Some notes, quotes and thoughts from UConn’s victory over Stony Brook, and a road map to our coverage …
STORRS – This was a grind, and it’s something that must be gotten used to. In the past, it would have been considered troubling to have so much trouble with mid-majors – double OT against Quinnipiac and having to come from behind against Stony Brook on Sunday.
But it’s the new normal. It’s not a vintage UConn team, it’s undersized and under-manned up front, and some of the mid-majors are just a lot better than they used to be. It says a lot that Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell was disappointed to out-rebound the Huskies by only three, he expected to be plus 12!
Think that one over.
What UConn is doing, under Kevin Ollie, is getting the most out of what it has and in many ways it is much easier to watch the Huskies than it was last year, when they had so much more talent on paper. Their shortcomings are almost endearing now, because it is clear they are playing hard and playing together. Teams are taking certain things away, the UConn is adjusting. Stony Brook wanted to keep the guards off the line, and the Huskies won the game with a barrage of threes in the second half, which took Pikiell by surprise.
“I watch the tapes,” Pikiell said, “and Kevin is a very good coach. He’s getting a lot out of these guys. He really is.”
New Hampshire is next. Probably another struggle.
As always, I have to save an “angle” to write the day following the game. That’s Niels Giffey, who had career highs in scoring and rebounding vs. Stony Brook. Had a nice chat with Niels after the game, and Kevin Ollie was very animated in talking about him. He has always been a coaches player. Jim Calhoun, George Blaney both love him. I remember thinking in the New Mexico game in St. Thomas that Giffey seems to be everywhere, yet doesn’t generate a lot of numbers. In this game, he did, providing the spark missed with R.J. Evans in civvies, his arm in a sling.
Giffey: “There are going to be days when I step up. Today I had to step up with some key guys who don’t get minutes. I had one of the key (defensive) match-ups against (Tommy Breton) who had, I think, 14 rebounds (against Canisius) last night. So I kind of I knew who I was going against. When I boxed him out over and over again, little things like that can get you really motivated.”
Will have that story up on the website Monday.
Stony Brook had to play two days in a row and, perhaps, the Seawolves ran out of gas late. But that’s life when you’re a mid-major trying to build a national brand. Pikiell wants to get his team on TV any time he can. They played Rider at 6 a.m. on Nov. 13 to be part of the ESPN marathon and had to switch dates with UConn. This was the date UConn could offer, and it meant two games in two days for Stony Brook.
UConn has been out-rebounded every game. Tyler Olander: “I take it personally being the leader of the bigs. It’s something we’ve got to focus in on more and produce rebounds.”
Shabazz Napier has 100 points in the last five games, 88 in the second half, or OT. That leads my UConn notebook for the Monday Courant. Kevin Ollie? Better late than never.
Here are some great pics from the game.
A little more from Steve Pikiell:
“They got on a run and they made threes. I didn’t expect that. That’s not what they’ve been doing. I thought we could score in the post against them. I may have overestimated our big guys.
“They are a ranked team for a reason. When you have great guards you have a chance. And when you’re playing at home, it’s tough. And you’re not going to get any breaks on the road. We’ve been on the road a lot. We consider ourselves road tough. You never get a break from the refs. You never get a break from the other team. So, you have to play well against good teams, and we didn’t play well enough today. We played enough for half, but I didn’t even love us in the first half though. But we’re usually tough — we could out-rebound them. I thought we could be plus 12 on the backboard going into the game, so be only plus 3 was very disappointing. But I think a lot of it has to do with that we played a hard fought game yesterday…and then to jump on the bus today and come up here wears on you a little bit. Hopefully, it will help us when we move into our conference tournament. Playing back to back nights, this is the only time we do it.”
And, of course, your box score.
Shabazz Napier: “We were just more aggressive and more in tune. That’s what our offense is really predicated on. We’re more of a penetrate and drive sort of team. If we’re able to get those shots where we’re open, we’re going to knock them down. Niels Giffey did a terrific job shooting the ball. It shows you our depth.”
Programming notes: I stopped by the office on the way home to tape “Fox on the Fly” with Rich Coppola, if you see this, check that out at 10:45 p.m. on Sunday on Channel 61, FoxCT.
Our live chat will be Thursday, starting at 10:45. Trying to get a special guest – more on that this week.
Will UConn be ranked when the new polls come out Monday? We’ll have that up in the early afternoon.