STORRS – A few notes, quotes and thoughts from UConn’s convincing win over UCF …
First blush: I think this was the best, or most complete game the Huskies have played this season. They got production from all five positions, especially the center spot. They were able to score in a variety of different ways. They played great defense. And, oh, yes, the rebounding. Wow.
“I thought they played much harder tonight as a team,” UCF coach Donnie Jones said. “Not just because they beat us, but I think this is the best I’ve seen them play in four games.”
In other words Jones, looking at tape of the Huskies last four games, was surprised by what he saw up close. The Huskies may have found the right pitch for this conference now.
“I wouldn’t say it was a complete game,” Shabazz Napier said, “but it was close.”
Kevin Ollie’s take
“It was a great game. Just to see that rebound stat, us having 50 and UCF having 34, and knowing that they’re the best rebounding team in the American Conference. Holding them to that number, it was a great effort from our guys. I’m very proud of them. Now we’ve just got to keep building on it.
… They had the ace of spades with [Isaiah] Sykes. We wanted to take him out of the game. And then we didn’t want [Kasey] Wilson to affect the game at the three-point line. I think we accomplished both of those. They both got their points, but they didn’t establish a rhythm. That’s what we didn’t want them to do.They did a tremendous job, Lasan [Kromah] and Niels [Giffey] and Shabazz – everybody got a chance to be on Sykes. And Amida, they tried to get him in a lot of pick and roll situations and later in t he game he got better, having Sykes come to him and staying vertical.
… They threw that zone at us a little bit. It kind of got us off our rhythm. Once we started establishing the four-hole, we got out of that. And that just really allowed us to pick it up even more on defense when we started getting some shots to go in.
Everybody was unselfish, and everybody played hard and played smart. And when we had a chance to knock a team out, we knocked them out. We didn’t let them back off the ropes and into the middle of the ring again. We knocked them out. And that’s what we want to continue to do when we have teams on the ropes.
… Amida just had a terrific game….I can’t ask for anything else. And then Phil [Nolan] came in and played a great game. And that’s what we’re going to need to have….It’s just good to have somebody getting offensive rebounds. We’re last in the American Conference in offensive rebounding, and just seeing somebody go get us another possession is very key. … It just makes life so much easier for a coach. I don’t have sit there and draw up any plays.
… [Brimah] works extremely hard. So whatever he gets, he earns. When he went in that little lull and he wasn’t getting a lot of playing time, he still came in and worked and had energy, went in the weight room. The kid just loves life. He’s very grateful to be here on this basketball team. And those are the type of student athletes that I want, guys who are grateful and willing to do anything for their teammates. When you have that heart, good things come back to you. It’s just paying him back for what he brings to our team.
… And DeAndre, he’s starting to put [good games] together, and that’s what we want – consistency. He’s starting to figure it out.”
… We’ve got Memphis coming up and we’re going to the FexEx Forum and it will be a good test to get ready for [the conference] tournament. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m ready for it. I think my team is ready for it.”
The Huskies were down 6-0 when Amida Brimah came in. He had 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in 20 minutes, and the Huskies calculated his plus-minus at plus 37.
Spoke to Glen Miller, who coaches UConn’s big men, after the game and we’ll have more on Brimah’s break-through tomorrow.
Meanwhile, here is the main game story in the Sunday Courant.
Interestingly, Ollie mentioned Kentan Facey, who had three rebounds in three minutes: “Wait ‘til we unleash him.”
Omar Calhoun is still in that funk. He was 0-for-2 with two rebounds in 14 minutes. Phil Nolan, who was fighting off the flu, had eight points and five rebounds in 15 minutes and Ollie was happy with him. “He lost a lot of weight while he was sick,” Ollie said.
Here is the box score.
The UConn notebook is up on our site, too.
From Amida Brimah:
“I was just getting comfortable. I’ve been putting extra work in the weight room. It was a team effort. Everybody is running our plays hard so they always have to help, and when they help I get wide open. From a couple of practices ago, we’ve been working hard on feeding the post a lot. It has definitely helped us.”