Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rodney Purvis: "Whoever's hot that night, we've got to feed him the basketball"

First, some news on longtime UConn radio man Wayne Norman. He had an angioplasty to insert a stent due to 85-percent blockage. He is doing well, according to fellow radio partner Joe D'Ambrosio.

As for UConn ...

Houston may be 0-8 in the American Conference, but UConn isn't about to take the Cougars lightly. Not after New Year's Eve a little over a year ago. And not with a starting five that Kevin Ollie calls "probably up there with the most talented five in the conference."

Here's some of what Ollie, Rodney Purvis and Kentan Facey had to say from the team hotel on Saturday afternoon, after the Huskies practiced at the Toyota Center, the Houston Rockets' home arena. Particularly interesting what Purvis said when asked if the team needs to find a "second scorer" to compliment Ryan Boatright.

“I don’t know, I just feel like honestly, that last game was tough for anybody to score a basket, if you want to say it like that, as far as the second scorer or whatever. Looking at the stats, Ryan had zero in the first half, I had two, I think Omar (Calhoun) had two. They guarded us really well. Our offense as a team was really not that good ... This is a team sport. There’s no second scorer, first scorer or anything like that. Ryan can’t go out there and win a game by himself, I can’t go out there and win a game by myself. Nobody on our team can go out and win a game by themselves. It’s a team effort.”

"Whoever's hot that night, we've got to feed him the basketball."

More Purvis:

(On what Ollie's been preaching in practice the last couple of days)

“A little bit of everything. The main thing is coming out early, being physical and hitting somebody. That’s what he’s been preaching the last couple of games. Delivering the first blow.”

“Some people just aren’t naturally physical or rough, so you’ve got to help them. We’re trying to make it a team thing, so all of us can be on the same page, same the share level of physicality. That’s it, really.”

“Lack of consistency, really. We’ve all got to stay consistent. Do things that will help our team, and just play the right way, make the right plays, give up yoursel for your teammates, play unselfish. And hit somebody. If we deliver the first blow, I think we’ll be fine.”



(on how the last couple of practices have gone)

“Pretty good. But you’ve got to transfer it over to the game. That’s where we want to get better connected with that. Hopefully, we can start that (Sunday) afternoon.”

(on what he saw about his team's effort against Cincinnati on the game film)

“It wasn’t at a Level 5. So, we’ve got to get better at that. We’ve got to get to a Level 5 for us to compete in games and win in games. When you start the game off and you have five straight tunrovers, you give up three offensive rebounds, it’s not even a game yet until you start establishing your presence. That’s when it turns into a game. We didn’t do that. That’s got to change.”

(on Houston)

“We’re not looking at their record. They’ve been in a lot of games. They’re getting better each and every day.”

“They have a lot of plays. They draw plays that you’ve never seen. (Kelvin Sampson's) got probably 100 plays that we’ve been looking at. You can’t go over all 100 of them, you’ve got to stick with your principles.”

“Their starting five is probably up there with the most talented five we have in our conference. They’re not deep on their bench, so that’s one thing we’re gonna try to get into that bench. But that starting five is gonna pose a lot of challenges.”

(on Sampson)

“I think he’s gonna be a great coach. He’s already been proven, every stop he’s been at -- NBA experience. I think he’s gonna give a wealth of knowledge to his guys, coaching them on and off the basketball court. Being prepared for life, I think that’s what he brings that’s most important.”

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Friday, January 30, 2015

It's AAC tourney title or bust for UConn

Everything I said in my previous post and yesterday's column? Yeah, never mind. UConn's loss to Cincinnati pretty much ensures the Huskies won't get an at-large bid to this year's Big Dance. If the Huskies want a chance to defend their title, they'll have to win he league tourney in Hartford March 12-15.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beating Cincinnati would be a huge start if UConn plans on a late-season run

My flights out of Bradley got cancelled Wednesday, so I'm flying out to Cincinnati (very) early Thursday morning. UConn took off at about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, so the Huskies should be in the Queen City by about 8-8:30 p.m.

No other way to slice it, this is a HUGE game for UConn. The Bearcats represent one of their final Top 25-level RPI opponents the rest of the way (Cincy was No. 28 in RPI as of Wednesday afternoon). A win on the road against an NCAA tourney-level team would be huge for UConn. Then again, the Huskies need to win just about every one of their remaining games if they want to earn an at-large NCAA tourney bid. But not necessarily every game. Maybe 10 of its final 12, and they still could be in business without having to win the AAC tourney.

And, of course, the AAC tourney is in Hartford this year, so that should give the Huskies a bit of hope if that's their only route to the Big Dance.

It starts Thursday night. UConn really needs to beat the Bearcats to keep hope alive.

(UPDATE: According to the beat guys who were able to get to Cincy on Wednesday, Sam Cassell has a stress fracture in his right tibia and will be out for a while.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

Nothing more fun on a Sunday night than to completely ignore the Pro Bowl and figure out my AP Top 25 after another nutty week of college basketball.

It doesn't take much for me to bounce a team from the rankings. There's simply too much parity, too many good teams in the four-, five- and even six-loss club that merit consideration. Really, there are about 25 teams that could fill any of the final 10 or 12 spots in the Top 25, and none would be wrong.

Anyway, this week I say goodbye to Oklahoma (two losses), Stanford (loss to Arizona), San Diego State (loss to Colorado State), Dayton (17-point loss to Davidson) and Seton Hall (goodbye forever). I've added Georgetown, Baylor, Miami, Ohio State and Providence.

Watch out for the Friars, people. Any team that has two great players (Kris Dunn, LaDontae Henton) can do serious damage come tourney time.

Once again, I seriously considered Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane are 14-5 overall, 7-0 in the AAC and boast nice wins over Memphis, Temple and, of course, UConn. Tulsa could easily get to 10-0 over the next two weeks, before hosting SMU, then playing UConn at Hartford on Feb. 12.

The Huskies, of course, have a long way to go before they're ranked again. But I'm sensing Cincinnati could be vulnerable on Thursday night. The loss of Mick Cronin has to hurt them at some point, right? If UConn wins that one, it could easily have a nice little seven-game win streak heading into its Feb. 14 showdown at SMU.

1. Kentucky
2. Virginia
3. Duke
4. Wisconsin
5. Arizona
6. Gonzaga
7. Villanova
8. Wichita State
9. Notre Dame
10. Kansas
11. Louisville
12. Utah
13. Iowa State
14. Maryland
15. West Virginia
16. VCU
17. North Carolina
18. Georgetown
19. Baylor
20. Northern Iowa
21. SMU
22. Miami
23. Ohio State
24. Providence
25. Texas


Ryan Boatright: "I didn't come back to school to play in the NIT"

Some video and quotes off UConn's 66-53 win over USF on Sunday:


(on Ryan Boatright's 13 straight second-half points and career-high 28 points overall)

“That’s what senior leaders are supposed to do, and that’s what he’s been doing the last two games.”

