Searching for Inside Game

Coach Jim Calhoun has returned to his team. Now if the Huskies can just return to their old ways. Wouldn't it be nice to see Alex Oriakhi play the way he did on the way to the national championship last season? Wouldn't it be nice to the see the Huskies defend against the three?

Calhoun noticed a few flaws while watching the last three games on TV (with the sound down). Now, it's time to correct the problems.

UConn is at Rutgers Saturday night and has West Virginia at home Monday night. That's one of those difficult turnarounds. The Huskies must make corrections - and fast.


No. 8 UConn (12-2, 2-0) at Rutgers (8-7, 0-2)

Date: Jan. 7, 2012

Time: 8 p.m.

Site: Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, N.J.

TV: SNY (Bob Picozzi, Mark Adams)

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

Series: UConn leads 34-13

Last meeting: UConn 67, Seton Hall 53 (Jan. 11, 2011)

UConn has won 18 of the 19 games since Rutgers joined the Big East in 1995-96. The Huskies are 9-1 at Rutgers under Jim Calhoun. UConn has won 10 straight and 19 of the last 20 against Rutger.


G 1 Jerome Seagers Fr. 6-1 170 7.9 ppg

G 5 Eli Carter Fr. 6-2 190 13.9 ppg

G/F 11 Dane Miller Jr. 6-6 215 6.5 ppg

F/C 15 Derrick Randall Fr. 6-8 235 1.9 ppg

F 55 Gilvydas Biruta So. 6-8 245 10.7 ppg


G 13 Shabazz Napier So. 6-1 171 14.1 ppg

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

C 34 Andre Drummond Fr. 6-10 270 9.6 ppg

F 22 Niels Giffey So. 6-7 205 3.2 ppg

F 34 Alex Oriakhi Jr. 6-9 240 6.6 ppg


F 10 Tyler Olander So. 6-9 225 6.9 ppg


Coach Jim Calhoun's three-game, NCAA-imposed suspension is over. He rejoined the Huskies on Wednesday and directed practice on Thursday and then Friday night at Rutgers. Friday morning, during a conference call with UConn beat writers before practice, Calhoun shared his thoughts on many topics – including lineup changes and problems that surfaced during Tuesday night's 75-63 loss at Seton Hall. Here's a summary of things related to the game:

GIFFEY TO START: Swingman Niels Giffey, who didn't even get off the bench against South Florida on Dec. 28, will make his first start of the season. Giffey played 14 minutes against St. John's and 15 against Seton Hall and was offensively efficient in both games, scoring seven against the Red Storm and 11 against the Pirates. More than that, Calhoun said this is a matter of effort. "We need a constant effort given by people," Calhoun said. "Niels has great focus and he'll start tomorrow night. Watching two of his games on TV allowed me to see that. He's constantly moving. He's a good passer into the post. We'll try to utilize that aspect." Giffey will replace DeAndre Daniels in the starting lineup. Calhoun said he is undecided between Tyler Olander and Alex Oriakhi starting at the other forward spot. "I started Alex in practice [Thursday] and Tyler had a great practice," Calhoun said.

NAPIER HURTING: Point guard Shabazz Napier is still bothered by his sore left foot, which really became a problem when he got stepped on during the South Florida game. Napier aggravated it again midway through the first half at Seton Hall Tuesday night. "Shabazz did not practice [Thursday]," Calhoun said. "Don't know if he'll practice [Friday]. He should be available certainly to play tomorrow night. He's pretty hurt."

TAKING CARE OF UCONN: Calhoun, on the loss to Seton Hall: "We are a young team still. And young teams can be erratic. We've been erratic to 12-2 and that's pretty good. What Rutgers might do is not our problem. We've got to prepare for what they've done and then play them. I'm more worried about us. We shot 35 percent [against Seton Hall] and you just can't do that. We're giving up threes – 10 out of 20 – and that can't happen either."

FRONTCOURT PRODUCTIVITY: "That's all we talked about [Thursday]," Calhoun said. "If we have no inside game, we're not going to have any outside game. They are going to go out and play Jeremy's jump shots, they're going to play the driving of Ryan [Boatright] and Shabazz. We can't operate like that. Eventually the videotapes catch up. Except for some alley oops and stuff, we don't have an inside game. Seventy-percent of practice [Thursday] was working on trying to the get the ball inside. We need to make the effort of concentrating on that. And we have to execute and finish plays."

ORIAKHI'S STRUGGLE: "Simply he's got to play better. I love Alex to death and I told him this yesterday in practice. He's struggling. We can all see that. He's not even the same player he was as a freshman. He's strong, he's willing, he's a great kid. But he's got to do more. He knows that."

BODY LANGUAGE: Associate head coach George Blaney was disappointed in UConn's response when Seton Hall got physical. Calhoun said Jeremy Lamb, because of his All-America status and scoring average, has to get used to being bumped and grabbed. "He's got to respond better to it. Our whole team's body language has to be better than it was against Seton Hall. We got beat and bumped a little bit. They are veteran players and physically a little stronger than we were. We can't back down. It's more mental, in my opinion, than it is physical. It isn't like all of a sudden we're getting smashed around on the boards. Back years ago, when we played against Alonzo [Mouring] and [Dikembe] Mutombo, they beat us up on the backboards. We're not talking about that kind of thing. Quite simply, our body language has to be, ‘Stand up and play.' We better do that."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Well, good morning, and unfortunately you have to hear my voice again. I'm back. I think that was from a horror movie but, nevertheless, I am back." – UConn coach Jim Calhoun, greeting reporters on a conference call interview Friday morning.

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