HARTFORD – Some quotes, notes, thoughts from UConn’s second exhibition win. A yawner, not much to take from it. Concordia really didn’t provide much of a workout, as Southern did last week.
But UConn ran what it wanted to run and looks about as ready to start the season as it can be. I think we’re all ready for the real games to start.
… First, Kevin Ollie’s take:
“… We had a complete game today, I believe. We played with spirit. We didn’t look at our opponent, we looked at ourselves. It was an “us” game and they took care of business. I’m very proud of their execution.
I’m excited with this team. We’re going to go in the lab and continue to work on what we’ve been working on – that’s transition, that’s rebounding, that’s keeping our man in front of us. I thought they got better tonight.
… [With Omar Calhoun] sometimes it’s mental, too, coming back from an injury like that, and you’re kind of cautious. “Should I play off that leg?” “What’s going to happen with my hip?” Now, he’s just letting the game come to him. We had practice at 9:30 on Saturday and he was in the gym at 7:30 shooting. That’s just him looking in the mirror, saying “I’m not going to point fingers. I’ve got to get to the lab and keep working on my craft.” That’s what he does. And he’s going to get better.
… Terrence [Samuels] played incredible. He’s been doing that the whole preseason. He’s always playing hard. I can get on him, he doesn’t change his face and he just keeps playing. Each and every day, he keeps getting better….To have a double-double, 12 assists, it really shows his patience, really shows his vision, and it’s good to have that in my back pocket.
… You’ve got Lasan (Kromah). You can go big or you can stay small with Shabazz and Ryan. There’s a lot of versatility in the backcourt and that’s something that we wanted to have, especially with last season when we got bogged down with injuries. We really didn’t have people coming off the bench. I think our depth is one thing that we can hang our hats on. Hopefully we won’t have those injuries, and we can keep filtering guys in and keeping our guards fresh for the long haul.
… I apologized to my big guys. My big guys, they boxed out (against SCSU). It was the lack of guards boxing out that first game against Southern. And then we gave up a lot of points in transition….So I apologized to my big guys. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. We’ve got to clean up with the guards and have them be more physical and get more rebounds. It showed today. I think Omar had seven rebounds in the first half. We’re getting better.
…I thought we got better in our transition. That was the one thing I was very, very disappointed in. We probably gave up four or five layups that were uncontested with nobody getting back (against SCSU). We gave up six fast break points. And that was a big move in the right direction from 27 to six.
It’s a different [Philip] from last year. He had six rebounds in the first half, that should have been a 14-rebound game for him, so we’re trying to get more consistency from him. Tyler [Olander] needs to get in better condition to play our up-tempo and he knows that. We ran some extra sprints the other day in practice and he was right there. He’ll get there. Right now I’m going to do [the center position] by committee.”
[Concordia coach Tyler Jones] has always had my back. I wouldn’t be standing here today if it weren’t for him. If he had cut me [from the Connecticut Pride of the CBA] it would have been very difficult for me to make it to the NBA.”
Before I left Gampel last Wednesday, I walked back into the gym and noticed Omar Calhoun was still there, about two hours after the game, shooting. He was also in the gym early Saturday morning, Ollie said. His extra work paid off with a more Omar-like performance on Monday.
From the moment he got to UConn, albeit delayed, Terrence Samuel has looked like a better player than anyone thought. “When I was younger, I was rated higher and then I dropped,” he said. Also, when he was younger, he said his attitude was not so good, and he could not take a lot of yelling from his coach. Now he can, “and coach Ollie yells at me every second when I do something wrong.” But he accepts it. With 10 points and 12 assists Monday night, he looks like he is ready to contribute as a freshman. Got to save something to write tomorrow, and it will be on Terrence Samuel – look for it on our site.
Tyler Jones took his players to Connecticut Children’s Hospital to distributes gifts to players during the day. He reveled in the chance to come back home and play this game. He was satisfied, he said, to win little victories, a couple of minutes without a turnover, a few good possessions in a row, etc.
Former UConn great Corny Thompson was at the game. Here are some pics of the night from our John Woike.
Nice moment for walk-on Pat Lenehan, who scored seven points. He was Emily Noonan’s post-game guest. “Tor [Watts, the other walk-on] and I feel like part of this team every day,” he told her.
UConn again emphasized threes, hitting 14 of 28. Ollie likes his forwards – Niels Giffey, DeAndre Daniels, Lasan Kromah, Leon Tolksdorf – out there taking them, stretching t he defense.
Amida Brimah did make quite the same splash as he did against Southern, but he had four points, three rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes. UConn had six blocks, but really changed almost every shot.
Some Lasan Kromah:
“We’re very excited. We’ve been practicing for a month now playing against each other. Now we have just two scrimmages underneath us. We can’t wait till Friday and go to the Barclays Center and play Maryland. We’re really focused on that. … Competition is always good – it makes sure everyone is really on their heels and ready to come every day with their A game. We’re all talented players, and we’re just trying to put our skills together for the benefit of the team.”
[Napier and Boatright] are both phenomenal guards. It makes it easier on other guys when all the attention is on them and they penetrate and kick the ball out. They’re great guards and they’re going to lead us to a lot of wins. They are great leaders on this team.”
Okay, Next Stop: Brooklyn.