(on knowing when to keep a player on the bench or inserting him back in the starting lineup -- a la Rodney Purvis)

“It depends on a lot of variables. You want to see what his mindset is, so we always have constant communication, and that stays between me and him. You want to see how the team’s playing. We have analytics, too, that shows us the best team out there. It’s not like I go off of that (only), that’s the last thing I go off of. I go off my feel for the game. But we do have analytics that show different lineups and which one’s playing the best.”

“Rodney provides instant energy off the bench -- attacking the rim. Whatever it is, he’s playing better, Omar’s playing better. This game, I just didn’t see the punch, I just went with Rodney a little bit more in this game, and inserting Sam a little bit.”

(on what Ollie said to Boatright before he came back in and made his personal 13-point run)

“I just told him, watch the game for a little bit, took him out. Most players don’t like getting taken out of the game. He came in, he had fire in his eyes, he made great shots ... he took them with confidence. He got a great steal, great passes, got a layup, that’s what got him, too.”

“Ryan is a leader. He stepped up with a little fire in his stomach, because I wanted him to play a little harder. And I think he did that.”

(on USF being without Chris Perry)

“You look at the stats, (o) Zeigler’s been playing great. I think the last couple of games, in conference play, he’s been 17-for-26. He brings a lot of energy. He actually changed the game when we were down (in Tampa). He’s a real energy basketball player. Of course, Chris Perry is a great player, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to worry about our energy, our focus, and make sure we go out whoever we play against and play UConn basketball.”


(on Ollie sitting him on the bench for a significant stretch in the second half)

“We get up sometimes, and we let off the gas pedal.”

“I didn’t come back to school to play in the N.I.T.”

(on Purvis)

“He’s coming off the bench, playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of energy. His defense has picked up tremendously. His ball pressure is great. In the beginning of the year, he wasn’t playing ‘D’ like that. For me, what I realized going into the postseason last year is if you play defense like that, it gets you into the game more. Me playing hard defense like that got me in the game, it got my head in the game and it got my rhythm, versus, you wait and take a few shots.”

“When he was starting, by the time that first media timeout came, he was gassed.”


“That’s the difference between being a good or great team. The great teams put teams away. We’re working towards trying to be great.”

“Omar, he’s a really good shooter. He opens things up for me, honestly. It’s all about the team. I’m just coming off the bench, helping the team in whatever way I can. We won our last two games with this new change, so that’s what it is. No blow to the ego or anything like that, it’s all about the team.”

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Quotes, video off UConn's win over UCF

Some video and quotes off UConn's 67-60 win over UCF Thursday night at Gampel:


“Start of the game, I really liked our aggressiveness. We wanted to get back to playing UConn basketball.”

“We just relaxed. Good teams can’t relax. But, I was proud of our guys in the second half. To hold that team to 60 points, when they were averaging 75 in the American Conference, that’s a pretty good job by our defense. Now, we’ve just got to understand, to win games in big-time environments, we’ve got to do a better job at the free throw line.”

(on UConn's 21 assists to eight turnovers)

“I’ll take that ratio, any day ... It’s hard to guard when you’ve got 21 assists.”

(playing at Gampel)

“It felt great. Our crowd was great. The student section was jumping up and down, and we felt the energy. It’s just great to be back home. It seems like we haven’t been home in like a month, and we haven’t played here in, like, two months. Just to get a little home-cookin’, come out here and play, and let our fans know we’re gonna come out and play with energy and passion.”

“Hopefully, they keep coming out, because we need them."

(on Omar Calhoun's powerful, where-did-that-come-from? slam dunk)

“That was pretty nice. Then Daniel came back with a dunk after that. To see that explosiveness, I know Omar’s getting back to himself. To make that play was big-time.”


“That’s what we’ve been looking for all year, man, to come out like we did in that first half, with that intensity and that ball pressure on the defensive end. It was fun being out there. Everybody was sharing the basketball. There was a lot of energy in the crowd. I tell the guys all the time, if we can start the game like that, we’ll be in every game.”

“That’s always disappointing when you make the game harder than it’s got to be. Once you get a team down 18, you’ve got to step on their neck and put them away. That’s what teams do to us. You get down 13, they try to kill us and put us away. But, young team ... it’s a learning process.”

“If we can get the big man to take one step forward, he’s gonna catch that lob all day long.”

“I love playing at Gampel. To get the students here early, they’re rowdy, and then the crowd is magnificent when we play in Gampel. I don’t know why we don’t play as much in Gampel, but I wish we did, definitely.”


(on his steal that thwarted a 3-on-1 UCF fast break that could've cut its deficit to four with just over 7 minutes left)

“I knew he was gonna pass the ball. I knew he was gonna try to dish it to the big man so he could get a dunk. I acted like I was gonna play him, and I slid back and got a steal, and we got a fast break.”

(on Calhoun's dunk)

“That caught me by surprise. That caught me by surprise. I’ve seen him do a couple of dunks in warm-ups, but I’ve never seen them in a game, so that caught me by surprise a little bit.”

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kevin Ollie on finally returning home; Phil Nolan on his struggles; Ryan Boatright on being "last four out"

So the media gets parking passes for all Gampel Pavilion home games. It took a while for me to find my pass for tomorrow's game, however, since it's been so long since I've had to use one.

Hard to believe it's been six weeks since the Huskies have played a home game in their on-campus arena. But it has -- since that Dec. 5 loss to Yale. UConn finally returns to Gampel on Thursday night against UCF. The Huskies even practiced in Gampel today, rather than the new basketball practice facility, to reacquaint themselves with the gym a little bit.

Here's some video and quotes from after practice:


“Hopefully our home crowd will bring the juice. I know we had it against Cincinnati, at the XL Center. It’s just good to be back home. We’ve been on the road. I think we came back from the Florida trip, seemed like we stayed about 12 hours and we were out again. It’s the schedule, you’ve got to play those games. We’re not making any excuses about how we played against Stanford, or Tulsa. We’ve got to play tough, with a sense of urgency. We didn’t have that at all. That’s my job as a coach, to get these guys prepared. And it’s their job as players to go out there and execute that toughness.”

(on UCF's Justin McBride)

“We knew about him after those first five minutes, because he changed the whole complexion of the game. He’s a big boy.”

(on Phil Nolan)

“I’m just trying to stay with him and believe in him. Our guys are putting him in great situations. He’s just got to finish the layups and have confidence with it. My job is not a psychiatrist, but I’m gonna try to help him and build him up. Because we need him. He’s organized on defense, he’s organized on offense. I’m very confident in him in our defensive rotations. But at the end of the day, when the ball is getting to you right at the rim, you’ve got to finish that. Because that helps our momentum. That keeps a run going, or it stops their run.”

(on whether Nolan's extra 30 pounds of bulk this season has affected his play)

“I have no idea. He looks good. He looks a little bigger. He still seems to be nimble, he’s still taking more charges than anybody, that means his feet are still moving. That means his feet are still moving and his mind is still there. You’ve got to finish plays.”

