We’re not sure exactly who questioned Jerome Dyson’s heart.
But UConn coach Jim Calhoun says that’s why his senior guard was so motivated Tuesday night against Northeastern.
Whatever the reason, Dyson eventually came up big for the Huskies (the ones in Storrs).
Dyson scored 11 of UConn’s last 13 points in a 59-57 win in the NIT’s first round. He assisted on the basket to account for the other two points.
Calhoun says it’s all about heart.
“If they question his technique, if they question how hard he works on his game or how skilled he is at this particular point, they probably have a right to say that. I’ve said it to him 1,000 times over,” Calhoun said. “But if anybody questioned his heart during the four-year career, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You really are.
“I question by the fact that he doesn’t get himself ready as he should all the time,” Calhoun continued. “I’m comparing him to Ben Gordon’s 500 jump shots every single night, that kind of guy. Emeka (Okafor), Caron (Butler), some of those kind of guys I’ve had. But I’ve never questioned his tick-tock.”
Dyson’s last game was a four-point, nine-turnover effort against St. John’s in the Big East tournament.
“I honestly thought he tried so hard during the St. John’s game he couldn’t play,” Calhoun said. “I’ve never seen him try harder than what he did in the St. John’s game. And everything he touched turned to lead, stone.”
The nine turnovers were obviously painful for Calhoun and Dyson.
“You never see him get picked three times in a row going to the hole. That doesn’t happen to him,” Calhoun said. “He’ll throw it away. Trust me, he’ll throw it away. He’ll turn it over. He could open a bakery, there’s no question about that.”
— Dyson said he just became more aggressive. He also admitted he looked up at the clock at one point when UConn was down five with five minutes to play and realized they might be the final five minutes of his collegiate career.
“It could have been,” Dyson said. “The way I was playing so far, I didn’t want to end like that.”
— It looks like UConn is going to play Virginia Tech (hoping Quinnipiac proves me wrong for purely selfish reasons) and it looks like the second round game is going to be Saturday.
No definite plans until after Va Tech and the Bobcats finish Wednesday night.
— Tuesday was nearly UConn’s first loss to Northeastern in nearly 25 years. The last time the Boston-based Huskies beat their counterparts from Connecticut was Dec. 27, 1985, when a coach named Jim Calhoun led NU to a 90-73 win over UConn at the Hartford Civic Center.
It’s doubtful the 5,571 fans in attendance Tuesday, even the 400 or so who sported red Northeastern attire, expected domination in the series to end.
Of the seven games between the teams since Calhoun switched sides, only the margin in the 2007 meeting was less than 10 points. In the other six UConn won by 18, 47, 52, 36, 37 and 28 points.
— The crowd was actually pretty big and pretty loud for an NIT game (based on previous NIT games at Gampel).
“I remember playing, I think there was 3,800 people here a few years ago when we played South Carolina,” Calhoun said. “Tonight we got 5,500 people and it helped us.”
— G Matt Janning had 17 points for Northeastern. But 11 of those came in the game’s first nine minutes.
“In the second half they really didn’t let him get much separation,” NU coach Bill Coen said.
Dyson guarded Janning for most of the second half and was on him in the final seconds was Northeastern was trying to get a shot to tie or win.
“He can’t catch the ball. Make someone else beat us,” Calhoun said of his instructions.
NU’s Baptiste Bataille narrowly missed an off-balance three at the buzzer after he was unable to get the ball to Janning.