Monday, November 30, 2009

My Top 25

Here's what I submitted late last night. UConn stays put. Au revoir, Butler, Michigan, Illinois, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Maryland and Notre Dame. Hello, Gonzaga, Florida, Georgia Tech, Marquette, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati and Richmond. Near miss: Portland.

I'm going heavy on Big East until the conference gives me reason to do otherwise. It's still the best.

1. Kansas
2. Kentucky
3. Texas
4. Duke
5. Michigan State
6. West Virginia
7. Purdue
8. Villanova
9. Syracuse
10. Tennessee
11. North Carolina
12. Washington
13. Clemson
14. Connecticut
15. Ohio State
16. Gonzaga
17. Florida
18. Florida State
19. Georgetown
20. Georgia Tech
21. Marquette
22. Vanderbilt
23. Cincinnati
24. Richmond
25. Louisville

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sir Duke

In the sporadic yet often spectacular history of UConn-Duke warfare, this one won't go down as one of the most attractive or memorable battles.

But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will take the victory just the same.

Some numbers to chew on:

***Duke shot just 28 percent from the floor, including 8-for-29 in the second half.

***The Blue Devils outrebounded the Huskies 56-43. A whopping 25 of Duke's boards were on the offensive end.

***It was enough to have Calhoun grasping to put the loss into historic – if not exactly positive, or accurate – perspective.

"The last time we gave up 25 offensive rebounds was to Georgetown with Alonzo (Mourning) and (Dikembe) Motombo, who are a little bit bigger than Duke was," Calhoun noted.

Actually, that's not true. Last season, UConn surrendered 26 offensive boards in a game with Providence. Still, the Huskies easily won that Jan. 31 contest, 94-61.

"The last time we've lost a game holding a team to eight field goals in a half and 28-percent shooting," Calhoun continued. "I can't remember."

***Here's one Calhoun likely remembers: the last time Duke had defeated the Huskies was on March 22, 1991 in a Sweet Sixteen matchup. Since then, UConn had won four straight – including the 1999 national championship game and a 2004 Final Four contest.

Duke now holds a 5-4 all-time advantage over the Huskies. With Mike Krzyzewski and Calhoun at the respective helms of both teams, UConn still owns a 4-3 edge.

***Calhoun and Coach K had combined for 1,647 wins entering Friday's game, setting a new NCAA record for most wins by opposing coaches. That total now, of course, is 1,648 – with 839 for Coach K and 809 for Calhoun.

Prior to the opening tap, NIT chairman and fellow Hall of Famer C.M. Newton presented the two coaches with commemorative basketballs in recognition of the accomplishment.

***UConn hit a mere 15 of 28 free throw attempts. Jerome Dyson was 3-for-9 from the charity stripe.

"I really can't explain it," said Dyson.

***Although there were a total of 80 missed shots – not counting free throws – Stanley Robinson, UConn's 6-foot-9 jumping jack forward, had just four rebounds in 35 minutes. At one point, Calhoun took Robinson out of the game and gave the senior an earful.

"I told him to get his (rear end) going and try to play some basketball," Calhoun said. "He didn't. He did defend, he played a very good player (Kyle Singler) and didn't give him any open shots. But for him to play 35 minutes and get four rebounds in a game of (90) misses? It just can't happen. And he's a terrific rebounder.

"Charles (Okwandu) couldn't do it tonight, the game was too sophisticated for him. Gavin (Edwards) should have rebounded more, but I can't fault Gavin coming off the bench, he only played 24 minutes. But I can fault Sticks, because I've got to rely upon him. He's supposed to be one of the premier players in the league, if not the country, but he certainly didn't play that well tonight on the offensive end."

***Sticks did hold Duke All-America forward Kyle Singler to six points on 2-for-12 shooting.

***The Huskies didn't hit a single 3-pointer. Heck, they only attempted four of them.

***UConn shot 37-percent from the floor.

***Dyson finished with 15 points, Edwards added 12 off the bench and Robinson netted 10. Alex Oriakhi had eight points to go with his game-high 13 boards, and Kemba Walker had nine points, nine assists – and six turnovers.


Normally, it's Calhoun who disses a media member over a perceived dis of his own. On Friday, it was Coach K.

Informed that ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb had labeled Duke "alarmingly unathletic" two nights earlier, Krzyzewski countered:

"Well, he should be an expert on 'alarmingly unathletic, so I'll have to take a look at that a little bit closer. If it comes from an expert who knows what it's like to be alarmingly non-athletic … actually, we're pretty athletic. We're just not as athletic as Connecticut."

Later, when asked how he would have felt felt had someone told him prior to the game that his team would shoot 28 percent against UConn, Coach K said: "I would have been very worried, and mad at you. I would have told you to go talk to Doug Gottlieb. You don't have to do that, by the way. I won't punish you."


***Edwards was called for a flagrant foul – his fourth – as Duke's Lance Thomas went in for a post move with 7:29 to play.

"Apparently, it was a flagrant foul because I went up for the shot fake and fouled him," Edwards said. "That's a flagrant these days, I guess. I don't really know, (the ref) didn't say anything to me. I didn't really know what was flagrant about it."

***Second best quote of the night comes from Robinson.

"We outplayed ourselves," Sticks said.

Somehow, that made about as much sense as anything else on Friday night.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thin White Duke

Some interesting tidbits surrounding Friday's UConn-Duke showdown:

***Mike Krzyzewski (837) and Jim Calhoun (809) have combined for 1,646 career victories. Friday's contest will mark the first meeting between a pair of 800-plus win coaches in college basketball history.

***The teams are 4-4 in their all-time series. Here's the game-by-game history:

March 16, 1964 Duke, 101-54 NCAA tournament, Elite Eight
Dec. 14, 1976 Duke, 64-59 (OT)
March 24, 1990 Duke, 79-78 (OT) NCAA tournament, Elite Eight
March 22, 1991 Duke, 81-67 NCAA tournament, Sweet Sixteen
Nov. 29, 1994 UConn, 90-86 Great Eight tournament
March 29, 1999 UConn, 77-74 NCAA tournament, Championship Game
Nov. 12, 1999 UConn, 71-66 Coaches vs. Cancer tournament
March 3, 2004 UConn, 79-78 NCAA tournament Final Four

***UConn is 7-5 at Madison Square Garden during in-season tournament play -- including that Nov. 12, 1999 win over Duke in the coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic.

***Including Friday's bout with No. 7 Duke, UConn is slated to play against six of the current top 10 teams in the rankings: Texas, Villanova, Kentucky, West Virginia and Syracuse are the others.

***Duke is 26-2 in in-season tournaments over the past nine seasons. The Blue Devils have won 10 straight in-season tournament games.

***Duke is 24-14 all-time, including a 19-6 mark under Coach K, at Madison Square Garden. The Blue Devils have won four straight and 11 of their last 12 games at MSG.

***The Blue Devils are 101-10 in the month of November under Coach K. Duke has won 21 straight games in the month, dating back to a Nov. 21, 2006 loss to Marquette.

***The Blue Devils have won six of their last nine games and are 104-44 all-time against current Big East teams.

***The Huskies' four wins over Duke have all come by single digits, by an average margin of 3.3 points.

***Despite losing Hasheem Thabeet to the NBA, UConn is averaging 10.3 blocked shots per game, including 26 in the past two contests. Gavin Edwards leads the way with 14 rejections.

***Duke point guard Jon Scheyer has turned the ball over just twice in 171 minutes of action thus far.

***Stanley Robinson is ready to rumble: "I always wanted to play against Duke as a kid. If you didn't want to go there, you'd at least want to play them. It's awesome just to be in this atmosphere."

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Feature on Calhoun

Here's a feature from today's Register that shows a different side of Jim Calhoun. The coach helped console the Terzi boys, who lost their father Michael, 40, to a heart attack a few weeks ago. The oldest son is 16 -- nearly the same age Calhoun was when his father died of a heart attack.

The boys took in a recent practice, met some of the players, had their picture taken with the team and had a 45-minute meeting with Calhoun that went a long way towards their healing process.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tiger Beat

What did UConn's impressive, 81-55 romp over LSU mean to Jim Calhoun tonight?

"It was a breakout game for us," said the UConn head coach. "This is the first time I saw Connecticut play this year, in a regular-season game. We were aggressive, we did a terrific job defensively for most of the game … I really, really praised the kids for their aggression."

Jerome Dyson overcame a subpar (1-for-6 shooting) first half and scored 17 of his 20 points in the latter. Kemba Walker also netted 20, Stanley Robinson was everywhere (14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks) and Gavin Edwards contributed a smooth 15 points, nine boards and four blocks off the bench as the 12th-ranked Huskies improved to 4-0.

