JOE D’S NOTEBOOK 12/19/2013
THURSDAY, DEC 19: Living on the edge finally caught up to the UConn Men’s Basketball team on Wednesday Night. After having won four games by one or two points, the Huskies weren’t able to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat against Stanford, losing 53-51 for their first loss of the season.
The fact the game was still winnable at game’s end was something of a surprise, considering how the Cardinal dominated the final 17 minutes. After Neils Giffey gave UConn it’s biggest lead of the night at 43-30, Stanford outscored Connecticut 23-8.The Huskies scored only four hoops in the final 16:48, missing astonishing 23 shots during that stretch. And it wasn’t just three point shots that went awry, it was layups and in one instance a dunk. Yes, give the Cardinal defense credit. The 2-3 zone caused UConn havoc. The Huskies didn’t move the ball, didn’t find the open seams at the elbow and the foul line and had little or no penetration.
The individual shooing stats for the final 20 minutes tell the story. Shabazz was 2-10, Ryan Boatwright 0-5, Omar Calhoun 0-4. De Andre Daniels had only 3 field goal attempts after intermission and one was a tip in so in reality, he had only two shots. It was an unprecedented offensive meltdown.
The UConn defense was terrific, holding Stanford some 28 points under its season average. The Cardinal shot 40% from outside the arc and 33 percent from inside. Truth be told, on this night UConn was still lucky to be in the game with a chance to win it. But they were.
And in case you think Stanford might have exposed UConn to being vulnerable against a 2-3 zone, not many other teams the Huskies will play this year will be as long and athletic as the Cardinal. Nobody realistically thought UConn would run the table but to have a 13 point second half lead and see it fade away was shocking.
By the time you read this, the Huskies will have settled in in suburban Seattle to prepare for Sunday’s match with Washington. The West Coast Huskies are 6-4 and boast one of the Pac 12’s best players in 6’5 C.J.Wilcox who averages just under 21 points per game. It is UConn’s first true road game of the season and it’s a nightmare for UW play by play man Bob Rondeau and myself. We can’t say the word Huskies at all since no one will know which team we are referring to. Our coverage begins at 3:30 or as soon as the women’s game with California ends. Bob and Deb start their broadcast from MSG at 1 pm.
Permit me to get a little personal here. I had the chance to talk or text with four of the football assistant coaches who were let go earlier this week as Bob Diaco assembles his staff. It’s part of the business but it’s an awful part. All these men have families and to lose their job right before Christmas is tough. But that’s what makes coaching such a difficult business. T.J.Weist was terrific to deal with from the moment he was hired last winter. Shane Day and Kermit Buggs and Shane Fogarty were friendly and helpful. When Darrel Perkins was hired three years ago, I was one of the first people he met on campus , Perk reminded me of that on the phone today. I have known Jon Wholley since he was a player early in the Randy Edsall era . Recruiting assistant Dave Wilczewski has been a great friend for 10 years. The graduate assistants, particularly Jordan Orlovsky have been terrific to work with. And Hank Hughes has spent the last 13 years as an assistant and has been a friend and a great source of information. You can’t help but wish these men well and thank them for their service to the athletes.
Having said that, it’s no surprise Mike Foley was the one assistant retained. You didn’t have to be Amos Alonzo Stagg to see the improvement in the offensive line after he took it over a month into the season. And like his assistant brethren, Mike is as good as guy as their is on campus.
Enjoy your UConn-centric Sunday and Wayne and I will talk to you from the Pacific Northwest.