JOE D’S NOTEBOOK January 9th
THURSDAY JANUARY 9: On our pre game interview last night, Kevin Ollie told me his Huskies had hit the “reset” button from the two losses in Texas. About 3 1/2 hours after the coach said that, his team used one last defensive stop to beat Harvard 61-56 for it’s 12th win of the season.
For the first half, UConn still looked as tight as it did in the SMU loss. Even though the Huskies show 59%, they turned the ball over 11 times and scored just 26 first half points. But much like the second half of the Houston game, they erased a deficit in the blink of an eye and eventually jumped on top by 9 before Harvard fought back.
Aesthetically, this wasn’t the prettiest game, especially in the second half when the two teams combined to shoot 27% from the floor. But give credit to two defenses that dug in and fought hard.
Harvard was without it’s top gun, Wesley Saunders, and if Saunders had played, maybe the outcome would have been different. But he didn’t and it wasn’t.
From a UConn perspective, the offense was dominated by Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright who scored 32 of the 61 points. You always look for balance in your scoring. But last night, in a game that the Huskies had to win for their self confidence,you can live with the guards dominating. Lasan Kromah got his first start as a Husky and continued to show his incredible value to the team. The fact that he played the second most minutes to Napier show how valuable the head coach thinks he is to the Huskies success.
There are still causes for concern. DeAndre Daniels had only three field goals for the fifth straight game. Omar Calhoun never got off the bench in the second half and it’s impossible to think that his confidence isn’t at an all time low. UConn needs those two players to get back to playing the way they are capable to do the type of things they want to do this season.
But last night, we saw the Huskies dig in defensively and as Ollie has said frequently, defense is what he wants this teams trademark to be.They won a game they had to win for their self confidence…And that of their fans. And they did.
Up next, Central Florida and their outstanding guard Isiah Sykes who is tied for 10th in the league in scoring and 12th in rebounding. Pre game is 5:30.
Yesterday, the media also got a chance to meet the football assistant coaches. Coach Bob Diaco introduced them individually and they were a great group to talk with. You’ll hear some of those interviews on SportsTalk Friday night at 6:35.