Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The 2010-2011 Big East regular season got underway on Monday night in Pittsburgh as No. 4 Connecticut tried to do what seven teams previously ranked in the top-5 failed to do before them - come into the Peterson Events Center and emerge with a victory. Pittsburgh was having none of that as the Panthers, ranked No. 6 in the country themselves, never trailed en route to a 78-63 win over the Huskies.

UConn entered the game as one of just eight unbeatens in the country at 10-0, but their first true road game of the season proved to be too tough against the experienced Pitt squad.

"We allowed a team, a very good team by the way, who plays very good defense to take us out of a lot of things that we did," Jim Calhoun said afterwards. "We lost some of the swagger that we needed to have to win the game.”

The Panthers, energized by a standing-room only crowd of 12,725, came out smoking with a 16-7 lead before the game was five minutes old, highlighted by a Gilbert Brown alley-oop slam off a pass in transition by fellow senior Brad Wanamaker. Six different players scored for Jamie Dixon's team in the opening five minutes and once the game settled down, it was the Pitt defense that took over the contest.

"First thing, I want to compliment Jamie," said Calhoun. "He had his team ready defensively and that’s what started it. I thought they just locked us up defensively. We aren’t a young team, but they made us make young plays."

The Huskies managed to connect on just 31.7% of their shots for the game and suffered through a 7:30 stretch in the second-half without a field goal.

With his young teammates struggling in what was their first Big East contest for many of them, Kemba Walker tried in vain to keep pace with the balanced Panthers. Walker, who entered the contest leading the NCAA in scoring with 26.5 points a game, scored 31 points and his personal 8-0 run over 1:59 cut a 15-point deficit to just seven, 62-55, with 5:29 left.

Walker would not score again and the Panthers answered the challenge with an 11-4 run and a pair of Travon Woodall free throws with 2:16 left capped the run, securing Pitt's 17th straight home victory, improving to 8-0 all-time at the Peterson Events Center against top-5 teams and their fourth win in the last five meetings with UConn.

"I thought we executed very well on both ends of the floor, and I really liked that we took good shots," said Jamie Dixon.

Pitt shot 52% from the field (25-48) and registered 19 assists on their 25 made field goals in the game. Ashton Gibbs led the way with 21 points and 7 assists while Brad Wanamaker added 14. The Panthers' starting frontcourt of Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson also stood tall against the opposition.

"We moved the ball well and got our big guys some inside touches when they were in good position to really attack the basket," said Dixon. "I thought we were able to take better shots than they did on the interior, which is excellent because UConn has a very good post offense."

McGhee finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks while Robinson, making his first start of the season, finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists.

"He brings energy to the floor and he’s got that motor in him and it helps getting him on the floor early," said Gibbs of Robinson. "He’s real aggressive and he grabs a lot of rebounds."

Despite scoring 31 points, Kemba Walker had to work constantly for his opportunities. Before his individual run made things interesting, the UConn guard was just five of 18 from the field. He finished 10 of 27 in the game and was the only Husky in double figures.

"Kemba Walker is going to score, we just need to make him take tough shots,” said Dixon.

Walker made tough shots, but also forced some too as Pitt gave him some extra attention defensively, possibly a blueprint for other teams to follow ahead on the schedule.

“He made some tough shots and took the ball to the basket," said Wanamaker. "He’s a great player, but I thought we gave a good overall team effort on defense.”

UConn must now rebound from their first loss of the season. South Florida comes to Storrs for a New Year's Even contest and then the Huskies hit the road for a Jan. 4 meeting at Notre Dame and a non-conference date at Texas on Jan. 8. In the meantime, Jim Calhoun will look to find some more balance for his club.

“I think the way we sort of stayed in the game, but couldn’t get over the hump was that Kemba [Walker] saw that he had to pick-up too much of the burden," Calhoun said.

Freshman Jeremy Lamb had 9 points and 8 rebounds. Other than Walker, Lamb was the only UConn player with more than two made field goals (3-8 from field). The frontcourt, especially sophomore Alex Oriakhi, drew most of the Hall of Fame coach's ire afterwards.

"Bottom line is that our front court has got to play a lot better than that," said Calhoun. "Team wise we need to be tougher. We need to be mentally tougher. That’s the whole game.

I love Alex to death. He’s not playing well. I think he has a chance to be a very good player. He’s not playing like the player that he is capable of being."

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Friday, December 03, 2010


UConn junios point guard record triple-double in Friday night win

Kemba Walker entered the Connecticut vs. UMBC contest Friday night at the XL Center in Hartford (CT) as the nation's leading scorer. He showed he is more than just the top scorer in the land by registering his first career triple-double in UConn's 94-61 victory.

The junior guard had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists setting the pace in the victory before 10,591 fans.

"When you see a guy averaging 30 points a game pass up on layups to give other people shots...I know everyone is praising Kemba, but he's deserving of that praise....It's actually phenomenal. He's capable of so many different things," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said following the game.

The win was the 830th of Calhoun's Hall of Fame career, tying former Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan for sixth place on the career list.

"There's categories that you love being in," Calhoun said. "I love being in the category of guys who coached an awful lot of games and had a fair amount of success at it."

However, the story of the night belonged to Walker whose triple-double was the eighth in UConn history, and the first since Hasheem Thabeet did it on Jan. 31, 2009, against Providence.

"That's kind of special to be one of eight," said Walker. "There are a lot of great players who could have accomplished that. I was fortunate enough to do it. It's definitely special."

Freshmen Jeremy Lamb (12 points), Niels Giffey (11) and Roscoe Smith (11) also recorded double-figures in scoring as did the sophomore tandem of Alex Oriakhi (11) and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (10). Each know that it is Walker setting the table.

"He could come out and get 50 if he wanted. He could get 20 assists if he wanted. Tonight he was telling us he was going to get us involved and we were able to knock down shots for him. And he got his triple-double, so we're happy for him," said Jeremy Lamb.

"The eyes are on him," added Niels Giffey. "He gives us space. Like my shots were free. I was totally free. He's creating space for us and giving us good assists."

The Huskies, ranked No. 7 in the country, host Fairleigh Dickinson at Gampel Pavilion on Wednesday evening before breaking for exams when they return to action on December 20th. One player that certainly does not need a break is Walker.

"Kemba Walker is just phenomenal," said UMBC coach Randy Monroe. "His team feeds off of his energy and passion."

With Big East play looming by month's end, Kemba will need to continue to roar loud and lead his young pups to battle. It looks like Kemba is up to the challenge.

(Quotes Courtesy of www.uconnhuskies.com)


Don't forget the Big East fan on your holiday shopping list with tickets to the 2011 Big East Tournament Ticketsicon this March in Madison Square Garden. See our 2011 Big East Tournament & Tickets page for more details.


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