"This is the type of game we're capable of," said Dyson. "When we've got everyone going on all cylinders at the same time, we can be great."

UConn will play in the tourney's championship game at the Garden on Friday at 5 p.m., against either Duke or Arizona State.

Perhaps the most pleasing statistic of the night for Calhoun came in the rebounding column. After being outrebounded in their last two games by Colgate and Hofstra, the Huskies beat the bigger, athletic Tigers on the boards by a 43-29 count.

"All I asked of them tonight," Calhoun said, "when you come in here, if you're on the plus side in rebounding and, most importantly, on the work-ethic meter … if we're not leading on that work-ethic meter – loose balls, hustling, blocked shots, running the fast break – then we've got a problem, and we won't be playing in the championship game on Friday. Now, we've got that opportunity."

UConn never trailed.

Alex Oriakhi had six points and nine boards before fouling out, and Donnell Beverly chipped in with four points off the bench.

Charles Okwandu, the 7-foot junior, got his first collegiate start on Wednesday and was effective. Okwandu grabbed a rebound and had a monster block of a Bo Spencer layup attempt in the first minute of action. He didn't do much after that, picking up his second foul 4 ½ minutes into the game and his third early in the second half. Okwandu wound up fouling out with 7:32 left and went scoreless, but his four rebounds and two blocks were easily his most effective minutes to date in a UConn uniform.

"He gave us a good game tonight, a physical presence," said Calhoun. "He got a couple of nice rebounds for us, set some very good screens. He was the physical presence that we need for the next four or five games, and for the season."

Edwards' strong game off the bench was a double-edged sword for the 6-foot-10 senior.

"Unfortunately for Gavin, he played so well coming off the bench … I think you can guess the rest," Calhoun said, with a smile. "He responded well to coming off the bench, gave us a great lift."

If Edwards winds up being UConn's sixth man the rest of the way, it doesn't seem to faze him.

"I've been doing it for the first three years, so why change it?" he said with a shrug. "It really doesn't bother me either way. If I can play like that, I'll do whatever it takes."

Early in the game, Robinson made a somewhat uncharacteristic play. He took the ball at the top of the key, dribbled into the lane and made a nifty driving layup.

Let's let Sticks explain, as only Sticks can do:

"See, they don't usually give me that play. That play is called 'down.' The shot clock was running down, and I had to prove a point to let them know that I could do it, too, because it's only for the point guards. I had an Allen Iverson crossover, went to the basket and …"

Who did he have to prove his point to?


By the way, Sticks also has also had plenty of respect for Duke from afar.

"If you didn't want to go there, you at least wanted to play them ... I hope they win ... I wanted to go to Duke at some point, but once I realized how small their gym was, no."

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Halfway There

Halftime observations, with UConn holding a 45-29 lead over LSU:

UConn's rebounding: Good. Huskies hold a 27-21 edge on the boards, though it seems more one-sided than that.

Stanley Robinson: Real good. Active, doing a little of everything.

Charles Okwandu: Better. A block and a rebound in the first minute, then a couple of fouls. And he did start over Gavin Edwards.

Every other UConn player except Jerome Dyson: Good.

Dyson: A tad out of control, reverting back to bad habits.

LSU: Bad.

SEC: Real bad.

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Armor All

Craig Austrie has made the final cut for the Springfield Armor. Here's a look at the team's roster:

1. Julian Allen: A 205 lb, 6'4" Guard from Georgia Southern University

2. Craig Austrie: A 185 lb, 6'2" Guard from The University of

3.James Cripe: A 250 lb, 7'0" Center from Northern Kentucky

4.JamesOn Curry: A 195 lb, 6'3" Guard from Oklahoma State University

5. Kentrell Gransberry: A 250 lb, 6'9" Forward/Center from The
University of South Florida

6. Adam Harrington: A 210 lb, 6'5" Guard from Auburn University

7. Perrin Johnson: A 215 lb, 6'6" Forward from The University of

8. Maurice Maxwell: A 190 lb, 6'4" Guard from Goldey-Beacom College

9. Dante Milligan: A 210 lb, 6'4" Forward from The University of

10. Tre Whitted: A 215lb, 6'4" Guard from Marshall University

The Armor opens its season on Friday at 7 p.m. against the Iowa Energy, which features Rashad Anderson.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lineup Change. Maybe. Again.

In what seems to be becoming a weekly occurrence, Jim Calhoun is considering a lineup change for tomorrow night's NIT Season Tip-Off game with LSU. As usual, it's Gavin Edwards who may lose his spot in the lineup.

Calhoun is considering starting 7-foot junior Charles Okwandu in place of the 6-10 Edwards, who has grabbed just 12 rebounds in his first three games this season. LSU throws out a big, physical team with 6-11 Garrett Green, 6-7, 238-pound Tasmin Mitchell and 6-7, 230-pound Storm Warren ("he looks like one heckuva tight end," said Calhoun) up front, so Calhoun might want to start the game with a bigger frontcourt.

"More importantly," he added, "it may give us a quality guy off the bench, as opposed to getting Stanley (Robinson) right off the bat into the four-spot, particularly against a physical team like this."

Calhoun said he'd sleep on it, but he has been running Okwandu and 6-9 freshman center Alex Oriakhi together in practice lately.

Rebounding, obviously, is a huge concern for the Huskies right now. While they've actually been outrebounded so far this season overall (by Hofstra and Colgate, no less!), the Tigers are averaging 44.3 boards per game, nearly 14 more than their three opponents thus far.

"We're going and getting it," said LSU head coach Trent Johnson. "We're rebounding pretty well."

***How about this: The Big East improved to 4-1 against top-25 teams Monday night with Cincinnati’s 67-58 win against No. 24 Vanderbilt.

Big East teams are a combined 52-4 in 2009-10 (.929).

***Tomorrow night will be Calhoun's 73rd game coaching UConn at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies are 43-29. Overall, they're 49-45 at the world's most famous arena.

***That's all we've got for now. Check out tomorrow's Register for a preview of the LSU-UConn game. The Huskies – as well as LSU, Duke and Arizona State – will head to a banquet tonight, play tomorrow, then watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade from their hotel windows on Thursday. There will be a team brunch and dinner on Thanksgiving, and the games resume on Friday at 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Top 25

Here's the Top 25 poll I submitted late last night. I don't know, maybe I've got Syracuse too high, but I was very impressed with their wins over Cal and UNC.

1. Kansas
2. Michigan State
3. Texas
4. Kentucky
5. Duke
6. Villanova
7. Purdue
8. West Virginia
9. Syracuse
10. North Carolina
11. Tennessee
12. Butler
13. Washington
14. Connecticut
15. Michigan
16. Clemson
17. Illinois
18. Georgetown
19. Florida State
20. Ohio State
21. Oklahoma
22. Louisville
23. Minnesota
24. Maryland
25. Notre Dame

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cavalier Cleveland

Stopped by the National Prep Showcase today at Albertus Magnus College, and saw Cleveland Melvin in action.

He was impressive. In the short time I was there, Melvin hit a nice baseline floater, had a monster blocked shot, missed a 15-foot baseline “J” then had his most impressive sequence of the night: a steal, and on the other end of the floor, a sweet low post spin move and hook shot for a hoop.

Melvin definitely looked active and athletic. Seemed a little frustrated at times not getting the rock enough on the high post in the middle of Champlain St. Lambert’s 2-3 zone. I swear, it must be the baggy uniforms, but out on the floor he doesn’t seem to be 6-foot-8. Up close, however, he is every bit 6-8.

“It’s a good choice for me, the best fit,” he said of his decision to commit to UConn earlier in the week. “I’m guaranteed getting a lot of minutes, coach Calhoun told me.”

Melvin, who checks in at 205 pounds, says he can play both power and small forward but prefers power forward.

“I finish well, and I rebound well, too,” adding that he needs to work on “my handle, and work on my strength, too.”

When asked what player he would compare himself to, Melvin didn’t have to look too far.

“Stanley Robinson. (UConn coaches) said (they) look forward to me playing like Stanley -- athletic, runs the floor, grabs boards.”

Melvin said things are going well academically, and that he recently got a good score on his SAT. He said he thoroughly enjoyed his visit to UConn Nov. 7-8, going out for dinner with assistant coach Patrick Sellers and talking to his future teammates about what life is like at Storrs.

“They were telling me how school’s going to be great, a lot of girls and all that,” he said with a smile. “I’m just happy and excited to be a part of UConn.”

