So I won’t get to write the “Revenge of the Nerds” headline.
Shucks…I was really looking forward to it. Harvard hung tight, but UConn opened the second half on a 17-3 run and held off the Crimson for a 67-53 win on Thursday.
Just as it had in the previous two games, UConn’s three-guard lineup — Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright — made the difference. Boatright can go by anybody (literally, anyone in the country), Napier can shoot from deep and get in the lane and Lamb’s range stretches out to 30 feet, which Harvard learned on a few occasions.
He scored a game-high 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting and drew some rave reviews from coach Jim Calhoun.
“Jeremy looked like a big-time player in the second half,” Calhoun said. “He had the feel of a big-time player, where nothing bothered him. And that’s how he is — nothing really bothers him.”
Some other notes:
*UConn is 3-0 since Boatright’s return, and all of those wins have come against quality opponents. There’s no question the Huskies are better with him. But, if Boatright is going to play big minutes (as he should), someone is going to get lost in the shuffle. So far, it’s DeAndre Daniels. The promising 6-foot-8 freshman has scored nine total points since Boatright’s return. He played just five minutes Thursday.
* Andre Drummond was warned by referee John Cahill about hanging on the rim (see left). Was it just me, or did it seem both teams were chillin’ up there after every dunk?
*Interesting line from Calhoun about playing for UConn: “In our system, you have to be able to handle, occasionally, being criticized for your performance. I tell the kids it’s hard to play here. It’s hard to play here because the expectations are very high.”
Thus far, no one has been criticized — at least externally — like Alex Oriakhi. AO got the start and made some physical errors early. He picked it up at the end, however, and put Harvard away for good with a tip-in with 2:38 to play and a defensive rebound on the ensuing possession.
*Aside from the typical UConn characteristics (great shotblocking, great point guard play), this team can really stretch the defense with its 3-point shooting, something that has been seriously lacking in recent seasons. Some supposed big-time shooters – Scottie Haralson, Jamaal Trice and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel — have come and gone. But the current roster possesses quite a few legitimate threats: The three guards, Daniels and apparently Tyler Olander, who canned his first career 3-pointer on Thursday.
As a team, UConn is shooting 37.6 percent from deep, it’s best average in years.
11-12: 59-157 .376
10-11: 234-711 .329
09-10: 125-403 .310
08-09: 165-484 .341
07-08: 168-465 .361
Click the “play” button below to join Hearst Connecticut Media Group UConn beat writer Kevin Duffy and other reporters and editors for live coverage from Gampel Pavilion of a battle of ranked teams: No. 25 Harvard at No. 9 UConn.
The chat goes live at 6:45, and the game tips off just after 7.
If UConn beats Harvard tonight, it will pick up a second strong non-conference win to put on its NCAA Tournament resume.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
This isn’t the Harvard of old — or even the Harvard that came close at Gampel Pavilion two years ago thanks to a 30-point outburst from Jeremy Lin. This is a team that legitimately has a chance against the Huskies.
