going to be a Sunday pick-up game. We’re going to win and get on the plane. It’s like we’re surprised when they’re playing hard. We have a bad attitude right now, we have no humility. We’re arrogant and we got taught a lesson.
If you’re counting – that was five “terrible” four “bads” and three “awfuls.”
On the confrontation with Ted Valentine
“I don’t appreciate people getting in my face, Where I come from, you don’t jump in somebody’s face. He apologized. He thought I was coming at him. I wasn’t. I’ve got nothing but respect for Ted. He’s a great official, I’m glad he is in our league because he wasn’t in the Big East. We have no issues. I don’t see people doing that to Rick Pitino.”
Shabazz Napier did set up that meeting and picture between his mother and Khalid El-Amin. He didn’t get in it though. … Think I just may take up Ollie’s suggestion and write tomorrow about the grueling travel-class-practice-game schedule the Huskies have been on. I asked Napier, Terrence Samuel, Lasan Kromah and Ryan Boatright about it. “Sometimes, I don’t know how I do it,” Napier said.
More from Napier:
We’re just kind of in a drought. And if we’re in a draught, we can’t allow that to hurt us defensively. We’re going to have games where we’re not going to score a lot of points. We’ve got to make it up somehow, some way but as long as we play good defense, our shots are going to fall eventually.
A little from Terrence Samuel
Last year I was home watching games like this on TV. It feels great to be a part of it, especially to get the win and play quality minutes. … I’ve shown [Ollie] I can be a game changer on the defensive end. I’m going to come in and guard the best guy, rebound and push the ball. That’s what he wants me to do and that’s what I’m going to do.
You have to get stops even if you’re missing shots. As long as you can stop them from scoring, your points are going to come. If you can play defense, you can get out in transition and get layups.
We had to load up. We knew Sean (Kilpatrick) was going to come in and everybody knows he’s a great scorer. He puts up a lot of shots. Our thing was to load up and make somebody else beat us. We weren’t going to let him come out and go for 30 or 26. Somebody else was going to have to beat us because we were going to load the paint.
We feel like if we’re missing shots, if we can stop them, we can’t lose.
Here is your box score.