(on team's NCAA tourney hopes)

“We’ve got 14 games. We’ve got to start right now. If we want to be happy on Selection Sunday ... (that’s their) dreams and goals. When you get in there, everything is done. No more, ‘Oh, you barely got in.’ It’s a new season, a new life. But we’ve got to understand we have to take care of today and not worry about that. Because if you keep letting games slip, we’re not going to the NCAA tournament. We’ve got to start taking care of the small things.”

(on UConn's recent schedule)

“We’re a no-excuse team, but the schedule’s been tough. But everybody’s going through it. Everybody in our league is going through it. It is what it is. February is going to be a challenge, too, because we’ve got some long trips where we’re going back and forth, back and forth. Three straight weeks in February, we’re going back and forth. It is what it is. We’ve got to go out there and create a way.”

(on any possible tweaks to the starting lineup)

“I did like our start a little better than the other starts we’ve been having. Rodney (Purvis) played 32 minutes. He did a lot of good things off the bench, coming in and giving us some scoring options. It’s about who finishes the game.”


(on whether he's going through a lack of confidence)

“I wouldn’t even say that. I had all the confidence going into the season, I’ve just got to play better.”

(on his knack for taking charges)

“Something happened in the middle of last season. Coach Ollie said something about nobody on the team taking charges. I saw an opportunity one game, I took the charge, and it’s been history since.”

“If I see it, I’m definitely gonna take it. If I see somebody driving to the hole, as hard as they can, I know they’re not gonna stop, so I just try to step in front of them.”

(on how his extra bulk's affected him)

“At the beginning of the season, I kind of felt like I was a little less athletic. I’ve just been trying to figure it out.”


“I’ve been on teams where we’ve lost a few games, but I’ve never been in the talk of last four out, last four in. I was watching TV yesterday, seeing our name on there, something was burning inside of me. I didn’t like it. It’s frustrating. I’m putting it on my shoulders to get this team back on the winning side of things.”

“It’s been a while since we’ve played in here, man. It’s gonna be fun being back home. Hopefully, the crowd will come out and support. Either way, we’re gonna come out and take care of business. Because we’ve got to.”

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

My AP Top 25 ballot: Standing by SMU ... for now

I was the only person to vote for SMU last week, giving the Mustangs their sole point with my No. 25 ranking. Not sure how much longer I'll be able to vote for them as their season appears in danger of coming apart at the seams, what with the academic-related departures of Keith Frazier and Justin Martin, as well as an NCAA investigation in the works.

Still, the Mustangs won twice this week, including at Temple and a 23-point home wipeout of East Carolina. So I'm moving them up a pair of spots. (I actually gave Tulsa some brief consideration, but there are simply too many other teams ahead of the Golden Hurricane at this point. Not UConn, obviously).

Anyway, Arkansas, Wyoming and Providence get the boot. Stanford, San Diego State and Dayton take their spots. Yeah, I think Stanford is pretty darn good.

1. Kentucky
2. Virginia
3. Villanova
4. Duke
5. Wisconsin
6. Arizona
7. Gonzaga
8. Maryland
9. Wichita State
10. Notre Dame
11. Iowa State
12. Kansas
13. Louisville
14. Utah
15. West Virginia
16. VCU
17. North Carolina
18. Texas
19. Oklahoma
20. Northern Iowa
21. Stanford
22. San Diego State
23. SMU
24. Dayton
25. Seton Hall

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Jason Smith on Jalen Adams: 'If you called K.O. right now, he'd say, 'Drop him off on the way home'"

Jalen Adams was impressive at the Hoophall Classic at Springfield College on Sunday morning. He scored 23 points on 7-for-11 shooting (2-for-5 on 3-pointers) and was a bundle of energy all over the court in Brewster Academy's 100-69 win over Montverde Academy Prep (note: this was Montverde's postgrad team, not its more talented varsity team, which plays Monday and features the top-rated big man in the country, Ben Simmons).

Got a little frustrated at times when he was open and didn't get a return pass from a teammate, but overall he's a good kid, effervescent personality who can do a little of everything on the floor -- run the point, score, 'D' it up. He'll help UConn immediately next season -- and would be a help right now if he could.

Kevin Ollie and assistant coach Karl Hobbs, fresh off Saturday night's loss out in Stanford, California, were at the game to see their prized commit.

"He texted me, told me he was gonna take a red-eye, come see me play," Adams said of Ollie. "That's what I love about him, coming to support me ... I just like that about him. He's a real loyal guy."

Adams said he didn't see the Huskies' loss to Stanford.

"I couldn't watch it. I tried to get some rest."

Here's a quick snippet of Adams in action:

And here's what Adams and Brewster coach Jason Smith said afterward:


(on whether Adams can step right in and help next season as a freshman)

(on how Adams has progressed so far this season)

"I think that Jalen has definitely shown people that he's not just a scorer, he's able to run offense and facilitate and make great decisions to become more of a point guard. I think that's ultimately what he's gonna have to do for Coach Ollie at UConn. And he's been phenomenal doing that for us."

"I think that the fact that he knows, some games he can go off and score 25 or 30, but he's taken the mindset of, 'I have to make sure that I get others involved. I have a lot of these other pieces around me that I have to distribute the ball (to).' We're routinely six, seven guys in double figures. Very balanced."


"Playing against the top talent every day is helping us a lot. Even the guys who aren't committed. The un-committed guys, they're tough, too. Every day, you're playing against tough competition, and that prepares you for the next level."

(on what Kevin Ollie has said to him lately)

"He says that at UConn, they don't have any positions. The guards all move around and shift. But I'm definitely gonna have to be a vocal leader and put guys in the right position."

(does being a vocal leader come naturally to him?)

"No, because I played on the wing growing up, so it's been tough. But last year, playing with Kaleb Joseph, he taught me a lot. And Coach Smith, he's a great coach. He's made that a big thing this year, so it's become a lot better."

(on comparisons to Shabazz Napier)

"I saw him play a couple of times at Charlestown, because that's where my father went to school. We went to a lot of games. He was unreal, shooting from halfcourt, practically. But I've never really idolized him that much or tried to compare my game to him. But, it's amazing how he went to UConn, did big things, and now he's in the NBA. And now, I have the chance to do the same thing."

DONOVAN MITCHELL, a Louisville commit and Adams' backcourt mate at Brewster:

"(Adams) might be the funniest dude I've ever met in my life. He's always making jokes, whether it's in practice ... he made Coach Smith even laugh, which last year I thought was the hardest thing possible. He manages to do it a lot."

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Jalen Adams, Steve Enoch, UConn targets playing in Springfield this weekend

UConn fans will have a chance to see Husky commits Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch at the 2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic on Sunday at Springfield College.