***Plenty of other top-notch talent in the house, including the following Big East commits: C.J. Fair (Syracuse), Austin Carroll (Rutgers), Dashaun Wiggins (Seton Hall), Isaiah Epps (Pitt), Ron Giplaye (Providence), Russell Smith (Louisville), J.J. Moore (Pitt), Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), Gerard Coleman (Providence) and Markus Kennedy (Villanova).

Among the coaches in attendance while I was there were Sellers, URI head coach Jim Baron and Michigan assistant (and former Penn State head coach) Jerry Dunn.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cleveland Rocks

UConn has received a verbal commitment from Cleveland Melvin, a 6-7 Class of 2010 power forward who plays at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass. He's a Baltimore native who played at Lake Clifton High, as well as with the Cecil Kirk AAU program that has delivered numerous players (Reggie Lewis, Rudy Gay, etc.) to Jim Calhoun over the years.

Melvin is a high-energy player with terrific athletic skills and great ability around the rim.

"That's what separates him from other kids," said third-year Notre Dame Prep coach Ryan Hurd. "He's got a ton of bounce, he finishes extremely hard at the rim."

Melvin made an unofficial visit to UConn on First Night (Oct. 16) and an official on the weekend of Nov. 7-8, taking in the Huskies' exhibition game with UMass Lowell. He had also visited DePaul earlier, and had more visits slated -- including one to Seton Hall this weekend.

But he surprised Hurd and decided to commit to UConn on Thursday.

"He's excited," Hurd said. "He's a great kid, laughs all the time -- 90 percent of the time he doesn't even know what he's laughing at."

Hurd said that Melvin is at about 200 pounds right now and is responding well to the school's strength and conditioning program. He'd like to see him continue to get a little bulkier, as well as work on his shooting range.

"I'd like to see his jump shot become more consistent, all the way to the arc," Hurd said. "He's working on stretching his jump shot out. He's a huge fan of the dunk shot, and we're trying to expand that."

Melvin is on-target academically.

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Down and Out, Beverly Thrills

Here's a feature from today's Register about Donnell Beverly, who Jim Calhoun surprisingly revealed as perhaps the Huskies' best leader at this point in the season.

I've always been a bit intrigued by Beverly, who's been impressive at times in scrimmages I've seen and has shown glimpses in his sparse playing time over the past two seasons. Obviously, he hasn't been impressive enough to merit more PT from Calhoun -- though that appears about to change.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thorn in My Pride

Here's the game story for tonight's 76-67 win over Hofstra:

By David Borges
Register Staff
STORRS --- Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" blared on the Gampel Pavilion p.a. prior to UConn's NIT Season Tip-Off tournament bout with Hofstra on Tuesday. Soon after, the Huskies' travel plans to New York City nearly got re-routed to a more distant outpost.

No. 12 UConn narrowly avoided a major upset – and its first-ever November/December loss at Gampel during the Jim Calhoun era – by rallying over the final minutes and gutting out a 76-67 victory over the Pride.

Hofstra led by nine (54-45) with 9 minutes, 10 seconds left, and still had a 62-61 lead with just over 4 ½ minutes remaining, causing worry in the crowd of 8,713.

"Down nine with nine to go in your own building, I think is tougher than being down nine on the road," Calhoun noted.

But Jerome Dyson scored on a putback of his own miss with 4:16 left to put UConn up for good, Stanley Robinson hit a driving bank shot, and the Huskies canned nine of their last 10 foul shots – and 17 of their final 18 overall – to seal the victory.

UConn (3-0) wins the tourney's North region and now moves on to the semifinals next week at Madison Square Garden. It will face Louisiana State on Nov. 25, then play again – possibly against Duke – two days later.

Had the Huskies lost, they would have played Monday and Tuesday – almost certainly on the road – against two of the other losing teams from the three other regional rounds.

"I would rate it as a very good win, in the grand scheme of things," Calhoun said. "Because things can slip … next thing you know, you end up Monday and Tuesday in Charlotte or Western Kentucky. We planned on going to New York, as you should if you set your aspirations high."

Indeed, while Calhoun has hardly hid his frustrations after the Huskies' first two victories this season, including Monday night's 77-63 win over Colgate, he put a surprisingly positive spin on this win.

"I'm proud of how hard we played," he said. "The long rebounds killed us, we all agree with that. We're not going to break this one out as a teaching tool. But … collectively they did some good things. They showed some toughness that they're going to need on the road."

Certainly, there were some things not to like. For the second night in a row, UConn was outrebounded by a far smaller, less athletic team – 43-39, this time. Hofstra (1-2) grabbed a whopping 19 offensive boards, and even outscored the allegedly run-first Huskies 30-16 on fast break points.

Still, the Huskies were in control for much of the contest, leading by as much as 12 in the first half, and maintaining their seven-point halftime lead five minutes into the latter frame.

Then, the Pride caught fire, nailing four out of five 3-pointers ("on the move," Calhoun pointed out. "NBA teams sometimes don't do that") during one two-minute stretch that turned a 43-42 Hofstra deficit into a 54-45 lead.

At that point, the Huskies huddled on the floor and made their determination to win the game clear.

"When we were down, it was the most excited we were on the sidelines," said Calhoun. "I'm not used to that."

Added point guard Kemba Walker: "We said, 'It's time to strap up.' And that's what we did. 'Rome just took over."

Dyson scored 15 of his team-high 23 points over that final span – 11 of them from the foul line. He also picked up a key charge on Hofstra star Charles Jenkins with 50 seconds remaining, shortly after picking up his fourth foul.

"I was just playing solid defense and trying to keep him in front of me," Dyson said. "I saw him going to the basket with his head down. I kind of took a chance there with my fourth foul. We got some energy and fed off it."

Walker had picked up a charge on Jenkins with 1:58 left and the Huskies clinging to a 65-64 lead.

Robinson added 15 points for UConn, Walker had 16 to go with seven rebounds, Gavin Edwards had 10 points and Alex Oriakhi eight points and a game-high 14 boards. Dyson shot just 4-for-11 from the floor but made all but one of his 15 free throw attempts.

UConn shot 30-for-36 from the charity stripe, Hofstra just 10-for-12.

"That's a big-time crew, they're all good officials," said Hofstra coach Tom Pecora. "We had the opportunity to take the game and we didn't. A few more stops and we could have played small, but we weren't able to put together that three-minute stretch. I don't think the officials made a big difference in the game."

Jenkins led all scorers with 25 points and Cornelius Vines added 18.

A few other notes & quotes:


"Technically, it wasn't a great game for us. We held a team to 32 percent and really won in the last minute of the game."

(on the team's early-season rebounding woes)

"I know we're facing all spread teams, and we won't face teams like this in the league. The ball's still there and we're doing a bad job."

"An 18-point turnaround in the last (9 minutes), some good things must have happened. This particular group had a real big-time gut-check. We didn't want to be in Charlotte playing two teams next week. We wanted to be in Madison Square Garden."

(on Oriakhi)

"He played like a freshman, but didn't rebound like a freshman."

(on Edwards)

"I thought Gavin played well, and I just saw he had three rebounds. That can't happen."

"I’m going to classify this as a good win, at a time when this team is still trying to find its identity."

***Early in the second half, Calhoun called a timeout after a Hofstra 3-pointer and charged out on the court to get in Robinson's grill. On his way out, he collided with Hofstra's Cornelius Vines. Referee Jamie Luckie signaled a technical foul on Calhoun, but when he realized Calhoun had called the timeout, he waved off the "T."

***One other thing: I'll never ceased to be amazed by the fact that UConn has never lost a non-conference, November/December game at Gampel in now 46 tries. The Huskies are 148-4 at home against non-league foes in those months under Calhoun. UConn has not lost a regular season game in Storrs in November or December since Dec. 5, 1973.

Dec. 5, 1973.

Who says there's no such thing as a little home cookin'?

***Quiz question: Who sang "Thorn in My Pride"?

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On the Cover of the SI

Kemba Walker graces one of Sports Illustrated's regional covers this week for the magazine's annual college basketball preview. SI has UConn ranked No. 10.

Here's the cover:

The issue hits newstands tomorrow (Wednesday).


'More of the Same'

Sitting here at courtside, just past midnight, putting the finishing touches on my game story of UConn's 77-63 win over Colgate. In front of me is Ater Majok, burning the midnight oil and working on his jump shot. I guess Dec. 20 can't come soon enough for this young man.

As for Monday's game: If you think Jim Calhoun was any more pleased with his team than he was following Friday night's equally uninspired win over William & Mary, think again.

A sampling:

"More of the same. We've just got to hope we play better, and we'll see what happens. The same combination of the other night."

