SUNDAY CUP O’ JOE- March 3 – A frustrating week for the UConn men’s basketball team as two winable games slipped away, leaving the Huskies still one win away from their 20th of the season and assuring them of finishing above 500 in the Big East.
There was certainly similarities in the double OT loss on Wednesday night to Georgetown and Saturday afternoon’s five point setback at Cincinnati. In both games, UConn started strong, fell behind by 12 in the second half and stormed back only to fall short. In both games, the Huskies had all sorts of problems off the defensive glass and turning the ball over. Georgetown and Cincinnati combined for 44 points off UConn turnovers and 36 second chance points. And, in both contests, late game ball handling problems helped determine the outcome. Saturday, it was a botched inbounds pass and a backcourt violation that sealed the Huskies fate. I know some people will point to Phil Nolan’s missed free throw with 20 seconds left but that’s not the reason UConn lost. In fact, I thought the play of Nolan was one of the bright spots. Eight points, seven rebounds and 26 minutes played, all career highs for the freshman from Milwaukee, far outweigh one missed free throw. Phil has been a work in progress all season and with the suspension of Enosch Wolf, he has had to step up his production. This past week, Nolan did that.
The other bright spot of the week was the breakout of De Andre Daniels. He had the Huskies first double double of the season in the Georgetown game and followed that up with a strong 18 point, 8 rebound, 3 block effort against Cincinnati. Daniels played all but two minutes in the two games and if we can finish with strong efforts in the final week of the season, it would send DeAndre into the off season with confidence.
A team that has been thin depth wise all season was even thinner on Saturday without Shabazz Napier, truly the Huskies heart and soul. When Niels Giffey left midway thru the second half with a dislocation fracture of his right index finger, that depth became negligable. We won’t know until Wednesday if either will be able to play at South Florida in what is a ridiculous 9 PM start. When a team has to travel over 2 hours to get home, and I don’t care which team, they shouldn’t have to play a 9 PM weeknight game.
As everyone expected when the schedule was announced, the conference regular season women’s title will be decided Monday night in South Bend when UConn visits Notre Dame. The Irish have had the Huskies number over the last three years including their win earlier this season. UConn can’t win with only Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Stefanie Dolson and Kelly Faris playing well. At least against the upper echelon teams and Notre Dame is an upper echelon team. Two other players have to perform well for UConn to win and clinch a tie for the regular season title. Bob Joyce and Deb Fiske will have the call from South Bend Monday night at 6:30 after our final coaches show of the regular season with Kevin Ollie.
Do I have some thoughts on what transpired this week concerning the Catholic 7? Is the Pope Catholic? I have been of a mindset since the departure was originally announced in December that the sooner the split happened the better. But I was never in favor of giving everything away, which apparantly is what will happen. I know the departing schools will reportedly leave a large chunk of money behind but who is getting that money. The majority should go to UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida, the three all sports members that have been set adrift. The basketball schedules will look much different next season if the league does break up.
And how about the arrogance of Notre Dame, saying they would be willing to join the Catholic 7 for one year before joining the ACC. The folks in South Bend do truly believe they walk on water.
When the league that UConn will join makes plans for its post season basketball tournament, the XL Center should be first in line to make a bid. Provided it can work the games around the AHL. Actually, upon further review, the Mohegan Sun Arena might be a better venue.
Jim Penders baseball team shoots for its fifth straight win in Florida today when it visits Stetson. If the Huskies weekend starting rotation of Anthony Marzi, Carson Cross and Brian Ward pitch up to expectations when conference play starts, it could be a big year for the Husky 9.
And congrats to the men’s ice hockey team for clinching a first round bye in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament after getting 3 of a possible 4 points on the final weekend against Sacred Heart. Interim head coach David Berard has done a terrific job since taking the helm after the departure of Bruce Marshall. UConn will host a best of three series in mid March at the Freitas Ice Forum. Think about turning out and rooting the Huskies on.
See you at Gampel for the home finale against Providence on Saturday at Noon.