George In Charge

It's time for the Big East season. Connecticut enters the conference opener against South Florida with a 10-1 record and the Huskies are ranked No. 9 in both polls. One non-conference game remains, Jan. 21 at Tennessee, but other than that the focus will be on Big East play.

GAME CAPSULE

No. 9 UConn (10-1) at South Florida (7-6)

Date: Dec. 28, 2011

Time: 9 p.m.

Site: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Fla.

TV: SNY (Rich Hollenberg, Bob Wenzel)

Radio: UConn Radio Network/WTIC-AM 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)

Series: UConn leads, 8-1

Last meeting: UConn 66, USF 61 (OT) (Dec. 31, 2010)

Kemba Walker had 24 points and eight rebounds and Alex Oriakhi added 15 as the Huskies avoided the upset at the XL Center. Augustus Gilchrist led the Bulls with 21 points and eight rebounds. USF managed just three points in overtime.

USF PROBABLE STARTERS

G 34 Hugh Robertson Sr. 6-6 200 5.9 ppg

G 11 Anthony Collins Fr. 6-1 180 7.3 ppg

G 5 Jawanza Poland Jr. 6-4 200 10.0 ppg

F 1 Ron Anderson Jr. Sr. 6-8 237 8.7 ppg

F 24 Augustus Gilchrist Sr. 6-10 235 11.1 ppg

UCONN PROBABLE STARTERS

G 13 Shabazz Napier So. 6-1 171 15.5 ppg

G 3 Jeremy Lamb So. 6-5 180 18.9 ppg

C 34 Andre Drummond Fr. 6-10 270 10.0 ppg

F 22 DeAndre Daniels Fr. 6-8 195 5.2 ppg

F 34 Alex Oriakhi Jr. 6-9 240 7.2 ppg

NOTABLE

BLANEY AT THE HELM: UConn coach Jim Calhoun spoke to his team on Christmas night before a brief practice and when he went home he knew he wouldn't see the Huskies again until Jan. 4. Those are the rules, according to the NCAA, Calhoun must obey as part of his three-game suspension for recruiting violations and not creating an atmosphere of compliance in the Nate Miles case. Associate head coach George Blaney will run the show against USF, St. John's (Dec. 31) and at Seton Hall (Jan. 3). Blaney, who will be assisted by Kevin Ollie and Glen Miller, has done this before. This time, the three-game stint has been on the calendar since last February when the NCAA handed down sanctions. "I don't think ‘easy' is a good word," Blaney said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "You knew about it, the other ones kind of came more as a surprise or much quicker. We're just trying to keep things going the way Coach would like them to go."

NO CALHOUN, BY THE NUMBERS: UConn is 20-9 in games that Calhoun has either missed entirely or left the bench early. The record is 9-9 in games that Calhoun has missed completely. Blaney is 7-8 in those games and UConn has lost five of the last six, including a 74-67 overtime loss to Marquette on Feb. 24, 2011. Blaney recorded 459 victories in 30 seasons as a head coach prior to coming to UConn.

BULLS TOUGH FOR UCONN: Three of the last four games with USF have been decided by eight points or less. "We've always played UConn very tough throughout the years and they're definitely one of the top programs in the country," said USF coach Stan Heath. "It's great for us to be able to play them at home. We need to continue to improve and play better, but everybody is going to have to step up. We're going to need to play very well and hopefully playing at home will be an extra boost to us."

POLAND RETURNS: USF's Jawanza Poland made his season debut with 13 points in a 70-55 victory over Cleveland State on Dec. 19. He missed the first 11 games with a back injury and a two-game suspension. "He's still not in full-game shape but he still has the ability to make plays and get into the paint and hit mid-range shots, which should really help us on the offensive end with his explosive play," Heath said.

BLANEY SAYS: "You just try to maintain what we do, and what we do well. You try to really talk to the team about giving the kind of effort that [Calhoun] would demand of them. The more competitive we'll be, the more successful we'll be. It's never easy to try to simulate what Jim would do. I don't do some of the things he does, he wouldn't do some of the things I do. We just try to keep it in line with what we do in practice."

NOT CROWDED: If you are a UConn fan in the Tampa area, there's a good chance good seats are still available for the game. USF played Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence before a crowd of 16,300. The Bulls have played seven home games before a combined attendance of 16,452.

STAT OF THE GAME: The Bulls have lost 15 in a row vs. ranked opponents, including a 70-42 defeat against then-No 15 Kansas on Dec. 3.


UCONN Playbook Top Stories