STORRS, Conn. (November 5, 2008) -- Junior center Hasheem Thabeet (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania) scored 21 points to lead four teammates in double figure scoring as No.2-ranked Connecticut opened up exhibition play with an 83-58 victory over American International College Wednesday evening before a crowd of 9,419 at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.
Thabeet made all nine of his field goal attempts, yanked down 10 rebounds and blocked six shots in dominating the smaller Yellow Jacket frontline. He helped the Huskies to a 44-25 rebounding advantage, including 12 on the offensive end.
The Huskies struggled to find their rhythm in the early part of the contest, battling to a 7-7 tie five minutes in. Connecticut scored the next seven points on a Kemba Walker (Bronx, N.Y.) three-pointer and two free throws and a lay-up by Craig Austrie (Stamford, Conn.). After Lucius Millinder hit a three-pointer for AIC, the Huskies scored the next seven points to open up a 21-10 advantage and Connecticut was on its way. The Huskies enjoyed a 40-20 lead at intermission.
Gavin Edwards (Gilbert, Ariz.) had a terrific game off of the bench scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 15 productive minutes. Senior Jeff Adrien (Brookline, Mass.) had 13 points and six rebounds and added two blocked shots.
Austrie finished with 11 points and six assists, while Walker had an auspicious debut at Connecticut with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists while committing no turnovers in 22 minutes of action.
Senior A.J. Price (Amityville, N.Y.) chipped in with eight points and four rebounds.
The Huskies shot 54% from the field during the contest, and out-scored the Yellow Jackets in the paint 44-20. In addition, Connecticut had a 22-3 advantage on second-chance points.
Isiah Wallace led AIC with 16 points.
Connecticut will conclude the exhibition portion of their 2008-2009 season on Sunday, November 9 when they play host to UMass-Lowell at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. Tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m. The contest will not be televised, but it can be heard on the UConn Radio Network. In addition, the game is available via streaming video on Huskies All-Access by AT&T at uconnhuskies.com
Head Coach Jim Calhoun
Kemba showed us that we can fast break….Beyond poise, he shows some enthusiasm. We haven’t seen a young kid come in – you can just feel the enthusiasm which he plays with, which I think gets the team going…. We think he’ll make more shots in a game than he will in drills, because he’s a gamer, and he wants to play games.
I thought Craig played very, very well….It’s good to see Craig come out and play the way he did, and answer the kind of challenge I gave him a week ago.
I didn’t think AJ played well. He didn’t get the ball up the court the way he’s supposed to. Maybe he’s feeling his way through. We’ll see how it develops.
Jerome passed the ball well, but didn’t really attack the way I expect him to.
Jeff Adrien was fair, at best.
Once he stopped putting it down, he did what he was supposed to do….They do look for him a lot and hopefully we’ll get better ways to get him the basketball.
Gavin gave us some mobility and flexibility, defensively particularly.
We need to run. When we run, we’re pretty good. Kemba gets us running. I thought Craig attacked really well.
First, we didn’t run the whole game. Second, we held them to 20 points in the first half. There’s no reason we couldn’t do the same thing in the second half. We should have worn them out.
And for us to be good, we need to focus. Right now, because we’re not particularly big.
We need to get everybody…with a white uniform to lock in. We didn’t get that tonight.
We’re trying to come out here and do the little things Coach tells us to do in practice. Today we tried to play as much defense as we could in the first half. We let up a little bit in the second half and Coach called a timeout and told us we had to pick it up on defense.
We’ve been playing against each other since last year, so now we’re trying to get the feel of playing against other people.
On the alley-oops with Kemba Walker
The guys now realize I can actually catch the ball that high and finish it up.
How is the knee?
No after effects. It feels pretty good. I’m continuing to do rehab and strengthen it every single day. Nothing comes easy without hard work, and I’m willing to put in that hard work. We’ll see where the knee takes us this year.
On hitting your first shot – a 3 pointer
It was like the final statement that ‘he’s back, he’s here and the season’s underway.’
On the play of the others who played point guard, especially Kemba Walker
It might be hard for me to get assists with those guys dishing it out. I was just out there filling the lanes and being another person to get the ball to.
We have a lot of potential. As long as we play to our ability, we can do good things.
You’re picked second in the conference. Does it seem like this may be this team’s year?
Definitely. This is where we’ve been trying to get back to the last couple of years. And it feels like we’re in the right place.
On the importance of seniors AJ Price, Craig Austrie, and Jeff Adrien.
That senior leadership definitely plays a big role in helping all the new guys, helping me out too. That extra year plays a big role.
On being an up-tempo team
We know we can’t fast break all the time, so if we can get it we’ll go for it.
I was nervous in the beginning but it went away. I was playing well so it went away.
On providing a spark
I’m not starting so it’s what I try and do coming off the bench – come in with some energy and pick some guys up. Whenever I come into the game I try and bring energy and a spark to the game.
Are you like Rashad Anderson who never met a shot he didn’t like?
Every shot I take I try to knock it down. If I’m open I feel like I can knock it down.
What’s your range?
I don’t know – wherever I catch it.
Do you feel like this is the year?
Yes, we do. We’re a veteran team. We feel good out there. We’re ready to get this started.