Adams, a Class of 2015 guard, will lead a powerful Brewster Academy into action at 11 a.m. against Montverde Academy Prep from Florida. Later in the day, Enoch, a Class of 2015 power forward, and his St. Thomas More School team will face Vermont Academy (which boasts a couple of UConn targets in '16 forward Tyrique Jones and '16 guard Bruce Brown) at 6:30 p.m.

After that game, Husky target Omari Spellman, a 6-foot-8, 270-pound Class of 2016 power forward, will play for MacDuffie School against Commonwealth Academy at 8 p.m.

DateDayGenderTimeTeam 1Team 2
18-JanSundayBoys9:00 AMWilbraham and Monson Academy, MASuffield Academy, CT
18-JanSundayBoys11:00 AMBrewster Academy, NHMontverde Academy Prep, FL
18-JanSundayBoys12:30 PMLife Center Academy, NJOrangeville Prep, Ontario
18-JanSundayBoys2:00 PMOur Savior New American, NYHuntington Prep, WV
18-JanSundayBoys3:30 PMSt. Andrew's School, RINew Hampton School, NH
18-JanSundayBoys5:00 PMNortfhfield Mount Hermon School, MATilton School, NH
18-JanSundayBoys6:30 PMSt. Thomas More School, CTVermont Academy, VT
18-JanSundayBoys8:00 PMCommonwealth Academy, MAMacDuffie School, MA

On Monday, UConn Class of 2016 target V.J. King will lead Paul VI High School of Virginia into action against Chaminade College Prep of Missouri. That game (along with three others preceding it) will be televised on ESPNU.

DateDayGenderTimeTeam 1Team 2
19-JanMondayBoys9:00 AMSt. Anthony High School, NJConstitution High School, PA
19-JanMondayBoys11:00 AMWheeler High School, GABishop O'Dowd High School, CA
19-JanMondayBoys1:00 PMOak Hill Academy, VAVilla Angela St. Joseph, OH
19-JanMondayBoys3:00 PMMontverde Academy, FLBishop Gorman High School, NV
19-JanMondayBoys5:00 PMPaul VI High School, VAChaminade College Prep, MO

Spalding Hoophall Classic Programming Schedule
(All Games on ESPNU)
Monday, Jan. 19
11 a.m.
No. 25 Bishop O’Dowd, Calif. vs. No. 3 Wheeler, Ga.

1 p.m.
No. 6 Oak Hill, Va. vs. No. 11 Villa Angela-St. Joseph, Ohio

3 p.m.
Bishop Gorman, Nev. vs. No. 4 Montverde, Fla.

5 p.m.
Chaminade, Mo. vs. Paul VI, Va.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Steve Enoch a McDonald's All-America nominee

Steve Enoch was named a McDonald's All-America nominee on Wednesday. Enoch is listed as playing at Norwalk High, though he is attending St. Thomas More Prep this season.

Here's the full list of McDonald's AA nominees, which includes a few UConn targets. No Jalen Adams, you ask? That's because he's a postgrad student up at Brewster Academy.

Incidentally, Kevin Ollie will be doing some recruiting out on the West Coast prior to the Huskies' bout with Stanford on Saturday.

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Kevin Ollie: "There's got to be some changes"

Apparently, UConn't and HurriCANe. Whatever that means.

Tough to win conference games against good teams on the road. Tougher when you shoot 8-for-18 from the foul line, play sporadic defense and don't show enough fight until it's a little too late.

That pretty much explains UConn's 66-58 loss at Tulsa Tuesday night. Once again, the Huskies got off to a slow start and had to try to claw back from a deficit. A disturbing trend. On this night, it just wasn't quite enough.

Here's what Kevin Ollie and some players had to say about it all:

How much stock can Ollie take in his team rallying from a 15-point second-half deficit to make it a two-possession game late?

“No stock. No stock. I like how they came back, but you can’t get down by 15 and keep digging that hole. They played hard, but at the end of the day, it’s easy when you’re down by 15. There’s no pressure then. We’ve got to start playing hard, and playing consistent, for 40 minutes. That’s how we’re gonna win games. We didn’t do it. We haven’t done it. We’re gonna have to start, and that starts in Stanford. I’m gonna have to find some guys that are gonna do it.”

(on whether he considered fouling Tulsa down five points with about 55 seconds left)

“I wanted to get one stop. I knew I had a timeout, and if we came down and scored, I would have fouled then.”

“There’s got to be some changes, because we come out and keep seeing the same thing. I don’t know who the changes are gonna be. I’ve got to sit down and assess the tape. There might not be any changes. I’m gonna figure that out with my coaching staff, and we’re gonna go forward.”

(on allowing Tulsa too many drives to the basket)

“We can’t rely on Amida all the time. I thought our guards didn’t do a good job controlling the dribble all night. They were running a simple three-down play that we run, too. Woodard was just coming off and getting wide-open 3’s, getting going. Our defensive principles weren’t up to our standards. Credit them, for making us move our feet. We just didn’t respond tonight the way we have responded on the defensive end. That’s been one of our staples.”

“We have to play at a Level 5, and I thought we were at a Level 3, at best.”

(on the foul shooting)

“There’s no explanation. You’ve got to go up and make free throws. I can’t sit up and make them for you. Lack of concentration, I don’t know. We’re just not making them. One game we make them, one game we don’t make them. I have them shoot free throws over and over again. We’ll try to figure that out. We need to make more free throws to win games. You can’t go 8-for-18. All our losses kind of generate around free throws, missed 3-pointers. You can’t win games in this conference, or win out-of-conference games, by missing 10 shots at the free throw line. Wide-open shots, with nobody around you. We’ve just got to do a better job.”

DANIEL HAMILTON, who had a career-high 16 points and 12 rebounds:

“It’s tough. I think we’ve just got to stop starting off slow. We’ve just got to get off to a better start. We’ve just got to be motivated from the beinning. We play like that from the beginning, the way we played at the end, we most definitely win that game.”

“We’ve just got to put our mind to it, be motivated and have that leadership of just playing tough, getting going from the beginning.”

“If we get out to a good start, it would be hard to beat us.”

“Sometimes I try to make plays that aren’t there. I’ve just got to sometimes back it out and realize that it’s not high school.”

TERRENCE SAMUEL, who scored a career-best 12 points and played hard all night:

“You’d always rather win ... we always come out slow. It showed today. We weren’t able to get the chance to come back today.”

“I feel like we’ve got to prepare better, starting from the day before the game into the hotel, right before we leave. We’ve just got to do certain things differently before the game.”


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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's been a struggle so far this season for UConn's Phil Nolan

Phil Nolan started all nine of UConn's postseason games last year (three AAC tourney, six NCAA tourney). He scored in double figures three times during the regular season and showed an uncanny knack in taking charges on defense.

While no one was expecting him to be a double-figure scorer-type this season, a natural progression could have been expected. But to this point, Nolan has had a disappointing junior campaign.