"If we want to get to New York, we've got to play better."

Robinson had 18 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting, Walker added 16 points and six assists and Gavin Edwards scored 10 of his 14 points in the latter half to lead UConn. Edwards shot 7-for-8 from the floor.

Freshmen Jamal Coombs-McDaniel added 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, and Alex Oriakhi hauled in a team-high eight rebounds. Jerome Dyson chipped in with 10 points, despite 3-for-15 shooting, and six assists.

But the numbers that resonated most to Calhoun were in the rebounds column: UConn 29, Colgate 27.

"Their power forward was 6-2," Calhoun said (a slight exaggeration, we might add). "Our power forward (Edwards) had one rebound at halftime in 15 minutes."

"It's despicable, we only took 10 foul shots. Our four and five men (Edwards and Oriakhi) didn't take a foul shot. Nor did they deserve to take one."

Calhoun did concede: "We made a pretty good stand defensively, Stanley went off, and we won the game."

"We played in a few bursts," he added. "If we do that (Tuesday), we will not be going to New York … Are we in desperate shape? No. Hopefully, we can turn around and be the team we can be."

He continued:

"This is not something I've seen here. I've seen some awful basketball here, and I've seem some incredibly wonderful basketball here. This, I haven't seen ... This Connecticut team has got to start playing like a Connecticut team. One way or another, we will end up this season playing hard. That I guarantee."

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Top 25

Here's the Top 25 poll I submitted last night. Against my better judgment, I'm giving the Big 10 some love. We'll find out soon if it goes unrequited.

1. Kansas
2. Michigan State
3. Kentucky
4. Villanova
5. Texas
6. North Carolina
7. Tennessee
8. Purdue
9. West Virginia
10. Oklahoma
11. Michigan
12. Duke
13. California
14. Connecticut
15. Washington
16. Butler
17. Georgetown
18. Maryland
19. Georgia Tech
20. Ohio State
21. Dayton
22. Louisville
23. Tulsa
24. Illinois
25. Minnesota

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On the Lamb

Doron Lamb is making an official visit to UConn this weekend. He arrived late last night and will leave tomorrow morning.

Lamb says his list of schools is down to five: Kansas, Kentucky, UConn, Arizona and Oklahoma. He's visited all but Arizona so far, and will be visiting that school soon.

Lamb says he will commit in the fall but wait until April to sign.

"I’m just looking for a good coaching staff, a winning school, good players that I can work around," he said. "A school that's basketball-first."

He added that he doesn't have a frontrunner right now. Lamb is teammates at Oak Hill Academy with Roscoe Smith, whose final three schools are down to UConn, Georgetown and Duke. Smith said last night that he has a frontrunner, but wouldn't hint at who that is.

"He's a good player," Lamb said of Smith. "When he went to Oak Hill, he didn't realize it was strict and all that, in the middle of nowhere. But he realized what he's got to do out there, so he's doing better now."

In other news ...

***While Jim Calhoun noted that the same five players – Gavin Edwards, Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson, Alex Oriakhi – are likely to start in tomorrow night's 9 p.m. bout with Colgate at Gampel, freshman Jamal Coombs-McDaniel started at small forward in practice on Saturday, with Robinson moving to power forward in place of Edwards.

***Hofstra faces Yale in the opener of the North regional tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., followed by UConn-Colgate. The finals are scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m., with the consolation game preceding it at 4:30 p.m. Unless, of course, Colgate manages to spring the upset on UConn. Then, for local television purposes, the Huskies will play the consolation game at 7 p.m., meaning the 4:30 p.m. championship game would actually precede the consolation.

The winner of the region moves on to the semifinals on Nov. 25 at Madison Square Garden. The top seeds in each region are Duke, Arizona State, LSU and UConn, meaning that the Huskies could conceivably face LSU the night before Thanksgiving, then either Duke or Arizona State the night after at MSG.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Roscoe Smith has a Frontrunner ...

Spoke with Roscoe Smith tonight, and the highly-touted, 6-foot-8 small forward out of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia has yet to decide between UConn, Georgetown and Duke. He does have a front-runner, but he's not saying who.

Smith said he'll make his commitment over the next week or two. He won't sign until the spring, however. Asked what could change his mind from his current front-runner to one of the other two schools over the next week or two, Smith said, "Nothing, really."

While he wouldn't let on who the front-runner is, it certainly seems evident by the way he described his three visits.

He took an unofficial visit to Duke, and it was "cool. I couldn't talk to Coach K, because he was out in Hawaii at the time."

Smith's official visit to UConn came on First Night about a month ago. His thoughts on Jim Calhoun: "He's good, he's cool."

And Smith's visit to Georgetown?

"I had a lot of fun down there, a lot of fun," he said. "Everybody was cool, laid-back. The players welcomed me with open arms, the coaches were real cool."

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Friday, November 13, 2009


Friday the 13th. Thirteen 3-pointers allowed. Thirteen offensive rebounds allowed.

Coincidence? Of course. But that didn't stop Jim Calhoun from going all Jason Voorhees after the game and slashing his team – and particularly Gavin Edwards – to ribbons.

"I'd like to congratulate William & Mary for outplaying us," Calhoun said after the Huskies' lackluster, 75-66 win in their season-opener. "They did a terrific job. They beat us on the glass. I know it says 34-34 (in rebounds), but they had a 13-10 advantage on the offensive rebounding."

Calhoun was reduced to quoting an old heavyweight boxer not necessarily known for his verbal skills.

"Mike Tyson has a great saying: 'You don't know how tough you are until someone punches you in the face.' We certainly didn't get punched in the face tonight, but we had someone finally stand up to us, and we didn't react very well. I'm incredibly disappointed."

It kept coming. Here's Calhoun's synopsis of his players on Friday:

"Stanley (Robinson) had a little problem with my advice when I said stop taking contested shots. So then he passed on four shots and said, 'You don't want me to shoot.' That's a senior … "Stanley was awful, but he had good offensive numbers (17 points, seven boards)."

"Jerome (Dyson) was awful and good, all at the same time. But we needed him tonight. One thing Jerome's not going to do is not stand up when he gets punched."

"Kemba (Walker) was OK, Alex started off well … Jamaal Trice seemed like he was in a fog … After Alex, Darius (Smith) was probably the least bad."

Then there was Edwards, the 6-10 senior forward who was making the first start of his 90-game UConn career. He took just one shot in the first 34 minutes, wound up taking just three, scored six points and grabbed a mere four rebounds.

Worse, he allowed Tribe forward Quinn McDowell to go off for 20 points and put up a host of uncontested shots.

"We don't have a four-man," Calhoun said, never mentioning Edwards by name. "His guy got 20 tonight, because he continues to overhelp, as he's done for four straight years … The kid, McDowell, is still open, I think … the kid, if he's still on the court now, he's probably free."

As Calhoun looked down the list of his starting five by class, he added: "Senior (Robinson), I guess senior (Edwards), freshman (Oriakhi), senior (Dyson), sophomore (Walker)."

Yeah, he was none too pleased with Gavin Edwards. And neither was Edwards himself.

"I don't think I played well at all," he said. "My man averaged like nine points last year and he went off for 20 tonight. I just played terrible defense, and I didn't play very well on offense."

Of course, he wasn't the only UConn player to turn in a subpar effort on Friday.

"This is definitely an eye-opener for the whole team," Edwards added. "There's not any individual person that could really take anything out of this. As a team, nobody really played that well."

***My own analysis:

Robinson did force a few too many shots, but at least he was looking for his shot -- something he didn't do enough of for great stretches last season.

Edwards was as bad as Calhoun said. Appeared at times that he didn't want to be here. Really needs to get tougher.

Oriakhi hit his first three shots within the first 3 1/2 minutes of play, two of them on nice lefty hook shots, then attempted just one more shot the rest of the way as the Tribe collapsed their zone on him. He was 4-for-4 from the floor.

Dyson appears to be the guy UConn will go to when the chips are down. He led all scorers with 27 points, to go with eight assists and four steals. Dyson personally engineered a 10-2 UConn run midway through the latter half, sandwiching a pair of 3-pointers around an alley-oop pass to Robinson, then hitting a slashing lay-in to give the Huskies a 57-43 lead with 11:57 remaining.

"He just sort of took the game over at times," Tribe coach Tony Shaver said of Dyson.

Walker was OK -- 12 points, three turnovers, just two assists. He picked up his second foul 6:01 before halftime and sat out the rest of the half.

Donnell Beverly played three minutes, made one nice pass to Dyson for a basket, then threw the ball away, never to return.

