UConn coach Jim Calhoun will take an indefinite medical leave of absence to deal with worsening spinal stenosis, the UConn athletic department said Friday.
Calhoun’s lower back has been an issue since the summer, according to a UConn official. Calhoun apparently considered surgery during his three-game suspension. The UConn spokesperson said Calhoun was unsure if he’d get surgery any time soon.
“Last summer, Jim had some significant back pain and has seen two excellent back specialists,” said Dr. Peter Schulman, Calhoun’s primary physician. “The initial approach recommended to him was stretching, physical therapy and exercise, and that was successful for several months. It turns out that there is some degenerative problem in the lumbar vertebrae and it’s impinging on the nerves. It has led to significant back pain and some symptoms in his lower extremities.”
“Jim has been able to manage it with the physical therapy and stretching, but over the last several days, things have become worse and he is not able to deal with this on a day to day basis, so other options need to be considered. Right now, he is physically unable to coach.”
Associate head coach George Blaney will coach the team in Calhoun’s absence.
Also, in case you don’t know much about spinal stenosis (you’re not alone), here’s some info on the condition.
Notes/Quotes from Georgetown: “We missed a ton of shots that Division I players, including us at UConn, should make.”
A textbook example of breaking down the defense: Shabazz Napier got into the lane and drew help from a Georgetown big man. He dished it off to Tyler Olander, who was quickly guarded as the Hoyas rotated. Olander, positioned near the left block, fired the ball to a cutting Alex Oriakhi for the layup.
And his shot got lodged between the rim and backboard.
It was that kind of day for UConn.
The Huskies scored 44 points, their second-lowest total since joining the Big East (they scored 42 against Syracuse in 1999 and equaled that mark against Georgetown 30 years ago during the 1982 campaign).
That’s now four losses in a row for UConn, which is seemingly regressing as the season continues.
Youth, according to Calhoun, is no longer an excuse.
“We’re the sixth youngest (team in the country),” Calhoun said. “I have no idea what the hell that means. It means sh*t. It does. You’re a player. It’s 20 games in. You’re a basketball player and you put a uniform on. We were 14-3, ranked 18th in the country. But, what I don’t like to see, is people mentally not stay in the task at hand.”
Some other tidbits from downtown Washington:
* I’m not super big on stats, but I went pretty stat heavy with my game story tonight. And I’m going to rehash some of those numbers here. They’re that insane. UConn had 13 points with 16:36 left in the first half. At that same point in the second half, the Huskies had just 23.
Outside of Andre Drummond, UConn was 9-for-48 from the field. Dating back to the final minutes of the Tennessee loss, Napier is 2-for-23 on field-goal attempts. Jeremy Lamb, Ryan Boatright and Napier were a combined 4-for-31. The list just goes on…
* Hey, let’s look on the bright side — Drummond was pretty impressive. He didn’t mess around or make things too complicated. He stayed around the rim, finished strong and remained aggressive throughout.
Everyone else was dreadful, and Lamb was uncharacteristically bad.
“It’s weird,” Drummond said. “I’ve seen Jeremy hit shots most people can’t hit. Today, it wasn’t his day. He couldn’t knock down his shots. A lot of people had shots that were wide open, and the shots just wouldn’t fall for us.”
* UConn (14-7, 4-5 Big East) hosts Seton Hall Saturday before traveling to Louisville for a Monday game. That means the Huskies will be watching the Super Bowl from L’Ville. They’re hoping to put up more points than the Patriots. Looks like a toss up at this point.
That one stung pretty bad back in February, 2008. Roy Hibbert’s last-second 3-pointer gave Georgetown its third consecutive win over the Huskies, and the Hoyas won two more to push the streak to five. UConn took both matchups last year, though, and is looking to build a little streak of its own against its DC-based rival.
Some links/info as we prepare for tonight’s 7 p.m. tip:
* Ryan Boatright and Roscoe Smith replace Shabazz Napier and Alex Oriakhi in the starting lineup
* Since 2000, only three UConn teams have suffered four-game losing streaks. None of them made the Big Dance.
