UConn notebook: Napier makes Naismith cut; Ollie talks wins and seniors

News and notes from Friday’s practice at Gampel Pavilion leading into Saturday’s game against No. 11 Cincinnati at the XL Center (noon, ESPN). Tickets are still available for the game.

In addition to UConn senior Shabazz Napier and Cincinnati senior Sean Kilpatrick being in a race for the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, both players found out Friday they are among the 10 finalists for the Nasmith award, which is given to the top player in the nation.

Here are some comments from UConn coach Kevin Ollie, who was a bit hoarse still following Wednesday’s win at South Florida:

On if they beat Cincinnati (UConn is 2-4 vs. top four teams in AAC):

“It’s just another game. It would be a big time win for us, but just like USF was a big-time win for us. I can’t measure it. I don’t want my team to measure it. It’s just another win and another opportunity that we can show we’re a better team.”

On keeping the team focused with the
NCAA Tournamentcoming up:

“I’m not seeing it. We need to win and we’ve got our own struggles to deal with. We’re not worrying about the NCAA Tournament and I think it really helped those guys not going to the tournament last year and just kept playing. … They’re just playing basketball, that’s why I love this group.

On going zone defense against USF:

“Just something to get them out of rhythm. I know they didn’t scout it. … It was just something I wanted to throw in there. We’re been working on it. It was something to keep them off balance. We got a couple stops, so I decided to stay with it for a while.”

On the play of Terrence Samuel:

“I just liked his energy. He just came out and played. He didn’t care about scoring. He didn’t care about anything but lets get stops and lets win the game. Those are the types of players I love to coach. It was all effort with him.”

On the importance of seniors on your roster:

“When you get in conference play, everybody knows what you’re running, you’re going to have to go to third and fourth options. Seniors and juniors pretty much know the system and they’re not  running around guessing. That’s a luxury we have with one of the top point guards in the nation, an All-American, we got him and he knows exactly what I want each and every play. I can draw a play up and he runs it perfectly, and if guys mess up he gets them in the right place. That’s a luxury I do have.

Tyler (Olander) came in and played 21 minutes. He didn’t do a lot on the stat sheet, but watching the tape he set great screens. Niels (Giffey) is my rock. … Our seniors are big time and Lasan (Kromah) come in, he’s been through the wars, and contributes, too.”


William Paxton