JOE D’S NOTEBOOK
SUNDAY CUP O’ JOE- February 24. Another road game, another win for the UConn men on Saturday night in suburban Chicago. Should the Huskies beat DePaul. Yes, they should. And except for one time,they always do. But this year, nothing is certain for this edition of the Huskies. Except they will always play hard. And that was never more evident than the final 20 minutes last night when UConn poured in 47 points to pull away for an 81-69 win/
When Worrel Clahar scored the first hoop of the second half to put DePaul up five, there was no panic, no additional level of stress. UConn just kept playing hard and eventually took charge thanks to a 28-7 run that turned a one point deficit into a blow out. It was typical UConn 2013 edition. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright led the way, Omar Calhoun played best supporting actor and Neils Giffeye, Phil Nolan, Tyler Olander and Phil Nolan all contributed.
Napier was terrific again with 28 points, his second straight 20 point game. Otto Porter of Georgetown is probably the BigEast player of the year but Shabazz isn’t far behind. His overtime numbers have been well documented. But his ability to score, rebound, defend, or set up his teammates over the entire game can’t be underestimated. He’s played better than anyone could have expected. Napier is at least a first team all Big East pick.
Boatright enjoyed his homecoming immensely. He bounced back from two sub par scoring games to play a terrific all around game. His fast break, behind the back pass for Calhoun for a layup was highlight reel material. Boatright plays with an enthusiasm that has rubbed off on his teammates.
Calhoun continues to mature. After struggling at the offensive end with his injured wrist against Cincinnati, Calhoun was back to his normal game on Saturday. Kevin Ollie has talked about his defensive play all season long. But his rebounding, leadership and improvement in all facets of his game has been impressive.
With four game left in the season, it’s time to recognize just how good a job Kevin Ollie has done in his first year as a head coach. On the verge of finishing above 500 in the Big East and winning 20 games , KO’s most impressive job has been the intensity level he has gotten this team to play with each and every game. Take away the second half of the Louisville game and the first half of the road games at Pittsburgh and St.John’s.and this team has been competitive from start to finish. The players believe in Kevin and he has shown his constant confidence in them. I am still a skeptic that because UConn is ineligible for the Big East tournament, it will be hard for the Huskies to win individual honors. But show me another coach in the conference who has gotten more out of his players than Kevin.
Wednesday should be a terrific atmosphere at Gampel. Georgetown, coming off their impressive win at Syracuse, will come in as the league leader. Porter is the best player in the league this season. The atmosphere should be electric.
BTW, several people who sat in front of the DePaul student section on Saturday night, talked about the vile language coming out of the students during the game. There is NO place for that in college athletics. Hopefully. the crowd on Wednesday doesn’t resort to the type of behaviour we hear at DePaul or Providence,. Catholic 7 indeed.
Here was an unbeatable combination on Saturday. The UConn women never lose two in a row, never lose on Senior Day and never lose to Seton Hall. So the 90-30 result shouldn’t surprise anyone. It was a nice touch by Geno Auriemma to start Heather Buck in her final regular season home game. Mike DiMauro of The Day of New London has a terrific column on Buck in Sunday’s paper. The real challenge for UConn is a week from Monday at Notre Dame. We may know more about the Huskies credentials to win their 8th national championship after that 40 minutes.
You may have read that ESPN has matched NBC’s offer to the Big East to retain their TV rights. On paper, seems great. But to me, it would have been better to be headed to NBC, and not just because I draw a check from them. On NBC and the fledgling NBC Sports Network, the Big East would have been a feature attraction. On ESPN, they will become just another piece of programming. More 9 PM Monday Night games on ESPNU, more football games on Thursdays and Fridays, just another piece of programming.
Even though it’s only exhibition play, it’s great to see baseball, whether it’s the Yankees, Red Sox or Mets. It means summer can’t be far behind.
Kevin Ollie on SportsTalk Tuesday Night at 6, then the Women against Pittsburgh. The Men against Georgetown on Wednesday at 6:30 and Geno Auriemma on Friday Night at 6. Hope you can join us.