The 6-foot-10 forward is still adept at taking charges, but hasn't contributed a whole lot more than that. Nolan is averaging just 1.1 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. His minutes have been dwindling lately -- in his last four games, he hasn't played more than seven minutes, including just three in Saturday's win over Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, freshman Rakim Lubin is making a spirited case for taking Nolan's minutes off the bench. He's played 10 minutes in each of the last two games and made some valuable contributions here and there.

So what does Nolan have to do to get back out on the floor? We asked Ryan Boatright and Kevin Ollie on Monday evening.

"I think he just needs to continue to play hard," said Boatright. "Just try to finish some plays around the rim. If he can get his hands on a few more balls, on both ends of the floor, then he can finish down there when he touches it, Coach will have no choice but to leave him in. Especially when Amida gets in foul trouble or needs a break."

Said Ollie: "Everybody gets a chance to come in and take care of their minutes. It's a competitive state of mind that we're in now. A lot of guys are stepping up and playing minutes, everybody's got to come in and take care of their minutes and play. Hopefully, that's what players want, how they thrive and get better. 'Cuz it's competitive out there for minutes."

Nolan was bothered by a sore heel recently. He's also put on about 30 pounds of muscle over the off-season and is noticeably bulkier. I've seen several players over the years lose their touch and become different (not always better) players after muscling up too much. Maybe all that's a factor, maybe not.

One thing is sure: UConn would love better and more consistent play out of Phil Nolan going forward.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

My AP Top 25: One AAC team out, a new one in

Here's my AP Top 25 this week. I'm booting Ohio State, Old Dominion and Temple and adding Northern Iowa, Providence and SMU.

Here 'tis:

1. Kentucky
2. Virginia
3. Duke
4. Villanova
5. Wisconsin
6. Arizona
7. Gonzaga
8. Louisville
9. Utah
10. Wichita State
11. Kansas
12. Iowa State
13. West Virginia
14. Maryland
15. Arkansas
16. Notre Dame
17. Oklahoma
18. Texas
19. Seton Hall
20. North Carolina
21. Wyoming
22. VCU
23. Northern Iowa
24. Providence
25. SMU

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kevin Ollie: "(Rakim Lubin) was like, 'I got that guy that's pushing us around.' I like that."

Some postgame quotes and video from UConn's 62-56 win over Cincinnati on Saturday at a sold-out XL Center.


"We have 1:30 practices, and we probably spend about an hour on just defense. We take pride in our defense."

“It definitely feels good, to make a big contribution and hear the crowd feed off of that. It’s fun.”


“It was a gutty win by our team. I’ve got to take my hat off to Cincinnati. It seems like it comes down to a one-possession game every time we play them, we know each other so well.”

“Our defense stepped up in the second half. Now, I just want our guys to play for 40 minutes. But I’m a very, very happy coach.”

“It seems like we didn’t unpack our bags. But, it is what it is. We’re going out to Tulsa and Stanford, and hopefully do the same as we did in Florida.”

(on Omar Calhoun, who, by the way, is officially back)

“He’s doing a great job spacing the floor, and he’s doing a better job not taking the quick 3’s, making a pump-fake and getting into the 15-foot range.”

“Everybody’s coming in and contributing. Now, it’s their jobs to keep making it a hard decision for me when I drive home and I’m thinking at nighttime, who I’m playing. That’s their job. It’s my job to figure out the minutes.”

(on Rakim Lubin)

“He takes the challenge. I know there were a couple of guys out there who were kind of pushing us around. I put Rock in the game, he was like, ‘I got that guy. I got that guy that’s pushing our guys around.’ I like that. As a coach, I like that, taking the point of saying, ‘I’m gonna stop this guy, he’s not pushing UConn around.’”


“I think we made the statement that we’re a better team than we were at the beginning of the year. Like I said last game, two weeks ago, we probably wouldn’t have won that game. But we’re getting better eveyr day, learning from our mistakes, and we’re winning those games."

(on Lubin)

“He’s been practicing extremely hard. We’ve been staying on him about his attitude, just having a positive attitude, being ready for your time, because you never know when it’s gonna come.”

“I tell him all the time, he’s our bruiser. He’s got the body that we need to be down there bangin’ with those bigs. He’s a little undersized, but he’s got a lot of heart. As long as he can learn what he needs to do, as far as (being) in the team system, knowing the plays, he’ll be on the floor.”

“If you know anything about UConn basketball, we pride ourselves on defense.”

(on Daniel Hamilton)

“He’s gonna be in that situation a lot of times. I just try to tell him to stay positive, shoot free throws as much as you can in your off time. A lot of these games come down to free throws, and you’re gonna be at the line a lot.”


“If you can score in less than three dribbles, that’s what people like to see. Whatever the defense gives me, I can work off -- 3’s, mid-range.”

recently sprained toe in practice, battling that during game, health-wise, around 70-75 percent, altogether.

(on Lubin)

“He played big today. We needed every minute from him. I always challenge him in practice, telling him his time’s gonna come, we’re gonna need him to make big plays. He came up big for us. He got me open for a shot, and he got a big defensive stop. That’s what we need from him.”

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Is Cincinnati now UConn's most heated rival?

In this new world that UConn now occupies -- no longer in the Big East, with no more annual bouts against old-time rivals like Syracuse, Georgetown, Pittsburgh or even Providence -- has a new chief rival emerged for the Huskies?

Is Cincinnati now UConn’s biggest rival?

It may not make any sense geographically, and it certainly doesn’t foster the same kind of emotion with UConn fans as the Orange or Hoyas. But no team has been involved in more heated games with the Huskies over the past few seasons than the Bearcats.

UConn holds a 10-5 all-time advantage over Cincy – 9-5 since the Bearcats joined the Big East in 2005-06. But the Huskies won the first five meetings. Since then, the teams have split the last 10 games.

In the last six meetings -- again, an even split between the two -- over the past three seasons, each game was decided by six points or less, or in overtime.

Of course, UConn has won when it’s meant the most – in the 2011 NCAA tournament’s Round-of-32 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and in last year’s AAC tournament semifinal game in Memphis.

The Huskies also beat Cincy in another area last year, when Shabazz Napier beat out Sean Kilpatrick for AAC player of the year honors. Kilpatrick wasn't pleased about this perceived snub, and neither was Cincy coach Mick Cronin, who was heard by Connecticut Post writer Bill Paxton telling Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson that "heroes are made in March, boys. This is all (B.S.)."

And that wasn't the first time that Cronin found himself involved in a controversy involving a UConn player and conference postseason honors -- although, to be fair, this one seemed to be more a Jim Calhoun concoction than anything Cronin actually did.

Of course, Cronin won't be on the sidelines for Saturday's 11 a.m. game at the XL Center. He's out for the rest of the season, at least as head coach, due to an artery problem. Admit it, you'll miss the little devil.

Certainly, there seems to be a little healthy friction between the two programs.

A few years ago, after Syracuse had played its final game against UConn as Big East foes, Jim Boeheim (in between calling Andy Katz an "idiot" and a "dishonest person") noted that the Orange's biggest rival used to be St. Bonaventure.