No. 25 Harvard vs. No. 9 UConn:
WHEN: Tonight, 7
WHERE: Gampel Pavilion
RECORDS: Harvard 8-0, UConn 7-1
ON THE AIR: ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen, Doug Gottlieb, Andy Katz)
UP NEXT: Dec. 18 vs. Holy Cross
Shabazz Napier G 6-0 So.: Scored 20+ points in 5 of 8 games
Jeremy Lamb G 6-5 So.: Sat out 13 mins through 7 games, 14 vs. Arkansas
Ryan Boatright G 5-10 Fr.: 18.5 ppg
Roscoe Smith F 6-8 So.: 4.3p, 3.5 rpg
Tyler Olander F 6-9 So.: Leads team with 6.6 rpg
Alex Oriakhi C 6-9 Jr.: 6.9 p, 5.8 rpg
Andre Drummond C 6-10 Fr.: 1p, 1r vs. Arkansas
DeAndre Daniels F 6-8 Fr.: 3 ppg since Boatright’s return
Niels Giffey G/F 6-7 So.: Season-high 4 points vs. Arkansas
Brandyn Curry G 6-1 Jr.: 6.6 p, 2.1 apg
Oliver McNally G 6-3 Sr.: 86.7 percent FT
Christian Webster G 6-5 Jr.: 4.5 ppg
Laurent Rivard G 6-5 So.: 40 percent 3-point
Kyle Casey F 6-7 Jr.: 10.9 p, 5.3 rpg
Keith Wright F 6-8 Sr.: 12.3 p, 7.1 rpg
Steve Moundou-Missi F 6-7 Fr.: 4.9 p, 4.1 rpg
Wesley Saunders G 6-5 Fr.: 3.5 p, 2.3 rpg
Jonah Travis F 6-6 Fr.: 4.4 ppg
NO MORE MASK: The six weeks are up and Andre Drummond has been cleared to play without his protective facemask. Will it make a difference tonight?
HARVARD’S DEFENSE: The Crimson rank 10th in the country in scoring defense at 54.4 points per game. Earlier this season, Harvard held opponents under 49 points for four consecutive games, the first time it has done so since 1946-47.
UCONN’S STREAK: The Huskies haven’t lost a non-conference game in Storrs in November or December since 1973. That’s 101 consecutive wins. UConn also is 115-4 under Jim Calhoun against non-league New England opponents.
It elicits almost every emotion, something Valvano says should happen on a daily basis: ” Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.”
My favorite part of the entire speech — by far — is Valvano’s anecdote about his first game as Rutgers freshman coach. If you haven’t seen it, please spare the 11 minutes. It’s definitely worth it.
By now, I’m sure you’re familiar with Alex Oriakhi’s tweets. If not, hit the link.
Long story short, Oriakhi let some frustration spill onto his Twitter account a few weeks ago. Before he knew it, the story was all over the blogosphere.
On Wednesday, Oriakhi said the entire team held a meeting about social media, specifically Twitter.
“Mostly just watching what we put on there,” Oriakhi said. “(Coaches) don’t care that we tweet, we just have to watch what we say.”
Oriakhi, who recently cracked the 10,000 follower mark, said he didn’t realize he’s an icon to many of those followers.
“I don’t look at myself (ike that),” he said. “Jeremy and I are always like ‘Isn’t it weird that people look at us like that?’ We just see each other as normal dudes.”
Aside from producing great content, my goal is to have more Twitter followers than Oriakhi by season’s end. I have a little ways to go, so do me a solid and give me a follow! Thanks, I appreciate it.
* Andre Drummond told the media he has a “surprise” regarding his mask tomorrow. That can only mean one of two things: Either he doesn’t have to wear it anymore — it’s been about six weeks — or he’s getting a new one that looks like this. (sorry if you saw that joke here before. I’m not that funny so I have to re-use some of my material).
* Michael Bradley was jogging around before Wednesday’s practice. Calhoun said Bradley, a 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman, would participate in drills Wednesday and start going full-speed next week.
* As for the Big East realignment, Calhoun didn’t think there would be much of an effect on the basketball end.
“I can’t see all the basketball schools playing each other – I think its impossible,” Calhoun said.
He did, however, like the move for football.
“I think Boise, SDSU and Houston are (good additions),” Calhoun said. “You need to get quality teams that show they can get into bowls.”
Calhoun added that Boise State is, as of right now, better than Pitt, West Virginia and Syracuse, all of which are leaving the Big East…or whatever it will be called.
Before we get into a school-by-school breakdown, I’d like to address the most important issue: What in God’s name are we going to call this conference?
It can’t be the Big East. I mean, almost half the teams are out west.
I’m holding a contest on Twitter (@KevinRDuffy) to come up with some creative names for the new conference.
