Austrie was Austere
"We wore them out with numbers, and we wore them out with the fast break," said the UConn coach. "We didn't respond well except probably for one guy: Craig Austrie. He looked like a senior."
Indeed, while Hartford outhustled the Huskies for much of the first half, then kicked off the latter on a 10-2 run that brought them to within a single point (43-42), Austrie was a steady, calming presence. He knocked down several 15-footers, along with his usual sterling effort from the foul line (10-for-11) and finished tied for game-high scoring honors with freshman Kemba Walker with 21.
"They made a nice run in the second half, and we really exploded. Through the whole thing, Craig Austrie made me really, really happy," Calhoun said. "Instead of casting up 3's, he stepped into gaps, made the 15-footer, and that kind of got the game going a little bit."
Said Austrie: "I just want to have composure out there. A.J. is usually our general, and I just wanted to take A.J.'s role and help the freshmen out and do what I can to help this team ... As the game went on, I saw the middle wide-open. I just wanted to penetrate and get the little 15-foot jump shot going."
It wasn't only Calhoun that was singing Austrie's praises, either. Donyell and Donny Marshall each watched the game from behind the UConn bench, and both approached Austrie afterwards.
"They both came up to me and said 'That's the way to be a leader out there. That was a veteran move,'" said Austrie. "They've been there, they've been in the NBA, they’ve done it. For them to come and give me compliments is something big."
***Price participated in pregame drills and was in uniform for the game, but never played. He had suffered a high ankle sprain in Friday night's win over Western Carolina and hadn't practiced the past two days. And with UConn set to play three games in four days in the Paradise Jam beginning Friday ...
"The decision was, 'Do we take a chance on having that high ankle sprain get worse for the three games coming up?'" said Calhoun. "I felt at no time was it worth it. The only way I probably would have considered it, because he would have given it a go, was if we got down points and felt we really needed him. But I think it really wouldn't make sense with three games in four days."
Walker filled in swimmingly, nailing a pair of second-half 3-pointers and finishing with 21.
"A.J. gave me a chance to start," Walker said. "It definitely felt good."
***It continues to be a struggle for freshman Scottie Haralson. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts in six minutes of action Monday and -- including a pair of exhibition games -- is now 1-for-15 from the floor this season, 1-for-14 from 3-point land.
He drew Calhoun's wrath several times Monday night, at one point even being pulled and replaced by walk-on Johnnie Bird (if only for seven seconds).
"There's one guy that's really happy that Scott's on the team: Gavin Edwards," Calhoun said with a wry smile. "Instead of me just getting on Gavin now, we get on Scott. It's Scott's year. The happiest guy is Gavin Edwards. He's really, really happy. I can see it. When Scottie fell down and rolled over, which was one of my favorite moments of the night, I'm trying to encourage him as much as I could, and I saw a little smile out of Gavin."
***The Huskies will leave for the Paradise Jam on Wednesday but will stay overnight in Atlanta before flying down to St. Thomas Thursday morning. They're expected to land around 2:30 p.m.
***Did I used the word "austere" correctly in the title of this post?