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel had two points and three boards in his first seven minutes as a Husky.

Trice did nothing. Smith hit a key trey early in the latter half after the Tribe had closed to within four points.

Charles Okwandu? Three minutes, bagels across the board.

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UConn has received national letters of intent from both Michael Bradley, a 6-foot-10 power forward out of Chattanooga, TN, and Jeremy Lamb, the 6-4 combo guard out of Norcross, Ga., according to a school spokesman.

***Doron Lamb, the Class of 2010 shooting guard (and no relation to Jeremy), is slated to make an official visit to UConn this weekend. He'll come on Sunday and leave Monday morning, missing the Huskies' 9 p.m. game with Colgate that night.

***The Huskies got an official visit earlier this week from Cleveland Melvin.

***Indulge me for a moment: The Who is my all-time favorite rock band, even ahead (barely) of The Beatles and Stones. When I heard the rumor (not yet confirmed) that they would be playing this year's Super Bowl halftime show, I was thrilled. Honestly, I never thought I'd see the day.

But now I'm wondering if it's a good idea. Is the target audience for the Super Bowl halftime show a Who crowd? Does the audience even know who The Who is? Maybe they're familiar with "Baba O'Riley" (Teenage Wasteland!) and "Won't Get Fooled Again" as the CSI theme songs. Maybe that's one of the reasons why The Who were asked (CSI and the Super Bowl, after all, are both on CBS).

But do young kids really dig The Who? Minorities? Those audiences may not be Stones, Springsteen or McCartney fans, either, but at least they likely know who those guys are. The Who? I don't think so.

Either way, let's hope we don't get another one of these type outbursts from Pete Townshend at the Super Bowl.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

In My Tribe

Jim Calhoun mistakenly referred to William & Mary as Wake Forest during his media availability on Wednesday.

Both schools are located in the south, and both begin with the letter "W." That's about where the similarities end, though the Tribe could give UConn a fight tomorrow night.

"They've got eight players back," Calhoun pointed out. "They didn't have a great year (last season), but they beat some people we know, like Northeastern. They expect to have a big year. They've got eight returning guys, five of them seniors."

The Tribe returns its top three scorers from last year's 10-20 team – 6-3 senior guard David Schneider (14.1), 6-7 senior forward Danny Sumner (13.4) and 6-6 sophomore forward Quinn McDowell (9.3). They'll likely throw some matchup zone at the Huskies defensively. On offense, William & Mary will run what Calhoun calls "semi-Princeton, semi-UCLA cuts."

***Calhoun knows that upsets are always lurking at this time of year.

"You're going to see scores up there and say, 'Whoops, how did that happen?'" Calhoun noted. "I don't want us to be a 'how-did-that-happen' team. I don't want to be a 'whoops.'"

*** This will be just the second time that UConn and William & Mary have met on the basketball court. The first was a 51-49 UConn win back on Dec. 28, 1967 at the Hugh S. Greer Field House. Bill Corley led the Huskies with 18 points, Jack Melen added 11 and John (Don't Call Me Coco) Crisp had 10.

The immortal Sandy Fishman went scoreless for UConn, going 0-for-3 from the floor.

***Tonight will mark Gavin Edwards' 90th game as a Husky – and his first start.

Meanwhile, freshman Alex Oriakhi will get the start in his very first UConn game.

***Jamal Coombs-McDaniel on Oriakhi:

"He's been playing real well, one of the best rebounders in the country, in my opinion. He keeps telling me, 'I'll worry about the rebounding, you do the scoring.' It's good to have a guy like that."

***Good Sporcle quiz today, which even features Wake, William & Mary: Name the conference these basketball teams play in. I didn't do as well on this as I thought.

Are you like me? Do you love the Sporcle?

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009


UConn had an open practice and media availability today, in advance of Friday's season-opener vs. William & Mary. Here's what we learned:

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel will see some time at the four on Friday and will likely continue to see minutes there until Ater Majok is eligible on Dec. 20.

The reason: 7-footer Charles Okwandu simply isn't getting the job done, and Jim Calhoun doesn't want to move Stanley Robinson from the three – where his open-court skills shine – to the power forward position.

"It doesn't matter," shrugged Coombs-McDaniel, who was known for his versatility while starring at the Tilton School in New Hampshire. "My whole goal is just to be out there, whether it's the five or the one, it really doesn't matter. I'm just going to play hard."

Coombs-McDaniel is listed at 6-foot-7 but actually seems taller than that when you're standing next to him. He's a solid 210 pounds, and should certainly be able to handle the position against weaker foes like William & Mary on Friday.

"The teams that we play right now aren't really that big, we won't have that big an issue," said Jerome Dyson. "It's just like Stanley being there sometimes, we'll be able to get up the floor faster and do different things."

Calhoun's assessment of Coombs-McDaniel: "He's a good athlete, certainly not a great one. But he's effective, he's got a nose for the ball. His instincts are very good, his basketball IQ – he's learning, like a lot of kids, how to fit into the system. He's tough, he goes after the ball. He's one of those guys that can get two 3-pointers, two offensive rebounds, a couple of garbage points on drives, get ahead of the field. That's what I see him as, not just a shooter, not just a rebounder, not just a passer."

Coombs-McDaniel had to sit out UConn's first two exhibition games but was cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center on Monday. He said one of his summer classes had to be "re-activated," and it took some time to get the paperwork through.

"I think it set me back a little," he admitted. "I've just got to keep working harder to try to beat out some guys for some minutes. We have a little rotation going, so it's going to be tough to break into the rotation. But once I break it, I'll find myself in there."

Added Calhoun: "He wants to be a basketball player. If he plays eight minutes on Friday, he'll want to know why. And that's good."

***By the way, Calhoun still hasn't completely lost faith in Okwandu, even though the junior showed a penchant for traveling and double-dribbling today in practice. Calhoun continues to insist Okwandu has looked good at times.

"We need him to play," said the coach. "We're going to need to have a good, solid inside rotation."

***Dyson limped off the floor late in practice after Ater Majok landed on his toe. but he said that "one way or another," he'll play Friday.

He was wearing a size-14 shoe in practice today (he's normally a size-13) so that he could put padding around his toe. Dyson's toenail is still stitched on, and there's still a good degree of pain there. He practiced without getting his toe numbed today, but will likely have to have it numbed for Friday's game.

According to Calhoun, it's "Door 1, Jerome 0" right now.

***Speaking of injuries, Calhoun was watching the Memphis Grizzlies' game last night when Hasheem Thabeet broke his jaw while bumping into teammate Zach Randolph's head.

Calhoun said he tried to get in contact with Thabeet, but "I don't think wants to talk right now. I don't know if he's Twittering. He's one of the world's great Twitterers."

***Another great Calhoun quote on the possibility of players getting into foul trouble on Friday: "This time of year, you usually have some type of flu – this year it happens to be swine – and you also have whistles disease, where a rash breaks out. Some of these young (refs) try to impress you with their whistling."

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Live Chat Transcript

Here's the transcript from this afternoon's live chat. Thanks to everyone who took part and submitted questions. We'll try to do one the week of the preseason NIT (Thanksgiving week), and again the week of the Kentucky game, then try to start a set schedule once the Big East begins.

Live Chat Today at 2 p.m.

Please feel free to join me for a live chat on UConn men's basketball today at 2 p.m. at I'll take questions about anything -- the team, the schedule, the Big East, recruiting, rock 'n roll, how many hectares are in an acre --- anything.

See you at 2.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Live Chat on Wednesday

Wanted to put out a reminder (warning?): I'll be doing my first-ever live chat on UConn men's hoops at on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Feel free to stop by, ask a question, no big whoop. Here, I'll give you a topic: the chick pea is neither a chick nor a pea. Discuss ...

Coombs-McDaniel Good to Go

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has received full clearance for practice and game competition from the NCAA Eligibility Center.

The team had today off and will return to practice tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

By a Toenail

It doesn't quite rank with some other infamous sports injuries, like the strained eyelid that once sidelined former San Francisco Giant third baseman Chris Brown. But if Jerome Dyson had missed his long-awaited return to the hardwood with a toenail injury -- well, let's just say his coach wouldn't have been too pleased.

Here's what happened: Walking through the players' entrance at Gampel Pavilion about two hours prior to UConn's exhibition bout with UMass Lowell, Dyson, who was wearing flip-flops, caught the big toe of his right foot on a piece of metal on the bottom of the door. It ripped the nail straight off his toe, causing profuse bleeding and pain.

