HARTFORD, CT (December 28, 2004) Sophomore center Josh Boone (Mt. Airy, Md.) recorded his sixth double-double of the season by tying his career-high with 20 points and sophomore forward Charlie Villanueva (Brooklyn, N.Y.) added 17 points as 11th-ranked Connecticut overcame a slow start to defeat Sacred Heart, 73-55, Tuesday evening before a raucous sellout crowd of 16,294 at the Hartford Civic Center.
The win improves the Huskies record to 7-1, while the Pioneers slip to 1-8.
UConn trailed at the half 36-33, but scored 12 of the second halfs first 13 points as Boone scored seven points while freshman Rudy Gay (Baltimore, Md.) added the other five. The Pioneers inched to within one at 45-44 with 11:27 to play, but Villanueva sandwiched two dunks around a Denham Brown (Toronto, Ont.) free throw to give UConn a 50-44 lead, and the Huskies finished the game on a 28-11 scoring run. UConn held Sacred Heart to just 19 points in the second half, on 30% shooting.
Boone added a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with his 20 points. It was the third consecutive game he tallied 20 points. He made seven of eight shots from the field, and is now shooting 64% (53 of 83) from the field for the season. Villanueva was just as effective inside for UConn, making eight of 11 field goal attempts in his second consecutive strong start. Rashad Anderson (Lakeland, Fla.) and Gay each chipped in with 11 points.
Sacred Heart used some clutch long-range shooting and a patient offense in taking their three-point lead at intermission. The Pioneers shot 56% in the opening twenty minutes, including a sizzling six of 11 from long range, led by Luke Granato, who scored 14 in the half. Granato was shut down in the second half by the defense of Gay and freshman point guard Antonio Kellogg (Oakland, Calif.). Kellogg played his most minutes of his young Connecticut career, playing 25 while scoring six and dishing out six assists. Marcus Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.) also had six assists for the Huskies. UConn took great care of the ball, committing less than ten turnovers (eight) for the second straight contest.
Granato finished with 19 points.
UConn returns to action on Thursday, December 30, when they play host to Quinnipiac at the Hartford Civic Center. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m., and the game will be televised locally by Fox-61.
POST GAME QUOTES
Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun
Well, first I want to congratulate Dave. This year, no ones tried to hold the ball on us. Particularly in the first half, they did a great job
.We had them making eight of their baskets at ten seconds or under, and a couple at the two or three second mark. Those things happen. What disturbed me the most about us was that whether I yelled at them, the official missed the call, or a kid made a shot with two seconds, we didnt react really well. We thought if we could hurry and throw some alley-oops that everything would go away. That ended up being what our halftime discussion was. We held them, I think, in the first 12 or 13 minutes of the second half to six points. That took care of that end. Then we went to our two big kids and got 15 out of 19. Rashad, I think, took one shot. We just told the guys get the ball inside. And we did a good job with that.
I want to really congratulate Dave. They had just come off a tough game where Washington got away from them out there, pressed them, 34 turnovers, and thats a difficult situation. And instead of having his team just come up here and try to run with us
.he decided to not junk it on defense, but to do it on offense just to see how we would react. His kids stayed with it, even when they were down seven or eight points
and then when they made a couple of those late ones when the horn was going off it gave them confidence
.I personally think theyre going to be fine when they hit their own conference.
As far as were concerned, I have great concerns about the fact that we dont like adversity. We dont like when you hold the ball, run a triangle and two, and we think more about what Im not doing as opposed to what were not doing. And thats the thing that concerns me the most.
Some of our kids who I think are very good players I can think of a couple, actually are just playing God awful. And thats disappointing to me. If I yell at them, they certainly wont be the first, nor will they be the last. Be it Josh, be it Charlie, Rashad and Antonio, they truly know how to accept that.
We went with Antonio in the second half because he had more energy than Marcus did tonight. Both he and Charlie got us going in the second half and got the ball inside.
Sacred Heart Head Coach Dave Bike
We talked to the guys and Lombardi had always said mans greatest success is not never falling but in rising every time you fall.
With sports, Im not sure if it builds so much character, as reveals character
and I think that the guys, to play the way they did today, Im proud of him.
If there were 100 rebounds in the game they probably would have gotten 70 or 80 of them, so we tried to slow it down a little bit and manage the clock more than we ever did. For a team that has not played that way in a while I think it was good that we did that. And then it helped to shoot the good percentage, that always helps. Weve been bitten a couple games where we had legitimate chances to win this year we only shot 33 percent.
On Luke Granato: Luke had a really good game. We told them that we were going to wait to start the offense, try to work the ball and the clock a little bit. Then we turned around, I told Luke youve got a green light I think the team enjoyed watching him make his points. That is very important. The coaches enjoyed it, and the guys watched it. Thats what you need. If someone has a decent hand going, youve got to deliver it to him.
On Connecticut: They are superior talents, superior strengths. Maybe superior quickness and stuff. They were going to get us down at different times. We challenged them to bounce back and I think we did. We ran out of a little gas. Thats part of a difference. I was proud that we came back. We had a chance to win for a long time in this game.
Im hoping this helps us forget everything that has happened so far this year. Try to take something out of it and start anew. I think some of us carry that stuff with us a bit. We thought we had some talent that were young, and this game might help us say ok, were a year older
On the difference between the first half and the second half
They were making pretty much every shot they took. They played well I have to give them a lot of credit. In the second half, we just played defense. We buckled down and ended up getting the lead and winning the game. In the first half, we were mentally prepared. But in the second half, we turned it around with defense defense definitely won the game for us.
What did Coach Calhoun say at halftime?
Coach was mad because Sacred Heart came at us pretty well. We let them dictate the game in the first half by holding the ball.
On the problem with the defense in the first half
We were getting caught on screens too much and that was leaving them wide open for jump shots whether it be 15 footers or 3 pointers. They hit something like six 3 pointers in the first half. We cant allow that to happen. Thats just what Central did to us in the first half last game. We cant continue to allow that happen. We have to start playing better defensively in the first half.
On the change in defense in the second part of the second half
We really tried to ball pressure a lot more. A lot of the time, they were getting the ball up top and were making easy passes to the wing and down low. We really started to pressure the ball up top and not allow them to get such an easy look.
Did you take them too lightly?
Maybe we did, but I dont really think so. It was just that they play3ed really well in the first half and we didnt. We didnt play well defensively and we didnt shoot the ball very well in the first half.
Was Coach Calhoun upset?
He was very upset and rightfully so. That may have been the worst half weve played all year, excluding the UMass game.
On playing well with Charlie Villanueva
We try to get the ball to each other because we know that once one of us gets the ball, typically theres going to be a double team on us, so the other one of us is going to be open. Its the same thing with Ed and Hilton, all four of the big men try to work together to involve each other. Were really starting to learn to play with each other and learn where the other mans going to be. Its almost become second nature at this point.
On Sacred Hearts hot shooting in 1st ½:
It seems like every time this year weve played someone, somebody comes out hot. It is something youve got to get used to
being the team everybody wants to beat. Coach knows that, we have to realize that everyone is going to come out firing shots. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they may not.
On better defense in 2nd ½:
We picked up our defensive intensity. Not too many teams in the country can keep up with us as long as our defense is up.
On any change in scheme in 2nd ½:
Not really, everyone was just playing harder. A lot of the baskets they hit were wide open, anyone could have it them. We went back there (to the locker room), Coach let us know
he laid it on us and let us know that we need to get back, get on whatever man we have, get back and get to them so they cant get open shots.