UConn at No. 14 Georgetown
WHEN: Tonight, 7
WHERE: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
RECORDS: UConn 14-6, 4-4 Big East; Georgetown 16-4, 6-3
LINE: Georgetown by 3 1/2
ON THE AIR: ESPN2 (Sean McDonough, Dick Vitale); WTIC-AM 1080
UP NEXT: Saturday vs. Seton Hall, noon, XL Center (SNY)
Ryan Boatright G 5-10 Fr.: 6 pts in return vs. ND
Jeremy Lamb G 6-5 So.: 6-for-9, 16 pts vs. ND
Niels Giffey G/F 6-7 So.: 2 pts in 12 mins vs. ND
Roscoe Smith F 6-8 So.: 5 total pts since 10-pt effort on Jan. 14
Andre Drummond C 6-10 Fr.: 15 pts, 11 rebs, 4 blocks vs. ND
Alex Oriakhi F 6-9 Jr.: 4 pts, 4 rebs vs. ND
DeAndre Daniels F 6-8 Fr.: Scoreless in 4 of past 5
Shabazz Napier G 6-0 So.: 0-for-7 from field vs. Notre Dame
Tyler Olander F 6-9 So.: Scoreless in past 25 mins
Markel Starts G 6-2 So.: 40.6 % from 3-pt range
Jason Clark G 6-2 Sr.: 15.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
Hollis Thompston F 6-8 Jr.: 13.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Henry Sims C 6-10 Sr.: Team-high 3.6 apg
Otto Porter F 6-8 Fr.: 14 pts, 6 rebs vs. Pitt
Jabril Trawick G 6-5 Fr.: 3.8 ppg
Nate Lubick F 6-8 So.: 3.7 ppg,. 4.5 rpg
Greg Whittington F 6-8 Fr.: 6 pts, 4 rebs vs. Pitt
ROAD STRUGGLES: UConn hasn’t been particularly great anywhere, but it’s been noticeably worse on the road. The Huskies’ three worst losses — Seton Hall, Rutgers and Tennessee — came away from home. It will be crucial for UConn to keep the Verizon Center crowd out of the game early.
IN NEED OF OLANDER: When teams zone UConn (which seems to be working just fine), Tyler Olander is the most viable four-man because of his ability to knock down a 15-footer and distribute the ball. Olander will need to snap out of his little drought — Calhoun recently said he’s been “logy” — and provide UConn with a solid high-post option.
TRANSITION: The Huskies have struggled mightily in the halfcourt, and they haven’t done much on the fast break, either. Getting the ball in Ryan Boatright’s hands more often could be a solution.
– KEVIN DUFFY
Jim Calhoun had to mix it up somehow.
Anyone who’s seen the past few UConn games can vouch for this: Whatever the Huskies were doing, it wasn’t working.
So, Ryan Boatright is in at point guard; Shabazz Napier is out. And Roscoe Smith takes over for Alex Oriakhi as the team’s starting small forward. In addition, Niels Giffey reclaimed his starting job at small forward over DeAndre Daniels, which means UConn’s starting lineup will have three different players than it had against Notre Dame.
Not sure how long this will last, or how effective it will even be, but there’s no doubt that UConn desperately needs to find more offense.
“We have to get some cheap easy points, be against Georgetown or Seton Hall, we cannot keep getting 50 points a game,” Calhoun said. “We’re just not going to win that way.”
A few other interesting Calhoun quotes from today:
* “Some things people want to say about us: the fact that we’re not moving on offense, they’re right. We’re not fast-breaking. They’re right. We’re not getting enough easy hoops. They’re right. All of those things are right.”
* “If we don’t push the pace, we can’t win. We can’t win over these next 10 games – against anybody – if we keep scoring at the rate we’re scoring.”
*“We’re not desperate, because there are 10 games to go, plus the (Big East) tournament. But we are very, very aware of our situation.”
* “Maybe (Napier) will play better as the two-guard at times.”
On a much more important note, my hotel is in Chinatown here in DC, so I’m going across the street for some Hunan Chicken. Let’s see if they can top Good Taste in Danbury.
I’ll let you all know tomorrow.
