Friday, February 06, 2009


Couple of interesting items from our meeting with UConn players (Jeff Adrien and A.J. Price) and Jim Calhoun prior to their 3:30 p.m. practice today. The Huskies face Michigan tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Gampel.

***The Huskies aren't dwelling on all the national attention they've been getting since reaching No. 1 in the polls and thrashing Louisville at Freedom Hall Monday night. In fact, they've received this kind of overwhelming attention before.
"When we were losing (two years ago)," according to Adrien. "It was like, 'What's wrong with UConn?' We don’t let it get to our heads. We just go out there, do what we do, play great basketball and great defense."

***After playing three games in five days (two on the road) the Huskies got Tuesday off before returning to practice Wednesday. Jerome Dyson sat out of Wednesday's practice due to some bumps and bruises. Ater Majok will get an MRI on both knees due to some swelling that Calhoun attributes to "overuse."

Added Price: "You'd much rather have it the way it is now, though. The recognition is nice to have, it gives you something to work for. It makes you more motivated to work harder, because everybody's coming for that top spot."

***If you've noticed a bit of a kindler, gentler Calhoun on the sidelines lately, you're right. Calhoun has been giving this group a lot more rope, a product, obviously, of their 21-1 record, as well as the veteran nature of the team.

"Doron Sheffer, Khalid on offense, and a few other players who have come in here have made it easy to trust them," Calhoun said. "Ray (Allen) … Rip (Hamilton) wasn't ready probably until his sophomore year. It takes time. Coaches, players and teams develop confidence. When you've won 21 out of 22 games, you should develop some belief … I do have a lot more trust and faith (in this team). A lot of these guys are the same guys from last year, and a heck of a lot more than their freshman/sophomore years, (when) it was impossible to get their trust because they had just begun, they were so young."

Added Price: "It really helps us in practice when we're on a roll like this. He's less grueling on us. He understands we, as a veteran team, kind of know what to do now. It's a great tribute to him acknowledging that."

***Calhoun was (jokingly) asked by a reporter how his team has the fewest fouls called against them despite having the coach that complains the most.

"I've had one technical called against me all year," he said, apparently not detecting the sarcasm.
(Actually, we don't believe Calhoun has been 'T'd up at all so far this season)

***Adrien needs 14 rebounds to become the sixth member of UConn's 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound club and just the second in Jim Calhoun's 23 seasons. Emeka Okafor is the only other.

"I'm kind of speechless, to be mentioned with Emeka Okafor in that sense," Adrien said. "When I came to visit here, it was my dream school, I never really thought I could get here. Finally, I just played great at the Peach Jam, and they offered me a scholarship. Now, to be in a sentence with Emeka Okafor as a 1,000-1,000 player, it's kind of amazing. It shows I've come a long way."

***Both Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet have also been nominated for the prestigious Wooden Award.

"It's cool, it's a great award," Adrien said. "A lot of great players have won it."

***The Huskies went 0-for-8 on 3-pointers in the win over Louisville. Last prior time they'd notched a win without benefit of a trey? Jan. 17, 2005, when they went 0-for-6 from beyond the arc in a win over Seton Hall.

***As for Michigan (15-8, 5-6 Big 10), they had a nice, comeback win over Penn State last night. The Wolverines were down by three early in the latter half before abandoning their 1-3-1 zone for straight-up man, and wound up winning by 20 (71-51). They've also got wins over Duke, UCLA and Illinois this year, but had dropped two straight and five of their prior six before the win over Penn State.

It'll be a contrast in styles as the Wolverines (like virtually every other Big 10 team) prefers to work the shot clock down and keep the score in the 60's.

Calhoun likes the fact the fact that his team has faced so many different styles this season, believing it will help them come March.

"I really believe that it prepares you … you just don't want the price to get too high, and it takes an awful lot out of you. It always seems we're preparing for something different – different location, different kind of team. We just got off a team that wants to make the game up and down, as quick as they can, all kinds of pressure. Now we're playing a team that wants to keep the game a lot more halfcourt than we'd like to."

***Couple of quotes from Michigan coach John Beilein, courtesy of UM's basketball media relations guy:

On what he knows about Connecticut (following last night's win over Penn State): "I haven't watched one second of them yet, I'm sure that I will be immersed in it from hereuntil we get on the plane tomorrow. Obviously they are a tremendous teamand we are honored to play them."

On how the game came to be scheduled in February: "We wanted a secondhalf game. We said that if we end up going to the Coaches vs. Cancer(finals), we are really crowded with exams (in the fall semester). Wefelt that second semester we have two bye weeks (in conference), let'sput it in there. Unfortunately, the Big Ten scheduled a Thursday game(against Penn State), it should have been a Tuesday or Wednesday game,but once it was scheduled we couldn't change it."

On his experience against Connecticut while at West Virginia: "Theyare usually so athletic and they play great defense, great pressuredefense and you have to be really sharp to even be able to throw a passagainst them. They always have great talent and they always rebound theball very well. I can't believe Jeff Adrien is still there, I can'tbelieve it, it seems like he has been there forever."

***Manny being Manny. UM top scorer Manny Harris scored 28 Thursday against Penn State and is still awaiting word on whether he'll be suspended for elbowing Purdue's Chris Kramer in the face on Jan. 31. It doesn't appear that, if a suspension comes down, it will be for tomorrow night's game.

***Adrien was sporting a Los Angeles Dodgers cap prior to practice. Has the Brookline, Mass. resident switched allegiances from the Red Sox?

"No," he said. "I just like the color."


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