Fourth-ranked UConn defeated Columbia 70-57 in the season opener for both teams Friday night before a sellout crowd of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion. Chances are good Calhoun couldn't have told anyone the final score, if he had been asked. But he did know that Columbia had 20 offensive rebounds.
And that statistic came up repeatedly in his comments. Without rebounding, the Huskies can't run. And when they don't run, the offense bogs down. All of those things disturbed Calhoun to no end.
"Congratulations to Columbia, they certainly outworked us," Calhoun said. "They had 20 offensive rebounds. C.W. Post, by the way, that Division II power from New York, had 23 [24 actually] in the last game we played. We don't have anybody in the frontcourt that can play right now – or is ready to play right now – except for Tyler [Olander].
"If it wasn't for Jeremy [Lamb] making shots and Shabazz [Napier] running the team we would have been in serious trouble. It really wasn't the way I wanted to start the season. You like to start with a win certainly, but that's not typical of the way our teams have played."
Rebounding has been the cornerstone of Calhoun's philosophy throughout his time at UConn and long before. It was the reputation he brought with him from Northeastern and his players know that long before they put the UConn uniform on for the first time.
But it didn't happen against the Lions Friday night. UConn's frontline got boxed out and stayed boxed out. Nothing bothers Calhoun more. And he will remind the Huskies of that in practice Saturday morning.
"It certainly changes my practice schedule for tomorrow," Calhoun said. "We were only going to go about an hour and a half. But we will be back to rebounding for an hour or so."
The players know what is coming.
"Tomorrow in practice is going to be really tough," said Napier, who had 21 points, eight assists, six rebounds and two steals in 36 minutes. "We didn't play to our best abilities."
Calhoun said Columbia coach Kyle Smith should have been happy. And Smith was pretty pleased.
"We were determined," Smith said of the rebounding situation, won overall by UConn by a 43-41 margin. "That's all we worked on all week. It was just trying to keep good inside position and keep them off the boards. They're going to kill you with something, so you have to give up something a little bit. I think we were down two for the game on the boards and they're usually tops in the country."
There were some very strange numbers from this game. Lamb scored a career high 30 points on 11-for-17 shooting that included a powerful baseline dunk in the second half that was the highlight of the game. Lamb's previous high had been 24, achieved twice as a freshman.
Smith said the game comes easy for Lamb but the All-America candidate disagreed.
"They played me well," Lamb said. "They were real physical with me. They had good defenders, so I really had to use my screens. I can't say it came easy."
On the other end of the spectrum, freshman Andre Drummond played 12 minutes, missed the only shot he took and finished with four rebounds and three fouls. He said he is struggling with the mask he is wearing. And he is having a hard time adjusting to coming off the bench.
"That never happened to me before," Drummond said when asked the last game he played without scoring a basket. "That kind of threw me off a little too. I can't worry about it. It's probably never going to happen again.
"I've got to go out and have a great practice Saturday and another great practice Sunday and get ready to play [Wagner] on Monday."
UConn had seven turnovers in the first half (15 for the game), but the Huskies shot 53.3 percent overall (16 of 30) and were 5-for-10 from three-point range. The Lions tossed up 12 three-point attempts but made only three. Columbia shot just 24.2 percent in the first half, hitting 8 of 33 shots.
Columbia's Noruwa Agho, who led the Ivy League in scoring last season with a 16.8 average, was 2-for-11 in the first half and scored just five points. He led the Lions with 16 points but was 6-for-25.
Calhoun called timeout just over two minutes into the second half, with the Huskies leading 37-26 after Brian Barbour (10 points) was allowed to score easily inside the lane. The Lions trimmed UConn's lead to 39-31 on a three by Agho, but UConn answered with a 10-0 run to regain control.
Lamb had consecutive baskets in the run and DeAndre Daniels dunked off a Columbia turnover to complete the run and give the Huskies a 49-31 lead. But Columbia, 9-for-31 from three-point range, did whittle UConn's lead back to nine with 1:03 left. Smith called it "a little threat."
Calhoun will use that in practice over the weekend as well.
"You would think that with a couple of guys we have, we would dominate the glass," Calhoun said. "It appeared tonight that when we got boxed out, we stayed boxed out. If you want the ball, you get it. I can tell you one thing, it's not technique. That's what I just told the kids.
"We're not going to be physically better than every team we play this year. We're not the No. 4 team in the country at this moment. Not even near it. If we had played a team physically as gifted as some of our kids are, we might have had a tough night."
NOTES: Guard Ryan Boatright and swingman Niels Giffey remained in street clothes on the UConn bench, along with forward Michael Bradley, who won't be back until December. Boatright's eligibility is still being reviewed by the NCAA and Calhoun's frustration is clearly growing with each day that there is no resolution. Calhoun said there was no information and then stopped himself from commenting further. Giffey is bothered by ankle and knee injuries and Calhoun said he won't play until he feels better. . . . UConn's pregame ceremony to honor the 2011 NCAA championship did not go smoothly and perhaps that was a sign of how the Huskies would play. The video board went out just before lineup introductions so the championship/starting lineup video didn't debut until halftime. Then there was a malfunction with the device used to remove the cover over the championship banner near the roof of Gampel. The unveiling eventually took place, but there was more drama than necessary. "[Our frontcourt] had just as tough a time rebounding as we did unveiling that banner," Calhoun said. . . . Tim Higgins was the lead official Friday night. And Higgins was one of the officials on Dec. 28, 1983 – the last time UConn and Columbia played in basketball. That was an 85-60 UConn win in Hartford.