Feb. 17, 2013
By Scott Waggoner
The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team has done a remarkable job this season of overcoming poor rebounding to win games.
The Huskies have won 12 times this year while being outrebounded, though up against a great rebounding Villanova squad Saturday afternoon at the XL Center it caught up to them as UConn fell 70-61.
“In the second half we just got out rebounded,” Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. “It came down to a street fight out there. We didn’t make the hustle plays I want to see from this team.”
Connecticut was beaten on the boards 41 to 25 for the game, giving up a backbreaking 20 offensive rebounds to the Wildcats. While some opponents haven’t taken advantage of UConn’s poor rebounding, Villanova made the Huskies pay dearly. The Wildcats scored 20 second-chance points, six of which came during a key stretch in the second half that pushed the Villanova lead to six and put the game out of reach.
“They were able to do what they wanted so I was definitely disappointed in this loss,” Connecticut freshman guard Omar Calhoun said. “We just have to do a better job rebounding. We did a good job against Syracuse we just need to make sure we’re doing it all the time.”
Being able to rebound consistently starts with being more physical. The effort is there, though UConn has really struggled getting a body on every opponent and establishing position under the basket, and it showed Saturday.
“I think we just came out a little too fragile today and without toughness,” Connecticut junior guard Shabazz Napier said. “If you don’t play tough you’re not going to win.”
On offense the Huskies uncharacteristically turned the ball over 19 times, and they appeared to lack the focus they maintained Wednesday against Syracuse.
“I guess when you’re coming from a game like Syracuse when everyone is hyped up it’s hard to find that focus and focus always leads to toughness,” Connecticut junior forward Niels Giffey said.
Unable to grab many defensive rebounds and get out in transition, the Huskies went scoreless during a couple of spurts in the game, as Napier and sophomore guard Ryan Boatright failed to get into any rhythm offensively. The two combined for just six points and were not as nearly effective in the half-court offense.
“Most of the time they’re getting out in transition and that’s what gets them their layups and then they get confidence and make some plays in the half court,” Ollie said. “When you give up 20 offensive rebounds of course you can’t run.”
One bright spot was the play of Calhoun, who continues to become more efficient in Connecticut’s offense. He led the Huskies in scoring with 16 points and did a great job of attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line, where he converted all nine of his attempts.
“I’m definitely getting more comfortable with the scheme and everything,” Calhoun said. “It’s just regular basketball for me and I can get to where I want on the court and get whatever shot. The game has definitely slowed down for me.”
Connecticut will look to bounce back Thursday night when they host Cincinnati at the XL Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.