JOE D’S NOTEBOOK 12/4/2013
WEDNESDAY, 12-4 … It’s a day and a half later but Monday’s UConn-Florida game at Gampel still resonates, at least with Husky Nation. The scintillating 65-64 win MAY have been the best home game in the 24 year history of the building. That is up for discussion and you are welcome to give me your thoughts by tweeting me @JoeDSports.
There can be no discussion that Shabazz Napier has moved into the pantheon of greatest clutch players in UConn history. He has risen into first name status like Ray, Rip and Kemba. Bazz has a flair for the dramatic, he has had it since he walked on campus in the fall of 2010. But now, his ability to take over games and seize the moment is as good as anyone to have worn the National Flag Blue and White. And it’s not just the last shot, it’s the final 10-15 minutes. Napier is unique in his ability to understand what his team needs at different times of the game. And his leadership, which was questioned during a rocky sophmore year, has come 180 degrees. Maturity will do that for a player.
The winning play was made by a tip from DeAndre Daniels after Napier missed the initial shot. Daniels kept the ball alive and it went to Napier for the gamer. Florida Coach Billy Donovan called it a “fluke” play. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, eh Coach? Daniels also had another good game for the Huskies and continues to develop the consistency he needs to be an elite player. And even though his stats would indicate otherwise, I think Tyler Olander came in and played some good interior defense when his younger teammates could not.
But Florida showed a potential game plan for beating the Huskies. They are long and athletic and when they played their 1-3-1 trap, they made it difficult for UConn to get clean looks from the perimeter. Of course, there aren’t many teams on the Huskies schedule who boast that kind of size and athleticism. And the slump of Omar Calhoun continues with just two points and just 15 minutes played. It’s the first time in his career that Calhoun has gone five straight games without scoring in double figures and he needs to find a way to break out of his slump. Up next, the final game before exams on Friday night against old friend Ted Woodward and Maine at the XL Center.
And the curtain comes down on the UConn football season Saturday against Memphis. Two straight wins have the Huskies feeling much better about themselves and while a win Saturday won’t take away the sting of a disappointing season, it would be a nice way for the 14 seniors to go out. Casey Cochran has gotten better with each game and frankly his performance against Rutgers was the best by a UConn quarterback in several years. Is he the long term answer at quarterback? That depends on who takes over as the head coach. Warde Manuel is keeping his cards close to the vest on that subject and any speculation out there about who will be the new coach is just that, speculation. Time will tell.
It would be a nice gesture by the Husky fans to be in their seats for the senior ceremony on Saturday, getting into the Rent by 12:30 would be good timing.
And good luck to Coach Ray Reid and the UConn men’s soccer team has it heads to Virginia for Friday’s NCAA quarterfinal game. Knocking off the top seed in UCLA has established the Huskies as a legitimate contender for the National Championship and with an elite keeper in Andre Blake, anything is possible.