Friday, December 26, 2008

The Hash & Jeff Show

The stars of the show tonight were Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, who combined for "what, 1,000 (points) and 1,000 (rebounds)?," according to Fairfield coach Ed Cooley.

Actually, it was 41 points and 25 boards, as well as eight blocks, but Cooley's point is well-taken. The Stags simply had no one to match up with Thabeet's height or Adrien's muscle.

"Against Gonzaga, our outside players were just absolutely sensational," said Jim Calhoun. "Tonight, against Fairfield, our inside players were sensational -- our outside players were O.K."

Calhoun would like to see the two mesh -- quickly -- as Big East play kicks off Monday night against Georgetown.

"We're going to need that backcourt and frontcourt to match up together to have the type of games we're capable of," he noted.

***One backcourt player did have a strong game. Freshman Kemba Walker scored nine points (all in the second half) to go with four dimes and a steal in 22 minutes of action. Nothing that jumps off the stat sheet at you, but certainly a vast improvement from his prior three games, when he managed just one field goal and went completely scoreless against Gonzaga.

What did Walker do tonight that he hadn't been doing for the past month or so?

"Playing," said Calhoun. "When he goes straight ahead right at you, he's a son of a gun. He's windshield wiping early, not going at you. When he goes at you, he's pretty tough. And once he made a shot, his defense got much better on (Jonathan) Han. We need his quickness, coming up."

Walker agreed with Calhoun that tonight was an "important" game for him.

"I played fast, got some assists, just trying to get back in my groove. It kind of gave me a little bit of confidence, trying to get my game back to how I was playing at the beginning of the season. I had a coupole of bad games and kind of lost confidence a little bit."

***By far the most comical moment of the night came with about eight minutes left, when Adrien attempted a 3-pointer. Although he is just 1-for-5 on 3's for his career, it was a wide-open look that seemed reasonable enough to take. But when the shot misfired, Calhoun popped off the bench and immediately called for Gavin Edwards to replace Adrien. That prompted laughter from just about everyone in the building -- the crowd of 13,771, all of press row, even Edwards -- except for Calhoun.

"At what points are (we) going to take off in the Georgetown game?" he asked afterwards. "Jeff's three, giving Hasheem the ball when Stanley's down the court, giving Hasheem a good chance of maybe getting him an ACL or something by giving him a pass at the top of the key, Jerome's two forays, one a runner from the top of the key – those kind of things. That's a coach being a coach and dissecting a team. But in order to be a team that we're capable of being, we have to play 40 minutes."

Tough to please, indeed.

Adrien, sporting a Mohawk, said Calhoun "asked what I was thinking. No response by me. It felt good, it looked good, just a little more arc and it would have been a swish."

***Impressive state of the night: 10 of UConn's 31 field goals were dunks, six of them on alley-oops. Even more impressive: the Huskies had 22 assists on their 31 field goals, led by Jerome Dyson (six assists), A.J. Price (five) and Walker (four).

***Cooley was very impressed -- even a bit shell-shocked -- after watching UConn.

"They're clearly the best team we've played this year, and I don't even think it's close," said Cooley, whose Stags have also played Memphis, Virginia Tech and Missouri. "They're a very, very good team. They show poise, they show confidence. Woe. It was a physical, physical game, and we didn't match their physicality.

"I will now cheer for them to go on and win a national championship."

***Stanley Robinson had a quiet night -- six points, three dimes, a block -- in 16 minutes of action in his third game back.

"I think he's trying to fit in soft, quiet," said Calhoun. "Our job the next couple of days is to get him a little noisier. I don't mean soft playing, he doesn't play soft. He just doesn't want to make ripples, and that would go along with his personality.

***Donnell Beverly warmed up with the team in pre-game and was with the team in the locker room afterwards. However, he was missing from the bench for most, if not all, of the contest. Word is he was feeling a bit under the weather, and it wasn't anything disciplinary.

***No. 2 UConn and No. 12 Georgetown kick off the entire Big East conference slate Monday at 7 p.m. at the XL Center.

"We have 19 Big East games – I'm including Michigan as a Big East game, because they're as good as anyone in our league," said Calhoun. "We have 19 wars starting on Monday."

Added Dyson: "I think we're ready. We've played a lot of real good teams. If we do all the things we need to do, we shouldn't have any (problems). Every night's going to be a battle. Everybody in the Big East is good enough to beat anybody."

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