Welcome to the Jungle
Is it too simplistic to say that UConn's somewhat uninspired practice on Sunday rolled over into tonight's Big East season-opener with Georgetown? Maybe. But while Jim Calhoun didn't hark back to yesterday's practice at all, his harping on the Huskies' penchant for taking too many stretches off in games, no matter the opponent, certainly rang true tonight.
"I hated our body language early," Calhoun said. "For fleeting minutes, I liked it. And I detested it in the last eight minutes. With eight minutes to go we were down, like, 12 (actually 11), and I didn't like looking at my team. It's the first time all year I can tell you that."
Here's the deal: the Huskies were not good tonight. Calhoun didn't want to talk about any individual player, saying no one on his team played particularly well, and he was right. (The closest he came to complimenting anyone was A.J. Price, who played with some pep and netted a team-high 16 points).
But here's the other deal: these Hoyas are good. Real good. They play rock-solid, tough defense. That wins games, particularly in the rough-and-tumble Big East. They play a very disciplined, effective offense, and -- at least on Monday -- they make their shots (47 percent).
Hard to believe they were picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches' poll, though it's hard to imagine freshman Greg Monroe could be this good. Monroe totally schooled Hasheem Thabeet tonight, scoring 16 points on a variety of spin moves, reverse layups and even 3-pointers (2-for-2). He even doled out four assists and had three steals, picking Price's pocket near midcourt early on and soaring in for a layup while being fouled.
Thabeet? Four points on 2-for-4 shooting. Had a meaningless dunk with 2 1/2 minutes left, and even failed to complete the three-point play. Sure, he blocked seven shots and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. But who do you think the 31 NBA scouts in attendance thought should be the lottery pick after tonight, Monroe or Thabeet?
After practice on Sunday, Thabeet was asked a few times about Monroe but didn't want to address him specifically, instead praising the whole Hoya team. It was more of the same after tonight's game.
What did you think about Monroe?, he was asked.
"The whole Georgetown team came out and played good," Thabeet responded.
He was pressed: How about Monroe specifically, were you impressed?
Thabeet sat silently for a few moments, then finally -- quietly -- acknowledged, "Yeah, he's good."
Maybe Jeff Adrien's comments were most telling: "I played against Greg this summer, I know what he's capable of doing. I don't know if Hasheem was surprised, but I definitely wasn't surprise. I knew he was a very good player."
Not that the rest of the Huskies come away unscathed. Jerome Dyson simply didn't show up, going 1-for-10 from the floor for four points along with four turnovers. Craig Austrie also had just four points and nary a steal or assist. Kemba Walker scored 14 off the bench but had four turnovers and zero -- yup, the bagel -- assists. Stanley Robinson (four points, three turnovers) and Gavin Edwards (two points, one rebound) were hardly noticed.
Adrien played reasonably well with 15 points, though just five boards. At one point he scored six straight Husky points on a putback, a short bank and a lefty layup to bring UConn to within four (49-45) with 11:36 left. Georgetown countered with a 21-8 run, emphatically capped by a DaJuan Summers two-handed, putback jam with 4:06 left.
Game, set, match.
Calhoun was visibly upset in the postgame press conference, not only with his team. A sampling:
Calhoun: "I want to thank our fans for trying to help us bring back into the game that they seemed to want more than we did. Congratulations to Georgetown. Quite frankly, a lot of things that happened tonight I never could have or would have expected."
Reporter: "Could you repeat that last statement?"
Calhoun (before she could finish her question): "No."
Reporter: "Coach, what do you think happened to Hasheem ..."
Calhoun: "I'm not gonna comment on any player. You saw what you saw ... The freshman played great."
Calhoun: "I do know his name. I actually did see him in scouting."
It was that kind of night.
THE HUSKIES, HOYAS BY NUMBERS:
***Georgetown shot 18-for-21 from the foul line and swished their final 18 of the game.
***UConn turned the ball over 17 times and had a mere six assists.
***The Hoyas shot 50 percent from both the floor (16-for-32) and 3-point range (4-for-8) in the opening half and shot 47.2 percent from the floor for the game.
***Surprisingly, UConn shot 44.9 percent from the floor, but on just 49 shots.
Here's a gimmie: Who sang "Welcome to the Jungle"?