MEMPHIS – UConn arrived about 6 p.m. local time and settled in for dinner in Memphis. It’s going to be a big couple of days, with the Tigers here and Louisville on Saturday night. Here are some thoughts from Ryan Boatright and Kevin Ollie.
From Ryan Boatright
[This week] is very key. Always good to get two games, one on the road, with them being ranked and us not being ranked, it will help us out with RPI and what we need to do to get in the tournament.
We got back on the winning side of things. We’ve been practicing real well. Our confidence is back; we feel real good going into these games.
Both of these teams like to get up and down the court, but that’s our style of basketball. That’s the way we want to play so it’s to our benefit.
We just take it game by game. We learned early in the year with Houston you can’t look back games.
It feels great to even be considered a tournament game, to be talking about what you got to do to play in the tournament, it feels good after last year.
This could become a rivalry, both teams are competitive, good schools and they play the same way.”
Kevin Ollie’s take
“We’re looking up at Cincinnati, Memphis, Louisville, a lot of good team in front of us and I don’t see them going into any slumps, so we’re going to have to start winning some games. And great teams, which we aspire to be always win on the road. We’re coming into a hostile environment here, getting used to these rims and hopefully we can get a win, then come back here in March and do it again.
“You don’t have to get everything done. Our first game is Memphis, we’re not looking ahead to Lousviille and preparing for them yet –the players are not, our staff is. Their concentration is getting this first game. Then we’ll come back and see how our troops are on Friday and assess it. But I have a strong group and I think they’ll be fine
We’ll just play it by ear [on the starting lineup], see how the guys feel. I know [Amida Brimah’s] going to be productive on the court and off the court – he’s just a great person. His passion is contagious to our whole team.
I don’t think we’re going to face a team that has as many athletes at every position. They’re an unselfish team, averaging 16 assists and they’re turning guys over, too. They feed off their turnovers, so we’re going to have to take care of the basketball, stay solid on the offensive end, take UConn shots, don’t let their pressure bother us into taking quick shots. We don’t want to turn it over. If we do turn over let’s throw it in the stands somewhere, we can’t have careless turnovers where it’s fueling their fast break.”
“UCF wanted to run and they were averaging 80 points; we just did a good job of keeping them out of transition. This team has different athletes, they push the ball at every opportunity and it’s going to be a different game. I’m looking forward to our guys getting out and getting to run a little bit. But we have to take care of the ball, be selective in our running. If we can get offensive rebounds like we did last game, that lends to not having them just leak out and run. Getting 18 offensive rebounds is huge, and we had two turnovers in the second half, if we can stay under 10 turnovers, shoot a high percentage, get on the offensive glass, I like our chances.”
We want to be solid. I don’t think the Houston game we were solid, the SMU game came down to the last eight minutes and then we lost all our principals. We got our defensive principals back in the Harvard game, it wasn’t a stellar offensive game. Then UCF, that second half is kind of what I envision our team to be about, inside-out, having balance.
The juice is going to be flowing 18,000, 19,000 people in there, it’s a big arena. Naturally we’re going o be up a little more. But we want to start having an identity of consistently playing the right way, playing solid, playing at a ‘Level 5’ – you keep hearing me say that, that’s a championship level. If we can do that on and off the court, talking on the bench, we’ll be fine.”
“Memphis is going to stay in the league, Louisville is leaving [for the ACC]. Memphis is going to be here, Cincinnati is going to be a rival of ours. But I don’t see Memphis’ program, with Josh Pastner, going down any time soon and I don’t see UConn going down any time. Hopefully, we’ll be battling for some championships and that will lead to a rivalry.”