Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chart Toppers

So where do we start?

Hasheem Thabeet's triple-double (15 points, 11 boards, 10 blocks), just the seventh in UConn men's hoop history and 13th by any player in a Big East game?

Thabeet's 10 blocks, tying his own school record he shares with Donyell Marshall and Emeka Okafor?

UConn's 20-0, game-deciding run? A.J. Price's game-high 19 points (seemingly all of them stopping any kind of PC momentum)? Price's 1,000th career point? Stanley Robinson's long-awaited, season-high 18-point effort? UConn's 17 blocked shots, tied for the second-highest single-game total in school history?

Nah. The most relevant number of the night after UConn's 94-61 whitewash of nemesis Providence tonight? No. 1. That's where the number that will be affixed next to UConn's name on Monday afternoon, when the AP Top 25 poll is released. Just don't tell that to Jim Calhoun.

"We're not No. 1, and I don't plan on reading any papers or the polls until 9 p.m. on Monday night, so I have no idea what you're talking about," he quipped.

Calhoun quickly added: "What is it? It's just a number that goes by quickly. But if there's 343 teams in the country, and at some point in the season – especially 21 games into the season – someone says you're the best team in the country, it's nice. No more, no less. The meaning of it for NCAA purposes or Big East purposes is not significant, but … being No. 1 in the country – will I use it a little bit for the first time (for motivation)? I might. You don't want to be No. 1 for a day."

That will essentially be the case if UConn doesn't handle business against No. 7 Louisville Monday night at Freedom Hall.

"A lot of teams have lost the No. 1 (ranking), but we haven't had our chance to defend that spot," Price pointed out. "We're really focused on Louisville right now. I think the Big East standings right now are more important than being the No. 1 team."

And in those standings, the Huskies (20-1 overall, 9-1 Big East) are actually third – behind Marquette and Louisville (both 8-0 in league play).

"That shows how deep this league is," said PC coach Keno Davis.

"It's a nice feeling for the moment right now, but we really want to be No. 1 at the end of the year," said Jeff Adrien. "We'll enjoy it, it will be great … we're excited, and we're ready for a new challenge."

***If it seemed the Huskies played with a little more fire than usual on Saturday, particularly Price and Adrien – well, they did.

After canning a 3-pointer at one point in the latter half, Price shouted something out while shaking his head, as if in disbelief of his own hot shooting.

Said Price: "Coach got up and yelled, 'He got hit.' I just told him, 'It doesn't matter, Coach. It doesn't matter.' That's how I was feeling at that point. We were riding a wave, and we were determined not to lose this game."

A lot of it had to do with the history between UConn and Providence. When the Friars beat the Huskies last year in Hartford, UConn players took exception to their excessive celebration. They swore revenge later in the season at Providence, but the Friars won that one, too.

Gavin Edwards noticed that Price was a little more amped up than usual.

"Probably just because it was Providence, and he just wanted to smack them," Edwards said. "There was bad blood between us."

Adrien and PC's Jon Kale were each hit with a technical foul with 50 seconds left in the first half.

"I was just talking to my boy, Jon," Adrien insisted. "We played AAU basketball, we kind of grew up together. We were just talking, and the ref decided to give us a 'T'. There was no trash-talking or anything like that."

***Thabeet's left shoulder, originally injured against St. John's, flared up on him in today's game. Calhoun used it to motivate Thabeet, in a way only Calhoun could.

"I said (to Thabeet), 'Let's operate (on the shoulder) right now.' He (got) so (upset) at me that he took it out on Providence."

***Here are the seven triple-doubles in UConn history:

Player Date, Opponent Stats
Hasheem Thabeet 1/31/09 vs. Providence 15p, 11r, 10b
Marcus Williams 2/21/06 vs. Notre Dame 18p, 10r, 13a
Ben Gordon 12/20/03 vs. Iona 17p, 16r, 11a
Emeka Okafor 12/6/03 vs. Army 18p, 15r, 10b
Caron Butler 12/26/00 vs. URI 14p, 12r, 11a
Doron Sheffer 12/30/95 vs. Hartford 10p, 10r, 11a
Donyell Marshall 1/17/94 vs. Hartford 23p, 11r, 10b

***For what it's worth, Calhoun is picking the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl.

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