"He stubbed his toe, as he has on many other occasions, but this was actually a physical stubbing of the toe," Calhoun explained after UConn's 88-50 dismantling of UMass Lowell in Sunday's exhibition game at Gampel. "Jonathan (Mandeldove), Charles (Okwandu), OK, but Jerome -- you wouldn't think that he would rip off a toenail. It was bleeding like crazy. They didn't know if he was going to play, I said 'He has to play.'"

So, UConn team doctor Jeff Anderson stitched the toenail back on and numbed the toe with a pain-killer. Dyson then went out and delivered a mind-numbing performance.

The senior guard poured in 32 points on 12-for-17 shooting (including all five 3-pointers) as UConn rolled to victory. At one point, he scored 12 straight points as the Huskies turned an 18-17 lead into 30-17. Dyson had six assists against no turnovers, along with four steals in a truly inspired performance – inferior competition or not.

It was enough to have Calhoun jokingly suggest maybe Dyson's other big toenail should get torn off for the Huskies' official season-opener later this week against William & Mary.

"We're going to do the same thing next Friday night … it seems to work, I guess," Calhoun noted. "He shot the hell out of the ball, took good shots. The kid played great."

Added Dyson: "They're starting to think that they're going to rip a toenail off every game."

In truth, just about everyone in a Husky uniform looked pretty good:

***Kemba Walker had 15 points, seven assists and three steals and ran the UConn fast break beautifully. When he wasn't doing so, freshman Darius Smith (nine points, six assists) was up to the task.

"He's more comfortable in the break," Calhoun said of Smith. "He's much more comfortable when he plays in a fast-paced game. Now we've got to get him to look good in the halfcourt game."

Said Smith of UConn's uptempo style: "I love it. Me and Kemba being so quick, when we're on the floor, you either step up on us and let 'Rome and Sticks do their thing, or let us score. It's a lose-lose situation (for opponents)."

***Frosh center Alex Oriakhi had nine points and 14 rebounds. That's 30 boards in his first two collegiate exhibition games -- both against Division II foes.

"Can he do that against Kentucky? Can he do that against (other good teams) – my impression is that he can. It may not be 16 and 14, it may be 10 and 11, but he still can rebound against most anyone."

Oriakhi easily got the better of his cousin, UMass Lowell senior Kingsley Onyechi (four points, two boards).

"He's a talented kid, strong and athletic," Onyechi said. "I've known him since he was young, so obviously he's made a lot of physical changes, but he's made serious leaps and bounds as a basketball player. It's good to see him playing at this level ... I used to push him around as a little kid, but now it's a little different. He's about 6-9, 250, so it's a little different now. He's really grown."

Oh, and he can shoot from the perimeter, too, according to Onyechi.

"Calhoun won't let him shoot, but he can shoot."

***Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards played steady, understated roles with nine points apiece. Freshman Jamaal Trice took a step back (one point, two turnovers), but played some solid "D".

***The Huskies outscored UMass Lowell 32-2 on fast-break points, and outrebounded them 48-22.

"UConn is very, very fast, very, very athletic," said River Hawks coach Greg Herenda, a former assistant to George Blaney at Seton Hall. "I was in the Big East back when Ray Allen, Travis Knight, Nadav (Henefeld), all those guys (played at UConn). This is as fast and as quick a team … maybe I'm blinded, but they're very fast, great in transition, and an excellent basketball team defensively. In transition, (they're) probably as good as I've seen in a long time – much better, I think, than they were last year."

Added Calhoun: "We ran well, obviously we rebounded well, and Jerome just had a terrific game. And when the game got open, Kemba and some of our other guys got the game spaced, which is how we're going to have to play the game. We play the game very well in space."

***As coaches do, however, Calhoun was able to find a negative. Okwandu, the neophyte junior center, contributed just four points, two rebounds and four fouls in 10 minutes – a slight improvement over Wednesday night's two-point, one-rebound clunker, but not much.

With 6-11 freshman Ater Majok not eligible until mid-December, and with some big-time foes (Kentucky, possibly Duke or LSU) on the Huskies' schedule before then, Calhoun is desperate to get more production out of the 7-foot Okwandu.

"I hope he can. Physically, I know he can," said the coach. "The biggest thing I'm worried about is the four/five right now. I like what we did defensively in both games. Overall, we're encouraged with what we've seen. The only discouraging note would be the fact that we've got another big man in the rotation."

Calhoun insists that Okwandu has shown flashes in practice.

"Trust me. Whether it ever turns out in a game, and I think it will, he's a better player than what he's showing," the coach said. "And he's certainly not showing very much."

***Calhoun said he "hopes" Jamal Coombs-McDaniel could be cleared early this week.

Oriakhi said of Coombs-McDaniel, his good buddy: "I don't even know his situation, but I'm pretty sure he told me that he'll be good to go come Friday against William & Mary."

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UMass Lowell 21, Dyson 20

Jerome Dyson has been spectacular in his return to action, hitting 7 of 10 shots from the floor (including all three 3-pointers) for 20 points as the Huskies hold a commanding 41-21 lead over UMass Lowell.

UConn led 18-17 before Dyson went on a personal 11-0 run with a 3-pointer, a steal and layup, a bank off an inbounds pass, a corner trey and a dunk off a nice lead pass from Kemba Walker.

After the River Hawks' Max Kerman hit a fallaway, Dyson hit Gavin Edwards with a nice pass for a slashing layup to continue the carnage.

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We're hearing Jerome Dyson's toenail got torn off as he walked into the arena this morning. Must have been painful, but it won't keep him from playing today. We should be getting some official word soon.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lowell Connector

Couple of quick tidbits from today's practice, in advance of tomorrow's exhibition with UMass Lowell:

***Jerome Dyson and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel practiced. Donnell Beverly wasn't here, as he's still battling illness.

Dyson explained why he was held out of Wednesday night's exhibition.

"There was just some paperwork that didn't get in on time," he said. "Once we did get it in, they had to look over it. They said they didn’t get an answer back in time whether I could play or not."

Dyson wasn't about to assign blame to anyone about the mix-up, but he's confident that everything's taken care of and there is nothing else to worry about. There was one fringe benefit to sitting out the AIC game, too.

"I didn't get yelled at," he said, with a smile.

***No new information on Coombs. Jim Calhoun said "he could play tomorrow," but that would seem rather unlikely. Coombs is still awaiting word on his initial eligibility. He wasn't allowed to sit on the bench for the AIC game, but now that he is cleared to at least practice, it's possible he could be on the bench tomorrow.

***Maurice Harkless, a 6-foot-7 junior out of Forest Hills High in Queens, N.Y., was at practice – wearing a protective boot on his left foot. Harkless also visited UConn for First Night a few weeks ago.

Ex-UConn assistant Dave Leitao was also in the house.

*** It'll be a bit of a family affair on Sunday for Alex Oriakhi. His cousin, Kingsley Onyechi, is a bruising senior forward at UMass Lowell.

Oriakhi grew up with Onyechi in Lowell and the two are very tight. They worked out together quite a bit this past summer. Who got the upper hand?

"Oh me, obviously," Oriakhi said. "Even if he did, I'm not going to say it."

Onyechi played for three years at New England College but sat out a year, giving him another year of eligibility. He averaged 17.8 points and 8.6 rebounds as a senior at NEC.

He's also about five years older than Oriakhi.

"Age doesn't mean anything," Oriakhi noted. "Once that ball goes up, there's no freshman or sophomores or seniors."

UMass Lowell's point guard, freshman Scotty Tavares-Taylor, played at Tilton (N.H.) School with Oriakhi and Coombs-McDaniel.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Dyson, Beverly Cleared; Not Coombs

Jerome Dyson and Donnell Beverly have been cleared to practice and play for UConn, but fans will likely have to wait at least another week to see Jamal Coombs-McDaniel make his Huskies debut.

Coombs, a freshman, has been cleared to participate in practices, but not yet for games. He is still waiting to attain his initial eligibility from the NCAA.

All three players had to sit out of the Huskies' exhibition opener on Wednesday against American International College at the XL Center. Dyson, a senior, and Beverly, a junior, had to sit out pending the review of documents they submitted to UConn's compliance department.

The Huskies returned to practice today after having yesterday off.

It's extremely unlikely Coombs will play in UConn's exhibition game on Sunday at 1 p.m. against UMass Lowell at Gampel Pavilion. The school is hoping to get Coombs eligible in time for the team's official season-opener on Friday night against William & Mary.


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Anderson, Austrie, Miles Drafted

Rashad Anderson, Craig Austrie and Nate Miles were each selected in the 2009 NBDL Draft on Thursday night. Anderson went with the ninth overall pick to the Iowa Energy, Austrie was the third pick in the fourth round by the Springfield Armor, and Miles was taken with the fourth pick of the sixth round by the Sioux City Skyforce.

