Dec. 28, 2013
UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie
First of all, I want to thank the crowd. I think there were a lot of families in the audience that have probably never seen us play before. I felt the energy from the crowd. It was just a great family atmosphere. It took them a while to really start cheering because we didn't really give them an opportunity. We were playing really good defense, but we were giving up offensive rebounds.
We could have been a little more solid, but I really appreciate my team and its effort. That's one half. Now we go to the second half and league play.
I think Omar was big with those two threes, and then the next play when Shabazz threw the behind-the-back pass to Niels, kind of broke the game open a little bit.
All in all, we were good. We had five guys in double-figures, which I like.
It's about our rebounding. When we rebound, we can use our speed to dictate the game.
To give up 10 offensive rebounds in the first half is unacceptable, especially with all the time that we have invested into rebounding. But in the second half, we limited them to six and ended up winning the rebounding battle. That's a good victory for us.
On Nolan and Calhoun
Phil was great. He responded the right way. That's what I like. He was out of the starting lineup but he had his career-high. It's not about who is starting, it's about who's taking care of their minutes.
It was a big character game for us. And two of the guys who showed great character were Omar and Phil.
On foul shooting
We were outstanding from the free-throw line again....You see it, we're not settling for a lot of threes....We're not settling for the contested threes. We do want to shoot threes. I'm a big proponent of threes, but the right type of threes. But I think our quickness and our speed is something that we have to exploit. And I think we got caught up with shooting a lot of threes. But now we're getting back to basics and we're getting to the rim....It's indicative of us creating pressure, offensively and defensively. But I love us attacking because that allows us to create mismatches.
UConn Player Quotes
Senior Guard Shabazz Napier
I think Omar responded well. Phil didn't start against Washington and he responded well as well. I was happy to see him scoring and Omar scoring because Omar was in a little slump....We need Omar and Phil to get to where we want to go, so it was good to see those guys do well.
We just wanted to attack. I thought we were best attacking the ball...We were definitely trying to get to the free throw line. I think we did well doing it. Last two games that was the big thing - trying to get to the free throw line. I don't think we took enough free throws before. Last two games we've been doing that well.
On playing in Bridgeport
It was great. I think we should definitely do it again. For the excitement, they started flicking the lights at halftime which is cool. It got the crowd excited. There's a lot of things Bridgeport can do that XL and Gampel can't. But at the end of the day, I love Gampel. I'd rather play in Gampel every single game.
What prompted the second half run?
We increased the defensive pressure. Coach Ollie always says when we play better defense we get a lot of steals, and when you get a lot of steals you get more opportunities at the basket at the opposite end.
Sophomore Forward Phil Nolan
On coming off the bench again
All our big men are good. Anybody can start on any given day. I'm not looking at it as a negative. I'm just looking at it as a positive.
Coach says it is most important what you do with your minutes. That's definitely the mindset I'm taking. Every single big man on this team takes that mindset. If someone starts for a game, or doesn't start, it's not going to affect anyone on this team, including the guards.
Like I said at the beginning of the year, I want to be more aggressive. I might have lost that somewhere along a few games, but I definitely started to think about it a lot more and attack the rim every time I get the ball.
Sophomore Guard Omar Calhoun
On not starting today
Coach Ollie talked to me before today and told me he was not going to start me today but he wanted me to bring that energy and get it going, be aggressive, and stuff like that.
On getting 6 rebounds today
I know I can rebound as a big guard and you know I haven't really been doing a great job rebounding. He's always harping to rebound. I wanted to make it my effort to rebound more.
Senior Forward Niels Giffey
On playing in Bridgeport
It was fun. I liked the arena. The fans really supported us...And when we went on that run, they really got fired up. I have a lot of friends from Fairfield County so it was a lot of fun for them to come out over the break.
Was your mindset different because you were starting?
Not really, to be honest. I'm still trying to take the right shots, get us in that type of game where we play consistent, on what Coach Ollie calls `Level 5' - really aggressive but solid.
On Phil Nolan's play
Phil has been really great on the defensive end - the way he communicates and the way he plays pick-and-roll defense. He's one of our best guys doing that so it's fun for us getting to see him getting his part done on the offensive end, too.
Eastern Washington Head Coach Jim Hayford
I'm really proud of my team. I thought they battled really hard. It was a great environment for a college basketball game.
UConn is a really, really good team. They make you take care of the basketball. They put pressure on you the whole game. They're very disciplined....You're going to have to beat them. They're not going to beat themselves.
We'd like to think we could make a few more of those three-pointers we were taking, but I think that their length and their defensive scheme had something to do with that. I give them full credit for the win.
They're just a very quick team, and that's why you have that discrepancy at the foul line. If they shoot 25 for 27 every game, they're going to be in the Final Four, because you can't guard the foul line.
On UConn's three-point shooting
I thought Calhoun's two threes were big, right there in the end. But I think they looked at us and said "Hey, listen. We can go inside on these guys." And they did. They shot 50 percent in the second half.