Then, the Big East formed, and Syracuse hasn't even played the Bonnies in over a decade.

"Your biggest rivals are going to be the teams in your league," Boeheim said.

UConn and Cincinnati, like it or not, are in the same league. Along with Memphis, they're the most decorated programs in this league. And it's too early to call UConn-Memphis a rivalry, especially since the Huskies swept the Tigers in three games last season (twice in Memphis). Rivalries can't be too one-sided.

So, are the Bearcats now UConn's biggest rival? If you say no, it's still Syracuse or Georgetown, remember, they don't consider UConn their biggest rivals. Neither does Duke. Meanwhile, Providence would like to consider UConn its rival, but UConn fans seem to think differently.

Oh, and Cincy considers the Huskies their rivals.

"We've had such close games over the years," said associate head coach Larry Davis, who's taken over for Cronin for the season after Cronin suffered an aneurysm a couple of weeks ago. "They're gonna be a team you've got to go through to win championships every year. Hopefully, we are too. Those are your rival games."

Maybe the Huskies simply don't have a rival right now.

Let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

UConn gets nice bench contributions in win over South Florida

Pretty nondescript game for UConn. A win is a win is a win. Good production off the bench, with Rakim Lubin and Sam Cassell, Jr. making some rare contributions, along with Omar Calhoun and Terrence Samuel.

Some video and quotes:


(on production from Lubin, Cassell)

“They haven’t even been getting in the game. I want them to be ready. I keep telling the guys to stay on-call, because you never know when your name is gonna get announced.”

“Rock’s been doing a fabulous job in practice, his talking, his staying engaged. Sam’s been doing the same thing, and Omar’s been coming along. It’s good to have a bench that’s deep and can come in and give us a lift. That’s what we needed in the second half. It was like we were sleep-walking out there in the first half, couldn’t make a shot. When I inserted those guys, the rhythm of the game picked up. I think it really bodes well for us in the future.”

“It was definitely a business trip for us. Now, we’ve got to come back and continue to move forward.”

“Our guards gotta do a better job of containing the ball, because we can’t keep relying on Amida back there.”

(more on Lubin)

“I mean, I haven’t played him. I see it in practice, where he’s talking and just staying engaged. Kentan went through it last year, where you’re not playing, you can get down on yourself. I see Rock continuing to work, continuing to talk to his teammates and not get down and be on-call. It gives you the trust that I can assert him when I need him. He’s not getting down on himself or pointing the finger at anybody. He’s just looking in the mirror, saying, ‘What can I do to help this team?’ To help this team now is to be in practice and push Kentan and Amida, and also push yourself. I was very proud of him coming in and giving us that lift the way he did.”


“It felt good to be home, that’s all.”

“I definitely felt like we needed a lift. We needed to pick things up intensity-wise and toughness-wise. I had to get in there, get a few boards and stuf like that.”

(on not playing at all the previous two games)

“It’s pretty difficult, but whatever it takes for the team to win. If KO wants me to sit on the bench or play 20-30 minutes, I’ll do what it takes.”

(on his jump shot late in the first half)

“I have no problem. Wide-open jumpers like that, I’ll take that. That’s what Coach wants, he wants us to play. Wide-open jumpers, you’ve got to take them.”

“It’s basketball. When you get out there, you’re still here to play basketball. You’ve just got to stay ready.”


“I’ve always been telling Sam, ‘Stay ready.’ I sit next to him on the bench before the game starts. We tell each other, we’ve got to prove ourselves off the bench and help the guys out. I’m just glad to see him come out and finally hit a shot, especiall an and-one.”

“We’re just playing more confident, each and every one of us. Omar, he’s coming along, he’s playing with so much confidence right now. Sam, you just tell him to stay with it. We’ve just got to produce off the bench.”


(on the bench players)

“They came in and did what they’re supposed to do. We came out flat, they came in and changed the game. They played hard, they picked up on the defensive end and changed the whole tempo.”

(on well-balanced effort)

“It had to be. They did a great job doubling me. I’m hurt, so I can’t really be the player I am. We needed guys to step up. They came in and took care of their minutes.”

“I was glad we were winning by that much, I didn’t have to play that much at the end.”

“We live off the defensive end. I don’t think we’re as talented scoring on the offensive end, so we’ve got to pride ourselves on the defensive end.”

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Monday, January 5, 2015

UConn's chillin' in Florida, looking for a Sunshine State sweep

After practicing at Tampa Prep on Sunday, UConn practiced at the University of Tampa on Monday afternoon (both are a lot closer to the Huskies' downtown hotel than the USF campus). And by the way, the facilities at the University of Tampa are absolutely beautiful and state-of-the-art -- especially considering it's a Division II program.

Of course, the Huskies face USF on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Here's the game capsule, and here's some video and quotes off of today's practice:


(on Amida Brimah's "two" blocked shots vs. Florida)

“I don’t want to get fined or anything, but those stats were not right. I saw where he made three blocks in a row, and they just gave him two (for the game). It is what it is, you can’t go back and change them. But I just want him to continue doing what he’s doing.”

(on Brimah's 10 rebounds)

“That was accurate. Not only 10 rebounds, he was just snatchin’ them. He was snatchin’ ‘em at the rim, they weren’t just falling to him. I think sometimes with Amida, they just fall to him and he gets lucky. But this game, he was going over the rim and grabbing them, being strong, against some big-time players. I was happy to see that. Of course you wanted to see him score a little more, but we have scorers.”

(on USF guard Anthony Collins)

“We know how good a player he is. He doesn’t shoot it outside all the time, but he can just control the game. Very smart, very heady, gets everybody involved. We’re really gonna have to contain him, pressure him.”

(on USF's first-year coach Orlando Antigua)

“He’s putting his stamp on it. I think he’s got three starters back, so it’s kind of hard to put a stamp on it. I know they’re working hard, they’re staying in games. Orlando’s gonna be a great coach, comes from great pedigree, different coaches he’s been under -- especially (John) Calipari. They know how to win. I think he’s gonna get the right players in here, and he’s gonna build a great program.”

(on building team chemistry during this five-day stay in Florida)

“We’ve been together beforehand (in) Puerto Rico ... my main job as a coach is to get them to have team chemistry. Hopefully, we’ll just keep building on it and keep tracing the lines that we’ve already drawn around our team.”

“Nice weather, hanging out in the pool, doing different things like that -- it’s great to see our guys bond like that. Hopefully, it contributes to them bonding on the court, talking more.”

(on not dropping to 0-2 in league play, as UConn did last year)

“It was a helluva climb we had to take upon. We want to win the day, win every day in practice, then come in and win a game. I think we’re getting to that point where we’re winning every day in practice. we’d love to be 1-1 going back up to Connecticut. I hear it’s gonna be like four degrees when we get off the plan, but it’ll be a little warmer being 1-1.”