Here are all the selections of the eight-round draft for the NBA's official minor league. About 20 percent of all current NBA players have D-League experience.

First Round
1. Carlos Powell, Albuquerque Thunderbirds
2. Donell Taylor, Erie BayHawks
3. Deron Washington, Los Angeles D-Fenders
4. Amara Sy, Bakersfield Jam
5. Garret Siler, Utah Flash
6. Alonzo Gee, Austin Toros
7. Desmon Farmer, Reno BigHorns
8. Paul Harris, Maine Red Claws
9. Rashad Anderson, Iowa Energy
10. Alade Aminu, Fort Wayne
11. Curtis Withers, Dakota Wizards
12. Antonio Anderson, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
13. Raymond Sykes, Sioux Falls Skyforce
14. JamesOn Curry, Springfield Armor
15. Sundiata Gaines, Idaho Stampede
16. Latavious Williams, Tulsa 66ers

Second Round
1. Mustafa Shakur, Tulsa 66ers
2. Dar Tucker, Idaho Stampede
3. Major Wingate, Springfield Armor
4. Pete Campbell, Sioux Falls Skyforce
5. Jonathan Wallace, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
6. Doug Thomas, Dakota Wizards
7. Frank Tolbert, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
8. Pat Carroll, Iowa Energy
9. Darnell Lazare, Maine Red Claws
10. Haminn Quaintance, Reno Bighorns
11. Russell Carter, Austin Toros
12. Orien Greene, Utah Flash
13. Reece Gaines, Bakersfield Jam
14. Alan Wiggins, Los Angeles D-Fenders
15. John Bryant, Erie BayHawks
16. Chad Toppert, Albuquerque Thunderbirds

Third Round
1. Erek Hansen, Albuquerque Thunderbirds
2. Martin Zeno, Erie BayHawks
3. Jeremy Wise, Los Angeles D-Fenders
4. Anthony Goods, Bakersfield Jam
5. Kevin Goffney, Utah Flash
6. Lewis Clinch, Austin Toros
7. Chris Lowe, Reno Bighorns
8. Frank Young, Maine Red Claws
9. Sean Barnette, Iowa Energy
10. Jamelle Cornley, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
11. Marcus Dove, Dakota Wizards
12. Jamarcus Ellis, Rio Grande Valley
13. Reggie Williams, Sioux Falls Skyforce
14. James Cripe, Springfield Armor
15. Delonte Holland, Idaho Stampede
16. Cecil Brown, Tulsa 66ers

Fourth Round
1. Jeral Davis, Tulsa 66ers
2. T.J. Cummings, Idaho Stampede
3. Craig Austrie, Springfield Armor
4. Leemire Goldwire, Sioux Falls Skyforce
5. Mickell Gladness, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
6. D’Lancy Carter, Dakota Wizards
7. Booker Woodfox, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
8. Carl Mitchell, Iowa Energy
9. Gary Ervin, Maine Red Claws
10. Louis Graham, Reno Bighorns
11. Ira Brown, Austin Toros
12. Jason Richards, Utah Flash
13. Jared Newson, Bakersfield Jam
14. Christopher Hayes, Los Angeles D-Fenders
15. Derrick Mercer, Erie BayHawks
16. Yaroslav Korolev, Albuquerque Thunderbirds

Fifth Round
1. Shagari Alleyne, Albuquerque Thunderbirds
2. Rod Wilmont, Erie BayHawks
3. Christopher Moore, Los Angeles D-Fenders
4. Lance Hurdle, Bakersfield Jam
5. Joe Darger, Utah Flash
6. David McClure, Austin Toros
7. Terry Martin, Reno Bighorns
8. Scooter McFadgon, Maine Red Claws
9. Joah Tucker, Iowa Energy
10. Lenny Stokes, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
11. Jason Straight, Dakota Wizards
12. Kenny Dawkins, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
13. Draezon Burns, Sioux Falls Skyforce
14. DeSean White, Springfield Armor
15. J.C. Mathis, Idaho Stampede
16. Mitchell Johnson, Tulsa 66ers

Sixth Round
1. Keena Young, Tulsa 66ers
2. Mike Gansey, Idaho Stampede
3. Perrin Johnson, Springfield Armor
4. Nate Miles, Sioux Falls Skyforce
5. Antoine Hood, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
6. Darren Cooper, Dakota Wizards
7. C.J. Anderson, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
8. Casey Love, Iowa Energy
9. Anthony Terrell, Maine Red Claws
10. Jermaine Johnson, Reno Bighorns
11. Quemont Greer, Austin Toros
12. Travis Holmes, Utah Flash
13. Chris Ayer, Bakersfield Jam
14. Charlie Parker, Los Angeles D-Fenders
15. Jeff Skemp, Erie BayHawks
16. J’Nathan Bullock, Albuquerque Thunderbirds

Seventh Round
1. Garrison Carr, Albuquerque Thunderbirds
2. Ryan Troutman, Erie BayHawks
3. Moustafa N’Doye, Los Angeles D-Fenders
4. Ramon Dyer, Bakersfield Jam
5. Alain Laroche, Utah Flash
6. Augustine Okosun, Austin Toros
7. Chris Davis, Reno Bighorns
8. Tony Bobbitt, Maine Red Claws
9. Russell Hicks, Iowa Energy
10. Andres Sandoval, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
11. Rashaad Powell, Dakota Wizards
12. Rashad Woods, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
13. Rodney Alexander, Sioux Falls Skyforce
14. Brandon Jones, Springfield Armor
15. Bryson McKenzie, Idaho Stampede
16. Adam McCoy, Tulsa 66ers

Eighth Round
1. Tim Parham, Tulsa 66res
2. Vince Oliver, Idaho Stampede
3. Brayden Billbe, Springfield Armor
4. Lawrence McKenzie, Sioux Falls Skyforce
5. DeAngelo Alexander, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
6. Jimmy Binnie, Dakota Wizards
7. A.J. Ratliff, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
8. Marcus Walker, Iowa Energy
9. Matt Clement, Maine Red Claws
10. Ron Allen, Reno Bighorns
11. D’Mond Grismore, Austin Toros
12. Jordan Brady, Utah Flash
13. Stephen McDowell, Bakersfield Jam
14. Travis Pinick, Los Angeles D-Fenders
15. Zachary Sowers, Erie BayHawks
16. Brian Kortovich, Albuquerque Thunderbirds

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pictures at an Exhibition

The biggest – and most surprising – news of the night came about 45 minutes prior to the opening tap, when we got an e-mail from UConn stating that Jerome Dyson, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Donnell Beverly would not be playing "pending evaluation of recently submitted paperwork pertaining to their annual eligibility certification."

Dyson and Beverly were awaiting "routine educational document review for eligibility certification," and the school was anticipating a resolution as early as Thursday.

A source told the Waterbury Republican-American, however, that the NCAA has requested "documentation" from Dyson and Beverly regarding alleged recruiting violations in UConn's recruitment of Nate Miles. The source told the paper that Dyson and Beverly had yet to turn over that documentation.

Jim Calhoun strongly rebuked the report.

"You're so far off-base, it's unbelievable," he said afterwards, without naming any names. "If you feel like you need to speculate and throw dirt at us, that's fine … the university has already made a statement about what happened, and you need to understand that if you take that side, that's fine, but stay on that side, because you will not be coming back on my side … If you want to write anything to get it out there nationally, that's great – it really helps our recruiting and all aspects of our game when you speculate on something that you have no knowledge of, and quite frankly, couldn't be farther from the truth."

Okie dokie.

Asked if he believes the trio will be all set to play in Sunday's exhibition game with UMass Lowell, Calhoun responded: "I can't answer that, but right now, I do anticipate that. I'm speaking what I think, but that's not always the way it goes."

So, limited to just seven scholarship players – three of them freshmen, one of them Charles Okwandu – the Huskies went out and laid a 106-67 beatdown on outmanned AIC. UConn shot 68 percent (42-for-62) from the floor and outrebounded the vastly outsized Yellow Jackets, 47-19. Kemba Walker had 28 points and 12 assists, Stanley Robinson netted 25 on 12-for-16 shooting, Gavin Edwards had 17 and freshman Alex Oriakhi notched 16 points and 16 boards before an announced crowd of 10,770 that was more like 5,000 (presumably mostly Red Sox fans).

"I'll take that effort for the first time out," said Calhoun. "You need a starting point, and this is a starting point."