As expected, UConn dropped out of both polls following Sunday’s 50-48 loss to Notre Dame, its third consecutive defeat.
The Huskies (14-6 overall, 4-4 Big East) have major issues against the zone defense, and, according to Calhoun, leadership problems in the back court.
Both were painfully obvious Sunday, especially during scoreless drought that spanned 7:10 at the beginning of the second half. Many would call it UConn’s worst game of the year. I won’t go that far — but it’s pretty darn close.
Below, I rank UConn’s first 20 games, based solely on the Huskies’ performance, from top to bottom:
1. UConn 83, St. John’s 69, Dec. 31 — Huskies dominated in all facets for 33 minutes and shot 60.4 percent from the field. Late run by St. John’s made it respectable (kind of).
2. UConn 77, Holy Cross 40, Dec. 18 – Shabazz Napier summed it up perfectly: “We were supposed to win by 30, and we did,” he said. Andre Drummond was 11-for-12 from the field in a game that legitimately turned into a second-half dunk contest.
3. UConn 75, Arkansas 62, Dec. 3 – Ryan Boatright stole the show in his second game, shredding the Razorbacks’ pressure defense for a team-high 23.
4. UConn 67, Notre Dame 53, Jan. 14 – Huskies found out that Boatright would be sidelined the night before. The next morning, Notre Dame found out it didn’t matter. The Irish couldn’t physically match-up with UConn inside. Of course, there was a rematch…
5. UConn 64, West Virginia 57, Jan. 9 – “Andre Drummond was special,” Calhoun said. People said the crowd ignited UConn. Well, Drummond ignited the crowd. He dunked everything, held Kevin Jones off the glass and led the Huskies to the come-from-behind win.
6. UConn 78, Florida State 76 (OT), Nov. 26 — Boatright saved the day (I think you all know the story) and Napier poured in 26. This win is looking better with each passing week: The Noles have won five in a row, including a 33-point pasting of UNC and a win over Duke at the buzzer.
7. UConn 67, Harvard 53, Dec. 8 — No “Revenge of the Nerds” headline. I really was looking forward to seeing if I could get that in the paper. Harvard is a nice team, but it couldn’t physically compete with the Huskies.
8. UConn 80, Maine 60, Nov. 16 — Drummond hauled in 11 offensive rebounds and Maine’s entire team had 11 boards on the defensive end. UConn really asserted itself on the interior (34 offensive boards for the game) and Maine, well…Maine just isn’t very good.
9. UConn 73, UNC Asheville 63, Nov. 24 — Huskies jumped out to a 16-3 lead and were relatively even with the Bulldogs the rest of the way. For what it’s worth, Asheville is 11-1 in the Big South.
10. UConn 79, Fairfield 71, Dec. 22 — If I were ranking the best halves of the year, A. UConn’s first half would be No. 1 on the list and B. This would be a really long and unnecessary blog post. Huskies led by as many as 22, then “stopped playing,” Calhoun said.
11. UConn 60, South Florida 57, Dec. 28 – Kind of like the Wagner game. South Florida wasn’t highly-touted (or touted at all) entering the game. UConn pulled it out in sluggish fashion.
12. UConn 87, Coppin State 70, Nov. 20 — A triple-double by Napier helped UConn overcome an early 27-14 deficit against the gritty — albeit severely outmanned — Golden Eagles.
13. UConn 78, Wagner 66, Nov. 14 — It was a struggle at the time, but it turns out Wagner is pretty decent: The Seahawks are 17-4 and looking like a tourney team.
14. Cincinnati 70, UConn 67, Jan. 18 — Huskies didn’t play terribly in this one. Cincy is one of the better teams in the Big East, and Shabazz Napier was remarkable in the closing minutes.
15. UCF 68, UConn 63, Nov. 25 – Think this one should be lower? Granted, it was a meltdown, but the Huskies still didn’t have Ryan Boatright and played pretty well for 25 minutes. The latter can’t be said for the remaining games on this list.
