Big picture first: Moral victories don’t exist in Storrs, Conn., but if you’re searching for 68 teams better than UConn, good luck.
The Huskies dug themselves a big hole, then re-grouped and put the No. 2 team in the country — perhaps the best team the Big East has seen in years — on its heels.
Roscoe Smith (AP)
Now 17-11 overall and 7-9 in the Big East, UConn certainly needs at least two more wins (in the final two games of the regular season and the Big East tournament) to solidify its tournament resume. If the Huskies get a eight or nine seed, that No. 1 — whether its Syracuse, Kentucky, Kansas or Duke — won’t be too happy. UConn is capable of beating anyone — and also capable of losing to almost anyone. And that’s why it’s on the bubble.
* I couldn’t really see the final play from my seat, but I just caught the replay on SportsCenter. Honestly, I’m not really sure. That’s a really tough call to make, as Roscoe Smith and Andre Drummond said afterwards.
“It’s a tough situation for the referees — they probably didn’t want to have the game be decided on (a foul),” Smith said. “But I got fouled, everybody’s seen it. If you didn’t see it, it will be on TV.”
Then, Drummond’s take on the potential offensive goal-tend by Fab Melo: “Those are some of the plays you can’t say much about. I did the same thing, too, so I can’t really complain about it. Sometimes they let it go, sometimes they don’t.”
Smith and Drummond handled the situation with class. Both acknowledged that this was a 40 minute basketball game that wasn’t decided in the final minute of the game. Syracuse buried UConn in a quick 25-10 hole and did enough to win, particularly on the last few possessions. Too many weapons, too much poise. There’s no doubt that this is a national title contender.
*Blaney on the final possession: “We were trying to get penetration. They played it pretty well. We got it all the way out…It was the play to be made because we got stopped out top. Roscoe caught it and went to the rim. At that time of the game you really want to get to the rim unless you’re going to shoot a three.”
* To me, Smith was the difference in the game. Without him, UConn probably wouldn’t have made it close. And afterwards, he admitted that George Blaney has been the difference for him.
“Coach Blaney trusts me,” Smith said. “He has a ton of confidence in me and when I know that, that gives me more confidence. I can just play my game.”
Even if Calhoun returns (ESPN reports he’s targeting the regular season finale), I’d imagine Smith has to stay in the rotation.
* Shabazz Napier came off the bench was was scoreless with seven assists. UConn did not receive a single point from its bench while Syracuse reserves totaled 26.
* Syracuse, which shot lights-out in the first half, cooled off big-time. The Orange shot 34 percent from the field after the intermission and finally looked human (5-for-20 from 3-point range).