STORRS – Tell you what, these 9 p.m. starts take years off a old newspaper guy’s life, but, hey, that’s my problem … Here are some notes, quotes, thoughts in the wake of UConn’s 80-43 win over Houston.
Kevin Ollie and the players said it wasn’t a “revenge” game. But it was certainly a “statement game.” UConn came out with fire in its eyes and just kept pouring it on. Actually, going back to New Year’s Eve, when Houston fell behind by 21 and lost by four, the Huskies have outscored the Cougars by 54 points over a span of about 65 minutes.
In this game, UConn could have gone scoreless in the second half and still won by eight. That’s really all you need to know, but we’ll tell you more …
Rebounding. UConn had a 55-40 edge. It’s their most ever under Ollie, and they had 19 offensive rebounds. They have outrebounded six of their last seven opponents, and they are 11-0 when outrebounding.
The Huskies young bigs, Amida Brimah, Phil Nolan and Kentan Facey, look like different players than a few weeks ago. Shabazz Napier gave his fellow senior, Tyler Olander, a shout out:
“… Big guys usually progress slower. But one of the reason the big guys have been progressing faster, of course t here’s the coaches, but Tyler Olander has been doing a great job. He understands his role. He’s not going to be the guy who is disappointed and sits back because he’s not playing. He’s a senior, he started the national championship game as a freshman, but he’s not that type of person. He wants to push them. He pushes them in practice and during the game he’ll talk to them and let them know certain things, aspects of the game they might not know. Phil played well, Amida played well, Kentan came in and played well, it shows you how much work they’re putting in on their craft.”
Napier, by the way, is going back to Charlestown High, where they are retiring a jersey for him. He began his high school career there. He passed Jeff Adrien for 14th place in scoring in UConn history, getting his total to 1,614.
Kevin Ollie’s take:
“This was a great game by us. A team effort. We came out and we played right out of the gate. I thought the key was, the ace of spades for me, was TaShawn Thomas. And to hold him to four points and six rebounds, that’s just a great job by Amida, and then Phil came in and gave us a lift on the offensive and defensive end. I thought it was just a complete game by us.
Everybody stepped up in DeAndre’s absence and I’m just very, very proud of this team. Now we’ve got a week off and we’re going to go down to play the best team in the American Conference, Cincinnati.
We’re on our way. We’re trending the right way, rebounding, defense, everything is trending the right way. Now we just have to keep it up. We played ‘level 5,’ that’s championship level intensity, I thought, right from the tap. Amida missed a seven-footer and Niels came in with the tap in and that set the tone. We stayed in the middle of the ring tonight. We didn’t get on the ropes like they got us on the ropes in Houston. We were fighting. We were throwing punches and that’s what I want our guys to do. We went to throw multiple punches. We might not knock somebody out in the first round, but over the course of the game we’ll knock you out. That’s what we did tonight.
I told the guys, this wasn’t a ‘revenge game. We just wanted to show Houston we were a better team. That was the only goal we had in mind. They ruined my New Year’s, now we just ruined their Chinese New Year’s.”
Coach James Dickey said Houston “didn’t offer the resistance we needed to.”
He added, “this is a great league. If you’re not ready to play on the road you can get blown out. If you’re not ready to play at home you can get beat.”
The Cougars lost at Louisville by 39 a few weeks ago. On Thomas, Dickey said, “We’ve got to try to get him more touches, then when he’s double-teamed – and he’s going to get that a lot – he’s got to pass the ball out of there.”
No breakthrough for Omar Calhoun yet – he was 0-for-4. … Will this get the Huskies back in the AP Top 25? It could. Certainly, a win at Cincy will do that.
Of course, lot’s more on our main website, including the game story for the Friday Courant, and the notebook, with the latest on DeAndre Daniels’ injury.
Also, Steve Dunn’s picture gallery and here is your box score..
And, hey, UConn broke it’s 9 p.m. jinx, winning for the first time after three losses. One more, at Temple Feb. 20.