Right now, the leader is “The Biggeast Conference” (biggest conference). I also have suggestions like The Big Piece of Land (the league encompasses most of the country), The Bigger East, The Big Increase, The Big GPS and The Big Mess.
Tweet at me if you can beat those. You probably can.
Moving on, here’s a look at what the new schools bring to the table:
BOISE STATE – Obviously, Boise enters in 2013 as overwhelming favorites to win the league each year. In a sense, it’s not so different than the situation the Broncos are in now — only this time winning the conference will (likely) translate automatic BCS bid, which means Chris Peterson won’t be hilarious anymore. For the record, I think 99 percent of America agrees with him.
As bad as Big East football has been, don’t expect Boise to come in and dominate everybody. If Boise is losing to teams like Nevada and TCU, I’m sure Pitt and West Virginia will be able to compete (oh, wait). But seriously, UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida — in their strong years — can present a challenge for the Broncos.
Famous alum: Ian Johnson
SAN DIEGO STATE – This name rings a bell for UConn fans because of basketball, not football. If you recall, Kemba Walker went off for 36 points in last year’s Sweet 16 to put an end to the Aztecs’ prolific 34-3 campaign.
Unfortunately, SDSU is only coming along for football.
The Aztecs are 8-4 this season and headed to the New Orleans Bowl to play Louisiana-Lafayette. Over recent years, SDSU has employed a balanced offensive attack (228 yards passing, 194 yards rushing per game this season). The team has qualified for two straight bowl games, ending a postseason drought that dated back to 1998.
Famous alum: Marshall Faulk
CENTRAL FLORIDA – You already know plenty about the Knights.
Marcus Jordan, the son of the great MJ, helped UCF rally from a 17-point deficit to defeat then-No.4 UConn at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Aside from mini-MJ, the Knights have some other solid young players. They should compete as a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big East.
If you want to look at the big picture, UCF probably has the most long-term potential of any new addition. It’s one of the biggest schools in the nation — 58,587 students are enrolled for 2011 — and it’s in one of the most fertile recruiting areas for basketball and football. Obviously, it’s tough to compete with Florida, Florida State and Miami (well, it used to be tough to compete with the ‘Canes) when it comes to recruiting, but joining amore competitive league should only help UCF.
Famous alum: Daunte Culpepper
HOUSTON — Good thing Case Keenum will be long gone by 2013.
UConn gave up 400+ yards passing to Pitt and Western Michigan — imagine the clinic Keenum would have put on.
From a football standpoint, the Cougars will be a breath of fresh air in a Big East conference that doesn’t exactly have many air-it-out teams, especially with West Virginia leaving.
From a basketball standpoint, Houston will likely struggle to compete: The Cougars haven’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1984. They lost 12 of their last 13 games of the 2010-11 season. Like its football team, Houston basketball has a rep for putting up — and giving up — plenty of points. Case in point: Texas State hung 50 on Houston in the first half on Tuesday.
Famous alum: Hakeem Olajuwon
SOUTHERN METHODIST – The effects of the 1987 “death penalty” appear to have finally worn off.
SMU’s football team has qualified for three straight bowl games, including this year’s BBVA Compass Bowl against Pitt. It’s run-and-shoot offense will pose matchup problems in the new league simply because most Big East teams aren’t used to that particular style.
In basketball, the transition might not be as smooth. The Mustangs, coached by former UNC coach Matt Doherty, qualified for the CIT last year, which marked their first postseason tournament since making the NIT in 2000.
To make matters worse, SMU is on NCAA probation until March 2013 for recruiting violations.
Random, but SMU has one of the nation’s premier men’s soccer programs.
Famous alum: Doak Walker
A source close to the situation indicates that the Big East is set to add Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, Houston and UCF (yes, the same UCF that dealt UConn its first loss this year).
Boise State and San Diego State will be football-only schools while the other three will be for all sports.
I’ll have a breakdown shortly.