JOE D’S NOTEBOOK January 31st
FRIDAY, JANUARY 31: Trying to figure out sports is sometimes impossible. On New Years Eve, without 2 injured starers, Houston shocked UConn 77-74 in the AAC opener. Then last night, with those two starters back and UConn missing it’s second leading scorer, the Huskies ran roughshod over the Cougars in an 80-43 win that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.
It’s too easy to say that home court was worth 40 points in the Huskies favor. Houston played extremely well the first time but not even close to as well as Connecticut played last night. Offensively, UConn made 23 of its first 40 shots, and 6 of their first 10 from three point range. They crashed the boards with abandon and defensively, they stuck Houston in a vice that the Cougars never escaped from. They made TaShawn Thomas who torched them for 23 in December into a non factor,his first game this year in single digits. Houston was an identical 9 for 33 from the floor in each half. UConn had more first half field goals than Houston had for the entire game The Huskies 55 rebounds were the most they’ve had in a game this season.
The story offensively for me was Phil Nolan. The sophomore from Milwaukee had 10 first half points, including eight in an early 10-4 run. He also had seven rebounds and played with a fire rarely seen. Nolan was starting to play well at the end of December but got sick on that Texas road trip and took three weeks to regain his sea legs. Between Nolan, Amidah Brimah, Tyler Olander and Kenton Facey, UConn is starting to develop a corps of big men who all offer something different.
Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey and Lasan Kromah were their usual dependable selves, combining for 51 points. They more than made up for the abscence of DeAndre Daniels. The Huskies need a healthy Daniels next Thursday when they go to Cincinnati so the decision to rest his high ankle sprain was a good one.
Now, a week off for the Huskies, a chance to recharge their engines and get set for the final third of the season which includes two games with Cincinnati, one apiece with Louisville and Memphis and two separate trips to Florida.