(on packing it in against the Bulls, who don't shoot well from outside)

“They’re a load down inside, so we want to make sure we control the inside, not give up offensive rebounds, not give up strong positions, fire out on their shooters but understand who are the shooters and who aren’t the shooters. Then we’ve got to rebound the basketball. Just like teams are doing to us, they don’t want to give us layups. They want us to prove it from the outside, and we’re going to have to continue to get better. I know Orlando is getting those guys in positions to make shots. We just don’t want them to have their breakout game against us.”


“We’ve got a good opportunity to get back on track.”

(on Collins)

“He’s a great floor general. Everybody knocks his jump shot, but when he has time to set his feet, he can knock down a 3. He runs his team extremely well, he’s the enine of that team. As long as we can stop him from going off and controlling the whole game, we’ll be in good shape.”

(on what the Huskies have been doing this week)

“Relaxing. I’ve been connected to the ice machine, 24/7. We’ve just been chillin’, man, enjoying the weather, sitting back watching TV, guys playing spades all week. Just chilllin’, relaxin’.”

(on Brimah's 10-rebound game)

“Coach has been on him all year. (After) the Temple game (six rebounds in 29 minutes) he dogged him in the locker room. I knew he was embarrassed. He came back and responded with 10 rebounds. Coach couldn’t even get it out before he said, ‘I had 10 rebounds,’ in the locker room. It was good to see that.”


“The main thing is just getting better, at the end of the day. Winning or losing shouldn’t affect how hard you go. The main thing is just maintaining a level 5.5, and everything else will take care of itself.”

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

My AP Top 25 ballot this week

Five teams drop off my AP Top 25 ballot, and one of the newcomers hails from the American Athletic Conference.

I'm going with Temple at No. 25 this week. Not just off its New Year's Eve win in Hartford over UConn, though that's part of it. The Owls weren't overly impressive in that game, but they got the win. More to the point, they are now 5-0 since transfers Jesse Morgan and Devin Coleman have joined the team. Their defense is strong and their offense is now potent -- Temple's averaged 9.6 made 3-pointers in the last five games, compared to 4.5 over its first 10. The Owls are outscoring their opponents by 13.2 points per game since Dec. 18.

Oh, and of course there was that 25-point throttling of Kansas. And the OT win over UConn.

Considered Cincinnati, too, but not quite yet.

Elsewhere, we bid farewell to Texas Christian, St. John's, Georgetown, San Diego State and Northern Iowa and say hello to Seton Hall, Arkansas, Wyoming, VCU and Temple.

1. Kentucky
2. Duke
3. Wisconsin
4. Louisville
5. Arizona
6. Virginia
7. Villanova
8. Gonzaga
9. Texas
10. Utah
11. West Virginia
12. Wichita State
13. Kansas
14. Maryland
15. Iowa State
16. Notre Dame
17. Oklahoma
18. Seton Hall
19. North Carolina
20. Arkansas
21. Wyoming
22. Ohio State
23. Old Dominion
24. VCU
25. Temple

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Kevin Ollie: "They gutted one out for UConn Nation"

Terrific win for UConn. Gotta admit, I didn't see it happening. Not that Florida's so great -- it's certainly not. But not knowing how effective Ryan Boatright was going to be (or if he'd even play at all), then seeing the Huskies down 13 early in the second half and 11 with 11:11 left -- it just didn't seem like it was in the cards.

But, as we all should have learned by now -- never question this team's heart. Especially with a leader like Boatright on the floor.


"We wrote on the board: PTI: Play through it. I think they did that -- with heart, with desire. Got down by 13 and by 11 with 11 minutes to go, and they just dug in. The last eight minutes, we didn’t give up a field goal.”

“The big fella was just controlling the paint. When you have that big fella back there, and he’s not getting in foul trouble and contesting every shot, it really makes it hard from an offensive standpoint.”

“I’m very proud of the guys, because they stepped up in the second half. We made free throws -- all the things that we haven’t been doing in those situations, we did today. I’m proud of the guys.”

(on Boatright)

“I didn’t want to take him out, so it could get stiff. He still gutted it out, missed a couple of shots that he usually makes, gave us a big-time six assists. Then he stepped up to the free throw line and ma

“If I’m gonna go out, I’m gonna go out with my leaders -- from Shabazz, to Kemba, to Ryan. I just have so much trust in those guys, because we’ve been through so much together, all the up’s and down’s. I’m gonna go with my guns, and he’s the biggest gun in my holster.”

“If it wasn’t for Omar (Calhoun) making some shots, when we were down by 11, he made a big 3, made a pump-fake, one dribble step-in, a little floater on the baseline. If he didn’t make those big-time shots and those defensive stops, I don’t know where we would have been at.”

“We needed this win, and they gutted one out for UConn Nation.”

“That defense the last 11 minutes, that was some of the best defense I’ve seen here at UConn.”

(on Brimah)

“Just his presence around the basket. They were getting in our yard in the first half they were driving, driving, driving. Then, Amida started not fouling, not coming down. They were actually looking for Amida, and that throws off a player’s rhythm, when he’s coming to jump-stop and looking for Amida.”

(on free throws)

“I’m not gonna feel sorry for anybody. We lost three games, and it came down to free throws at the end, where we could have put the game away, or made it an overtime game. Our guys are stepping up now. I told them, ‘If you keep putting yourself in those positions, you’re gonna learn how to get through it, play through it, step up and have composure making those free throws.’”

“It’s reaching down in your gut. You’ve got to get stops from your gut and your heart. It’s nothing I can draw up.”

(on Rodney Purvis)

“Some guys are gonna sit on the bench. If you sulk, if you put your head down, then when you get back in the game, you’re not gonna be there mentally. I thought Rodney did a great job staying in the game, staying in the moment. He came in and made some big-time 3’s. Those were some deep 3’s, hit ‘em all net.”


“We never lost faith. We didn’t follow the game plan until the last, like, 11 minutes of the game. It was loud in there, we couldn’t hear the big guys calling out, which defensive play to use. We just grinded it out. We were resilient. We went down (13), we didn’t lose our heads or anything, we just kept our composure.”

“Coach Ollie, the day after the Temple game, he made us shoot a lot of free throws. Let’s just say that -- a whole bunch.”

“Coach Ollie showed us some clips about last year, how we were connected -- Bazz, me, Niels, DeAndre, Boat. We just tried to mimick the same things we watched on the film.”

(on Omar Calhoun)

“He’s real confident, he’s knocking shots down. He’s taking them with no remorse. Either it goes in or it misses. He has good muscle memory. If he misses a shot, he’s like, ‘I’m gonna make the next one.’ He’s coming along.”


“I had to. We just needed a little bit of paint protection. After those blocks, people stopped coming in the paint. That’s what we needed.”

“I had two blocks? What the hell? Damn ... I did not get two blocks. I had, like, two in the first half! That’s crazy.”


“We all know Boat’s competitive, he’s a fighter. He was definitely hurt, but we needed him out there today. He was able to keep pushing through for us.”

