Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Law Offices of Adrien, Thabeet & Robinson

It sounded funny coming out of Jim Calhoun's mouth, if for no other reason than he usually refers to his players by their first names.

"You think about it: Adrien, Thabeet and Robinson – there can't be too many better threesomes in the Big East that can rebound the ball better than they can," Calhoun said.

Indeed, the law offices of Adrien, Thabeet & Robinson were certainly street legal off the boards tonight, combining for 35 rebounds in the Huskies' 61-55 win over West Virginia. Overall, the Huskies outrebounded WVU by a 52-33 count, enough to overcome poor first-half shooting and some sketchy execution (18 turnovers) throughout.

"They're a foot taller than us," WVU coach Bob Huggins bemoaned.

Well, yes and no. Kemba Walker, all 6-foot-1 (if that) of him, grabbed eight rebounds tonight. As Calhoun pointed out: "We're a big team, without being big. We have (7-foot-3) Hasheem, but right after that, you go right back down, we're small."

The X factor, of course, is Robinson. At 6-foot-9, he allows the Huskies to be far bigger at the three-spot than when they were going with a three-guard lineup earlier in the season.

"And that changes the game," Calhoun noted. "Plus he plays big. He plays so high above the rim, he bothers an awful lot of shots. He gives us a whole different look."

Indeed, as Calhoun added, "We don't win (tonight) without him."

No, they don't. Robinson grabbed 15 of those rebounds, a career-high. He scored just seven points (3-for-7 shooting, including a pair of tip-ins) but also blocked three shots and doled out four assists. The athleticism and energy he brings to this team is immeasurable.

Most impressively, Robinson – who missed the season's first eight games for personal reasons and was making just his second start – played nearly all 40 minutes of the game.

"I'm tired right now," he said afterwards, "but if we had to go do it again, I'd do it."

Adrien played well tonight, scoring 13 of his game-high 17 points in the latter half. Thabeet had 13 points and 13 boards, to go with three blocks. Jerome Dyson had 11 points, including a high runner off the glass on a clear-out with 35 seconds left that put UConn up by four. Kemba Walker had 10 points on 2-for-8 shooting and didn't have an assist, but played well enough as A.J. Price struggled through one of the worst nights of his career.

Price missed all nine of his shots and had just one point and two assists to go with two turnovers.

"A.J. didn't really have a good game tonight, so I had to back him up," Walker said. "Coach was confident enough to have me in the game at the end. I tried to just do what I do."

***During the postgame presser, a West Virginia writer's cell phone went off -- twice -- while Calhoun spoke (the ring was to the tune of a TV show theme, I believe, but I can't quite place which one). Anyway, it was real annoying, but Calhoun ignored it, soldiered on and delivered his answer.

No big deal, maybe, but if the same thing had happened during a Terry Francona press conference, Francona would have stopped, given the dirtiest look imaginable to the offending writer, moaned, groaned and basically completely overreact to the admittedly annoying yet minor distraction. And they say Francona is a nice guy while Calhoun is tough to deal with. For the most part, I've found the exact opposite to be true.

Some numbers to chew on:

***UConn shot just 9-for-32 (28 percent) in the first half but went 12-for-21 (57 percent) in the latter.

***West Virginia shot just 30 percent from the floor form the game and just 25 percent (9-for-36) in the second half.

***The Mountaineers didn't score at all over the final 2:27, despite some good looks from top scorer Alex Ruoff. Ruoff shot just 4-for-16 (2-for-11 on 3-pointers) and finished with 13 points as Dyson continues to emerge as a top-notch, shutdown defender.

***The game had 12 lead changes and eight ties.

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