Added Robinson (as only Stanley can): "Overall, we played a great game. That team's the easiest team we're ever going to play in our life. We know the Big East play is going to be harder, 10 times more physical. It's going to be hard for us just to get shots off in the Big East. We can always just build off it and say we did play a good game."

In fact, Robinson wasn't overly impressed with his performance.

"I don't think I played very well. I wanted to score more points, I wanted to get more rebounds. I felt like there was so much more I could do, but I didn't know I had 25 points until I looked at the scoreboard."

***What prog rock band recorded the album 'Pictures at an Exhibition'?

*** It was the performance of the three freshmen that may have been most pleasing for Calhoun. Jamaal Trice, starting in place of Dyson, netted nine points, as did Darius Smith, who also contributed six rebounds and five assists off the bench.

But it was Oriakhi, the hulking 6-9, 240-pound center, who raised the most eyebrows.

"It was a nice initiation for people to see Alex," Calhoun said. "I understand with the World Series, not too many people saw him, but … it was a good way for him to start."

Oriakhi wasn't concerned that it was just an exhibition.

"I don't care what it was, I was excited like it was the first game," he said. "My thought was to just go out there and grab as many rebounds as I can. I'm happy, but never satisfied. Coach said it's only going to get harder from here, so I've got to work on things, go back to practice and get better."

About the only negative was the play of Okwandu, the junior center who had two points and one rebound (in the final 10 seconds) in 18 minutes of action.

"I thought Charles was good on defense," Calhoun insisted, "but he was just horrendous on offense He dropped the ball about six times. He didn't have a particularly good game."

Calhoun isn't about to give up on Okwandu, however – in part because Oriakhi is just a freshman.

"(Referee) John Cahill said to me, 'that big young kid (Oriakhi) understands how to play – which is nice to hear. But he still is going to get into foul trouble, because he's going to go against the (Luke) Harangodys and those kind of guys who can draw fouls better than a 6-4 kid can. If we don't have Charles, that means our fifth big guy becomes Stanley. I don't want that, he's too good on the wing. We need Charles to play a lot better. He's better than what he's shown."

***Le Moyne's shocking upset of Syracuse in an exhibition at the Carrier Dome the night before was on the Huskies' minds.

"We didn't want that to happen to us," said Robinson, "so we just had to come out and play as hard as we can play, and just leave it out on the court. I thought we did that."

Added Calhoun: ""Le Moyne's becoming a buzz word to everybody, I guess. Right now, Jimmy (Boeheim) is 0-0. He does have a point in practice to bring up for the kids."

***Senior center Jonathan Mandeldove also didn't play due to academic issues, according to a team spokesman.

***AIC didn't grab its first rebound until there were 9 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half.

***Calhoun had the World Series on his mind. He closed out his postgame presser saying, "Let's hope that Pedro wins, for the Red Sox."

So much for that.

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No Dyson, Beverly, Coombs-McDaniel Tonight

This from UConn:

University of Connecticut men's basketball student-athletes Jerome Dyson, Donnell Beverly and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel will not participate in tonight's exhibition contest against American International pending evaluation of recently submitted paperwork pertaining to their annual eligibility certification.

Senior Jerome Dyson and junior Donnell Beverly are not participating pending routine educational document review for eligibility certification. The University is anticipating resolution soon, as early as tomorrow.

Freshman Jamal Coombs-McDaniel is not participating pending initial-eligibility clearance from the NCAA eligibility center. In his case, academic records have been requested and a review of those records is currently underway.

Dyson and Beverly (and Ater Majok) can be on the bench tonight in street clothes. (Beverly, however, apparently has left the building due to the flu). Coombs-McDaniel can't be, however, because his initial eligibility is apparently still in question.

Oh, and Jonathan Mandeldove isn't playing tonight, either, for academic reasons.

Great start to the season, eh?

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Who'll Be the Big 'O'?

This we know: UConn's starting lineup for Wednesday night's exhibition opener with AIC will feature Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards.

Who's at center? All we can say right now is that his last name will begin with an "O".

It's between Charles Okwandu and Alex Oriakhi, obviously, but neither has been given the starting nod yet by Jim Calhoun – at least publicly.

"I told them a couple of days ago, over the next couple of days, whoever's the best player will start," Calhoun said. "I think they're going to be sharing their time, just because of foul situations alone. One is inexperienced, the other is very young."

Calhoun expounded on the foul problems of both players, particularly Okwandu, the 7-foot junior.

"I don't think either of them can play 30-something minutes of game, because of the foul situation. Charles is always fouling in practice, plus he's physical. Alex … the other night (during an intrasquad scrimmage), he had three fouls called on him just because he's a rookie. One time he was walking up the lane and they called a foul on him. You don't get the same type of whistle that you would … until you know how to play. Hasheem (Thabeet) could block a shot and maybe get a piece of your hand as a junior, than when he was a sophomore. I see it as two players for one spot, really."

Indeed, as far as the freshman Oriakhi is concerned, it doesn't really matter who starts.

"It's who finishes. That's what I go by," Oriakhi said. "When I go out there, (I just want to) be productive and hope for the best."

(Personally, I think Okwandu gets the start. Oriakhi is just a freshman, and I think Calhoun would like to give Okwandu the chance to prove he can be a 7-foot intimidator in the middle. But he won't have a very long rope. And, as Oriakhi noted, it really doesn't matter -- especially this early in the season).

Calhoun did note that Okwandu has been the team's leading rebounder in practices/scrimmages. But neither he nor Oriakhi are natural shot-blockers.

"Our best shot-blockers are Stanley, one, Gavin, two. When Ater gets eligible, he's probably our best shot-blocker."

***Ah, yes, Ater Majok.

"The best of the five new guys would be Ater (Majok) right now," Calhoun noted. "He's only played five days, but he's very talented – more talented than I thought he was. He doesn't necessarily know how to play yet. He could desperately need a game like this. There was a time when you could play two exhibition games and sit out rest of time."

*** With UConn stressing an uptempo, running game (and with several young guards expected to get minutes), Calhoun was asked if he will be able to live with a few more mistakes this season.

"It's always tough, but if we don't play fast, I don't think we'll be as good. It's not that much more complex than that … We may make a few more turnovers. As long as they're good turnovers, we can live with them."

Yeah, OK. When asked if he believes Calhoun will just "live with" more mistakes, Walker quickly responded: "Um, no. Coach is a perfectionist. That's something I'm trying to work on, too, to limit my turnovers, get my assist-to-turnover ratio down."

***Calhoun said freshman guard Darius Smith has been committing a lot of turnovers in practice.

***Who does Walker want to see taking a last-second 3-pointer to win a game?

"'Rome. He's been great in practice, scoring the ball the best."

But then, Walker thought a little harder.

"Maybe not even 'Rome, to tell you the truth. I'm going to go with Jamal Coombs, the freshman. He can shoot the ball very well. There was a play in practice where coach had us guarding each other and Coombs was on our team. There was a last-second shot, I got down the floor, he was wide-open. I through it to him and he made the game-winning shot. He's a great shooter."

***UConn should be getting an official visit from Doron Lamb on Nov. 15-16. That means Lamb could take in the Huskies' Nov. 16 bout with Colgate at Gampel.

The Huskies may also be soon getting another visit from Cleve Melvin.

***Denham Brown has practiced with the team the past couple of days. He'll be leaving in about a month to play overseas in South America. Rashad Anderson is expected to come up on Friday. Anderson turned down an offer to play in Italy and will look to play in the "D" League, with hopes that an NBA team will scoop him up at some point.

***New Haven's Chad Dawson, the undefeated two-time light-heavyweight champion of the world, will fight Glen Johnson in a rematch Saturday night at the XL Center. The fight will be broadcast live on HBO and will be simulcast to over 100 countries worldwide.

Dawson grew up a big UConn fan and got to meet Calhoun for the first time prior to today's practice.

"I go back to Ray Allen, Donyell Marshall, Donny Marshall. I go back to those days. I'm a big Ray Allen fan … whatever team he goes to, I'm always support that team."

Dawson was slated to address the UConn team before practice.

"I'll try to say a couple of encouraging words to them. Not that they need it. They've probably heard every encouraging word they'd need to hear from Jim himself, so I'll try to say something different."

Calhoun, a big fight fan, will be at Saturday night's fight, along with his son, Jeff.

"It'll be fun. I watched the first Johnson fight. Johnson's a brawler. He can hit you and knock you out, but (Dawson's) a terrific boxer. He's got great legs, he sticks and moves very well. He got suckered into it a few times in the first fight. I asked him what's his major role as far as change, and he said 'I want to discipline myself. That's harder to do sometimes. I don't like to get hit.' None of us do."

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