17. Notre Dame 50, UConn 48, Jan. 29 — Best line came from Waterbury Rep-Am beat writer Ed Daigneault, who tweeted that Calhoun “looked like he was watching his grandkids play at the beach.” Calhoun said he tried to “play low-key…tried different things” with his team. Nothing seems to be working right now. The Huskies were miserable against the zone and not overly enthusiastic at any point.
18. Seton Hall 75, UConn 63, Jan. 7 — The one game where UConn was outplayed for a full 40 minutes. Seton Hall was just a better team on this day — there’s no other way to say it.
19. Tennessee 60, UConn 57, Jan. 21 – Ugh. Ooof. Ew. Have any other words/sounds to describe the Huskies’ offense against the Vols? It’s been stagnant at times, but this game — Napier dribble, dribble, dribble, fallaway jumper; Lamb dribble left, dribble right, crossover, tough runner– was brutal.
20. Rutgers 67, UConn 60, Jan. 7 — Rutgers? Really? No commentary necessary here.
A new UConn basketball commercial leaked today. Sorry to play spoiler, but the first line is “We don’t come here to practice basketball.”
I got a funny email from a friend this morning that said “Maybe they should go there to practice basketball.”
Good commercial, really poor timing. UConn is in the midst of a three-game skid and just fell out of the AP poll for the first time in 28 weeks. Check out the video below.
Notes/Quotes from Notre Dame: “This is one of the few games where I look down at the sheet and say ‘I don’t know who to praise.’”
Jeremy Lamb isn’t normally cracking jokes and shooting the breeze with the media after games.
As you’d expect, he’s pretty low-key, pretty straight-to-the-point during interviews.
After Sunday’s 50-48 loss to Notre Dame, Lamb was flat-out dejected. He didn’t look up from the ground when he spoke, and he didn’t beat around the bush in his answers, either.
“It wasn’t their defense,” he said. “We were horrible…horrible horrible.”
Indeed, UConn’s zone offense was pretty tough to watch. And the Huskies got beat to loose balls and offensive boards. Sprinkle in a few Notre Dame 3′s and you’ve got one of the most disheartening losses of the year.
Here’s the game story and the rundown of the ever-developing Ryan Boatright situation (in case you missed it, Tanesha Boatright’s attorney issued a statement to the NCAA, which promptly fired back a response).
A few quotes from The Boat and then we’ll get to the game:
* “It’s finally over, we can finally put it behind us. You don’t have to worry about me getting pulled out again.”
* “They shut the whole thing down….they have no more questions or anything.”
* “I don’t know what’s going on, whatever my mom and her lawyer have going on, that’s with them. I’m just happy to be back playing.”
And now for some Jim Calhoun quotes on the 50-48 instant classic…
* Calhoun on why Lamb attempted only nine shots (he hit six of them): “I know this sounds like a revelation, but the other team does know who he is. When he comes off the pick and roll, he’s doubled.”
* Calhoun on UConn’s energy: “The crowd, god bless ‘em, they tried to do the best they could to get the team awake, and I played as low-key as I could with them today, tried some different things, a possession team you can’t give two and three possessions because they’re going to grind you down…I think that comes from mental toughness.”
* This one pretty much sums it up: “This is one of the few games where I look down at the sheet and say ‘I don’t know who to praise.’ Collectively, their team beat our team.”
*UConn wasn’t good by any means, but Notre Dame’s tempo — milking the shot clock, turning it into a halfcourt game — has had an effect on other teams, too. The Irish held Seton Hall to 42 points on Jan. 25 and limited high-flying Syracuse to 23 first-half points in a 67-58 stunner a week ago.
* I’ve thrown this stat around a lot this year, but now that UConn is actually in the midst of a three-game losing streak, it’s relevant. Under Calhoun, only two UConn teams — 1991 and 1992 — have suffered three-game skids and still made the NCAA tourney. This team is starting to draw comparisons to the 2010 squad (talented, but never put it together and missed the Big Dance). I won’t go that far yet. As my dad, the perpetual UConn optimist told me, “all teams have bad stretches.”
I still believe these Huskies are fully capable of making a deep NCAA run. These next three games — Georgetown, Seton Hall and Louisville — are absolutely crucial. UConn needs to snap out of this slump soon.