SEATTLE – Last Thursday morning, very early Thursday morning after the Stanford game, I told Paul Nanos on his radio show I’d be shocked if UConn did not bounce back and win this game at Washington.
After about 12 minutes, I was pretty shocked. UConn actually looked overmatched against Washington, which is not that good a team. But they turned it on and turned it around in a hurry and it ended up being a pretty impressive win, down 14, then up 14 and finally winning by 12.
Got to give Phil Nolan credit. Not only did he lose the starting job, but he came in after Amida Brimah, Tyler Olander and Kentan Facey, but he didn’t sulk or pout, he handled it like a pro and he made an important contribution. UConn was still down 12 when he checked in for the first time with 6:49 to go in the half.
It would appear Lasan Kromah, who played 32 minutes, is going to get more time and Omar Calhoun less, unless Calhoun steps it up. He missed his first two shots, wide open threes, and is just back in that shooting funk.
Washington jumped out to a 9-to-4 edge in rebounds, then UConn really roared back in that department and ended up with a 29-to-27 edge.
UConn had 15 turnovers. They’ve had too many lately, but they forced 16 on Washington’s part.
Here’s the main game story for the Monday Courant
Here’s Kevin Ollie’s take:
“It was a great way to bounce back. We call it ‘recovery,’ and we recovered – big time. That’s what our team us built on, the composure we showed and then the toughness. That’s what I want our team to be about and they showed it.
“It stated with Lasan [Kromah], it started with his ball pressure. He took [C.J. Wilcox out of the game for the most part. So many deflections, that got us out on the fast break. And then we started rebounding, and that allowed us to push out on fast break.
“They played some zone. We’re going to work at it. I’ve got to get better as a coach, teammates have ot get better. We got it into the four hole, and we got our screens. We scored on three or four possessions against the zone – they’re primarily a man-to-man team.”
Don’t forget Phil Nolan. He caame in and played well. … We’re looking for him to respond the right way. Most kids, when they face adversity they run the opposite way. He attacked it. I put the challenge out there and he went to go grab it. That’s what we want all our guys to do.”
Lasan went to go grab it. From now on, I’m not going to give minutes away, they’re going to have to earn it. They’re going to be sitting with me if they’re not playing with that effort, that energy.
“We dug deep. We got stops. We started rebounding the basketball. Lasan was making it difficult for everybody. Ryan Boatright started attacking off the bounce. It was our heart and our will.
“We started attacking the basket, we stopped settling for threes. Boat, Lasan, started attacking the rim. We put pressure on them offensively and defensively. It starts with stops, starts with rebounding.
Amida [Brimah] brings that energy, blocking shots. We’ve got to get him to learn the plays a little bit more. Guys are looking for him. He got that first dunk, he executed, we haven’t seen that in a long time, a guy go up and just power the ball. But we’re still going to do it by committee because he’s vulnerable, because he’s still learning the game, he’s vulnerable to foul trouble, to getting tired. That’s where Phil came in, Tyler [Olander] came in and got a bucket.
We bounced back, we responded the right way. Guys came in and played hard, played different roles. We all stuck together.”
All of our guys, we fight. We’re fighters, you know that. I just didn’t the way we played that second half against Stanford, with no energy. I challenged those guys today. That’s how we’re going to play, hard work, hustle. It’s going to be hard.
From Ryan Boatright
“I was a lot more aggressive. I felt that last game had a lot to do with me, I didn’t even score in the second half. There’s no way I shouldn’t score in a half with the talent that I have, the experience that I have. I made it my job to come out this game and be aggressive
We just knew we weren’t going to take two in a row. We knew they were going to play their best game, we knew we were going to get their best shot and if we could [withstand] their first punch, we’d be all right. But when they went up 14 we called a timeout and we were like, man, if we don;’t step it up right now we’re going to lose this game. everybody dug down deep
I already had it in my head to go to the rim, I was shooting a bad percentage. I don’t think we were forcing threes, just settling.”
From Phil Nolan
“I wouldn’t say I was disappointed but I definitely wasn’t happy about [not starting]. Coach challenges everybody. I felt I had to show him something. I pretty much came with the same mindset, play as hard as I can. I got a few more rebounds than I normally do, converted a couple of easy baskets and if I didn’t I made the free throws.
“A lot of guys played today, I think coach as more confidence in more of the players.”
From Shabazz Napier:
“I think guys kind of woke up after they went on a little run. We kind of gave them that little sense of urgency. … Lasan came in the game and changed the game tremendously. There’s only so much you can do with Wilcox. He hit a three in front of me, Amida [Brimah] and Lasan at the same time. I said, ‘Wow, we’ve just got to play.’
… We’ve got to continue with our plays. We won’t finish right way. Whether we didn’t get the right pick and roll, or the right screen, our plays are like pro set, everything goes around and everything works. We go to first set, second set, third set, we’ve got continue because something’s going to be open.
“I wasn’t going to try to take a lot of threes, I was going to try to get to basket. Get to foul line. That seven-hour flight, my back stared to stiffen up. I didn’t want to shoot too much, I didn’t have enough legs. The biggest thing, we just wanted to continue to get to the basket. We got on fast break, got a lot of rebounds. Things worked the way UConn usually works.”
We just dug down deep, tried to box out quicker than we usually do. We got them a little tired.
“I think we’ve still got a lot of things to edge out. Guys got to realize it’s a team game, not individual. Guys have got to be willing to sacrifice no matter what. Lasan hasn’t been starting, hasn’t been playing a lot of minutes, but the last two games he’s been playing a lot of minutes because he’s playing good defense. A lot of guys don’t want to play good defense, a lot of guys are trying sacrifice that, Lasan is doing whatever it takes. He’s filled in that void that Niels had last year, a role guy whose going to do anything it takes. We need that.
“We’ve got to edge out a lot of stuff, we’re not complete yet,. We still got a lot of good games under our belt but we’re working.
“We told Phil [Nolan]he was going to shone no matter what. , if he pushes himself he’s going to get on court and do what he does. He didn’t sulk about it, he went in there and fought for the minutes he was given. He did a tremendous job for us,. We needed another rebounder.”
From Lorenzo Romar, the Washington coach:
“The turnover story was maybe the difference in the game. Credit UConn, they have a lot of quickness and quickness out front. They anticipate well and we didn’t a very good job of taking care of the basketball. … Some of it was they were there and just a little quicker. They would get to spots.”
You’d turn around and they were right there. Some of our turnovers had something to do with them, but lot of them had to do with, I think, our negligence.”
Here’s the UConn notebook for the Monday Courant.
Okay, so UConn is back on the beam against Pac-12 schools. Stanford stopped their 13-game winning streak against the conference. But now UConn has won 18 of the last 21. UConn has never lost to Washington (5-0).
Ten different players played for UConn. Nine different players scored.
Mike Anderson, the kid from Weaver-Hartford, had 10 points and eight rebounds. He’s a grinder, he makes a difference when he’s out there.
It’s back home Monday for me, a long flight, and then on to Bridgeport for the game against Eastern Washington, which is not known as the Huskies, on Saturday. Coming this week in the Courant, John Altavilla and I will be looking at the AAC for the start of conference play for the UConn men and women.