HARTFORD, Conn. (December 27, 2006) - Jeff Adrien (Brookline, Mass.) and Hasheem Thabeet (Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania) each recorded double-doubles to lead the University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball team to an easy 84-41 victory over Coppin State Wednesday evening before a crowd of 15,351 at the Hartford Civic Center.
The Huskies, the nation’s ninth-ranked squad, improves their record on the season to 11-0, while the Eagles slip to 2-10.
Connecticut scored the game’s first 10 points as Coppin State missed their first 14 shots from the field. The Eagles’ Ethan Kennedy hit a three-pointer at the 11:22 mark of the first half, and Coppin State could get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Adrien paced six Huskies in double-figure scoring by netting 16 points on seven-of-ten shooting from the field. He yanked down 11 rebounds in recording his sixth double-double of the season. Thabeet recorded his first double-double of his young UConn career by scoring 11 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds. He added four of UConn’s 14 blocked shots for good measure.
Adrien and Thabeet had plenty of company on the stat sheet from fellow front-courters as freshman Curtis Kelly (Queens, N.Y.) set his career-high with 14 points on a perfect seven-of-seven from the field shooting in 14 productive minutes off of the Connecticut bench. Freshman center Jonathan Mandeldove (Stone Mountain, Ga.) had a career-best five blocked shots in seven minutes of action.
The Connecticut guards had stellar evenings as well. A.J. Price (Amityville, N.Y.) scored 11 points and tied his career mark with a game-best eight assists. Jerome Dyson (Rockville, Md.) scored 10 points and had four steals. Craig Austrie (Stamford, Conn.) had 10 points and had five assists for Connecticut as well.
The Huskies did an excellent job on Coppin State’s leading scorer, Tywain McKee. McKee, who entered the game scoring over 18 points per game, was held to just 11 points on three-of-24 shooting as Connecticut rotated various guards in covering him. McKee was not the only Eagle to struggle from the field. Coppin State made just 13 of 61 shots from the field, shooting just 21.3 percent for the game. It was the third-lowest shooting percentage by a Connecticut opponent since 1980.
Kennedy led the Eagles with 12 points, while Darryl Roberts added 10.
The Huskies will travel to West Virginia to play their 2006-2007 BIG EAST Conference opener on Saturday, December 30. Tip-off is set for 2:00 p.m. and the contest will be nationally-televised by ESPN-2.
UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun
I think we allowed ourselves to kind of fall into the game a little bit. Fang, who I’ve known for many years, thought that slowing the game down a little bit would be better. We lost a little bit of our enthusiasm, which is something that I think, hopefully, will separate this team at particular points in time.
We did what we needed to do tonight. We didn’t do it with the kind of enthusiasm I would have liked.
One of our great assets is enthusiasm and speed, and I thought that there were points in the game where we were very fast and other times where we weren’t so fast. We were very loose with the basketball, etc. When you look at a team like West Virginia, for example, who averages 10 turnovers and forces 22, you can’t play like we did at times tonight.
They’re going to play long possessions on Saturday at 2:00, too. West Virginia loves to score late, and we need to be able to defend against that, and not take away our running. We finally got our running going when we got them tired.
We’ve played the first 11 games of the season. I can’t ask any more of them – they won them all.
Now we’ll have 19 times out in the regular season to prove just how good we are or how good we aren’t. I think we’re going to prove we’re pretty good when it’s all said and done, but we’ve got places to go and certainly some people to play against. There are some situations we’re going to be in that we have to prepare ourselves.
This team came along much quicker than I thought it would.
UConn Freshman Jerome Dyson
I know they’re going to be tough games, going back and forth from Big East team to Big East team.
Are you ready for to get into the Big East season and play West Virginia?
We’re just taking it game by game and with the Big East here we’ll just try to win it like any other game.
We have to work hard to get better. As we go we’re getting some more competition – the Big East is starting.
Are you excited to go on the road to play West Virginia?
We’re looking forward to play. We’re not looking forward to playing certain teams. We play whatever team’s in front of us. We’re not waiting for the other games. We’re just waiting to play.
UConn Freshman Curtis Kelly
On his performance
I’m just thinking about showing what I can do. It’s all about production. I’m just trying to bring a lot of production to the floor and just try to play hard.
I just to have to have the confidence to go out there and show Coach Calhoun what I can do. I owe (tonight’s performance) to my teammates. They’re the ones who got me the ball. They believe in me and know I can score on the inside.
On beginning Big East play
We’re starting to get more experience. We’re starting to know what Coach Calhoun wants from us more. We’re starting to come together as a team. Our defense is ready.
UConn Sophomore Jeff Adrien
Did you get anything out of tonight?
We played pretty good “D”. We held their team down to 21% (shooting). That might have been the lowest all year…We just grinded it out.
On how the team has improved going into the Big East schedule
Every game is different. We’ve been challenged the last two games. We’ve had to go out there and find a new way to win and improve our game.
What are the team’s expectations heading into the Big East schedule?
We never have low expectations. We want to go out there and win all of our games. Win the Big East regular season and hopefully win the Big East tournament. Our expectations are always high. It doesn’t matter how young we are.
UConn Sophomore A.J. Price
I think we had a great team effort today. We did what we were supposed to do and took care of business. We’re putting teams away the way we should put teams away.
I never really look at the opponent and determine how we should play as a team. All we have to do is do what we’ve been doing and what we’re accustomed to doing which is taking care of business – rebound, block shots, and play defense and everything else will take care of itself.
Are you excited to start Big East play at West Virginia?
We’re anxious to go on the road, and we’re anxious to play some tough games….We have 19 games left and every one is going to be a fight. And we’re ready for that. …We’re going down to West Virginia on Saturday. It’ll be a tough game, we know. Guys know how important this time of the season is. We’ll pull together and be ready.
A lot of different guys are talking about the level of competition – they want to play better competition. Well, we have 19 games the rest of the season where we won’t have to complain about that. We’ll be getting all the competition we want. Every game will be a fight, and it starts Saturday in West Virginia.