“This is a big win ... We brough the intensity in the second half, we were able to fight back and win the game. It’s big.”

(on Amida Brimah)

“I told him, just keep his hands up early on in the game. He was swiping at the ball, trying to get blocks. The best defenders don’t always have to block your shots, but they’re hard to shoot over. He was big for us, down low.”


“It hurts really bad, but it feels way better knowing that we got out of here with a win. I think if we took an ‘L,’ it would have hurt a lot more.”

“Since the day it happened, I’ve been uncomfortable. This is definitely the worst thigh bruise I’ve ever had. I can’t jump. The little jumping I was doing out there really came from emotion and adrenaline. As soon as the game was over, it locked up on me. I think I’m gonna take a picture of the bruise, so y’all can see the bruise. It’s crazy. My leg has never been four or five different colors.”

“Heart, man. I just knew we needed to win. This game, on the road, was a huge game for us. I knew that it could save our season. There was no way I was gonna sit out and let that slip by.”

“This just saved our season, if we take care of business from here on out.”


“I just knew I had to make the impact. We were in a tough situation in the game, and I knew eventually my time would come, so I stayed with it on the bench, cheering for my teammates. Omar really gave us a huge lift off the bench. I just knew, eventually, my name was gonna get called, and I had to come in and make a play.”

“Early on in this season, I would’ve been done. He ... subbed me out that quick because I missed out on a defensive assignment. It’s just a sign of progress I’ve made, just to stay in the game, because I know I can help this team a lot. The main thing, we just stay connected. Everybody just stayed with it. I knew eventually, something good was gonna happen to me.”

(on his go-ahead trey)

“I knew the ball was coming back to me, I just had to have my feet set. I knew once I had my feet set, if I could get it off, I knew I would have a good look at the basket. I just shot it with confidence. I’ve been working on my shot the last three, four weeks -- a whole lot of different shots, things like that, for moments like that. I just try my best to prepare myself for game moments.”

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Ryan Boatright: 'If I'm not able to be 'Boat' ... there's no reason to be out there"

Ryan Boatright spent the bulk of his New Year's Eve in his apartment with ... trainer James Doran.

Doran gave Boatright some extensive treatment after Boatright had suffered a deep thigh contusion in an overtime loss to Temple earlier in the day. In fact, he was almost there long enough to watch the New Year's Eve ball drop in Time Square with the senior guard.

Boatright's had some extensive rehab -- treadmills, etc. -- over the last couple of days, but hasn't practiced. The thought process is why risk anything in practice, just try go see if he can go in the game.

Right now, that looks like about a 50/50 proposition.


“I’m pretty banged up still. I’ve been getting better each day, and that’s all we can really ask for. It’s a quick turnaround, but I’m getting better every day. Rehab is helping.”

“I’ve been kneed there plenty of times in my career. I thought it was just a regular knee to the thigh. Then I was trying to stretch it out and I felt it tightening up faster than normal. At halftime, James was doing whatever he was doing, I said, ‘I’ma try to go.’ Then the first play of the second half, it was like, ‘No.’”

“My intentions are to be the best I can to play, to be out there. But, it’ll be a game time decision. I feel when I wake up, try to warm it up, stuff like that, get out there and get some shots and stuff. If I’m not able to be ‘Boat’ and be out there and put the ball in the hole, there’s no reason to be out there just to break the press.”

“The player I am, it’s just hard to tell by doing stuff like that. I’ve got to jump and plant and do all types of quick movements, versus just running steady on a treadmill.”

“It’s pretty bad. It’s a bad contusion. I’ve been kneed there plenty of times in my career, but this is the worst I’ve had.”

Asked if he'd play Boatright if he were only, say, 50 percent, Kevin Ollie responded: “I won’t play him if he’s 50 percent. But I think he’s gonna be better than that. I want his mentality to be there ... and physically, that he can jump and be explosive, like he can be. He can do his pull-ups, but if he has any limitations with that, it’s probably not worth it to put him out there. Maybe that contusion turns into something that’s gonna linger throughout the season. If he’s at 50 percent, definitely not. But if he’s 65-70 percent and he’s still got a little doubt in his mind, then I’ll listen to Boat. Because I trust him. It’s hard to take him out of games, because I know he’s not that he doesn’t want to compete. He wants to compete every time he puts that UConn jersey on, if he’s allowed to do that.”

If Boatright can't go, sophomore Terrence Samuel will have a much bigger role:

“I’ve got to run the offense better and be more vocal," Samuel said. "I’ve got to be a leader. I didn’t do that last game, so I kind of personally took it on myself. I’ve just tried to focus on that in practice, being more vocal and leading the team.”

More Ollie:

(on Daniel Hamilton)

“He bounced right back. I know it was difficult for him missing those free throws, but, it happens. If you play basketball enough, you’re gonna be in those situations. We want him to respond with courage, and I think he did that. He’s a tough young kid, and he’s gonna bounce back from it and get better from it.”

“We need another scorer. We need Rodney to play the way we know Rodney can play. It definitely opens some things up for Boat. Daniel’s in a spot where he’s trying to make every play. That’s a tough spot for a freshman. We need somebody to take the load off of him.”

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Billy Donovan not thinking revenge on UConn

Ryan Boatright didn't practice at all on Thursday before UConn departed for Gainesville, but received treatment and reported feeling better. He's still considered day-to-day, and it's impossible to say whether he'll play against Florida on Saturday.

Speaking of which ...

Billy Donovan spoke with Florida beat writers in Gainesville today. Naturally, he was asked about facing UConn, and any kind of revenge factor there may be for his team.

His response:

"I've always believed that whatever words you want to use -- revenge, payback -- those games were there own individual, specific competitive matchups. The one at Connecticut, and the one at the Final Four. And they ended up on top in both of them. It's two totally different teams, two totally different set of guys. There are some returning players from both teams. But the reality is, this game has its own set of challenges, so to speak. I think what ends up happening a lot of times is this illusion that you get back something that happened a year ago, or last season. I've just never believed that. There's nothing to that. That game to go play in the national championship game was exactly what it was -- a game to play in the national championship game. We came up short. Over and done with. Now, it's on to this year right now. That's the way we're looking at it right now. Some of those guys may have been part of that game -- Kasey Hill, Chris Walker, Dorian Finney-Smith, Michael Frazier -- but other guys are different, in different roles, different teams. We've got to play against this year's UConn team, we're not playing against last year's UConn team. And probably the same could be said for them."

(on the defensive job UConn did last year against Frazier)

"They did do a very good job. I think one of the things is, he's got to really move without the basketball. I think what Michael's got to understand, in a game like that, is for him, personally -- when he gets guarded like that, it actually helps the other four guys on the court. It creates spacing, driving opportunities, frees things up."

Here's the video of Donovan speaking with local reporters on "Gatorvision." (The UConn stuff starts at the 2:37 mark):

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