The 13th-ranked Huskies put together a team effort and dedicated their 67-53 road victory over Notre Dame on Saturday to Boatright. And they won the first five games of the season when the freshman guard first was removed from intercollegiate competition for the NCAA to take a closer look at his eligibility.
But there is a difference this time, starting with Wednesday night's game against Cincinnati.
When Boatright missed two exhibition games and the first six regular season games of the season, the Huskies didn't really know what they were missing. Now that Boatright has been incorporated into UConn's plans, there are adjustments to be made. The longer Boatright is out, the more difficult that may become – especially for fellow guards Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier.
"We know we can't get cheap fouls," Lamb said. "We can't reach, gamble and get unnecessary fouls. We can't get fouls like that because with Ryan out it would put our team in jeopardy. We would have to sit out and that would put pressure on the rest of the team."
Lamb and Napier each played a full 40 minutes Saturday against the Irish. Napier led UConn with 16 points. Lamb struggled with his shot and finished with six points, but he also had a career high seven assists.
The bonus was that neither one got into foul trouble. Lamb picked up three fouls. Napier had just one. UConn coach Jim Calhoun knows the Huskies can't count on being that fortunate every game, especially in the physical Big East Conference.
"Forty minutes and to have Shabazz get his first foul with a minute to go is not likely to happen," Calhoun said. "The minutes themselves, I don't worry about. What I worry about, very simply, is somebody getting in foul trouble and us having to re-invent the wheel a little bit. We're operating short at this moment."
Lamb is UConn's leading scorer (17.9 ppg) but he said he is prepared to do anything the Huskies need. He realizes Napier will need help bringing up the ball without Boatright there to back him up. And UConn will miss the three-guard look that has worked so well since Boatright was granted eligibility in November.
"I did it at the beginning of the year," Lamb said of sharing the handling chores. "I was handling a little more. Now we've got to go back to that. When Bazz gets tired and needs a blow, I'll handle the ball. I think we're in great game shape, so things will be okay.
"The way [Notre Dame was] playing me, people were open. They were doubling me and people were just open. And my shot wasn't falling. I didn't stop looking for my shot, but if I saw somebody open and I didn't have a good shot, then yeah [I passed more]."
Boatright practiced Tuesday but unless the NCAA informs UConn of some decision Wednesday before tipoff at 7 p.m., he won't be playing again. UConn was forced to remove Boatright from competition after finding out Friday night from the NCAA that there is a new issue involving his eligibility and it must be reviewed.
Calhoun had little to say about the situation Thursday after practice.
"I'm not frustrated by anything except trying to get ready for Cincinnati," Calhoun said. "That's the only things we can do; that's the only thing we can control right now."
Lamb has survived another cut. The Wooden Award's midseason Top 25 list was released Tuesday and Lamb made it. No big surprise there. . . . Lamb also got some support in the first straw poll for national player of the year honors. Lamb picked up three third place votes and was 11th overall in the first straw poll conducted by Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. Thomas Robinson of Kansas was first, followed by Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Creighton's Doug McDermott. … Forward Tyler Olander (heel) practiced Tuesday. Calhoun said Olander isn't 100 percent but he should get more minutes against Cincinnati than he did at Notre Dame. . . . DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey will continue to split time at the small forward spot, Calhoun said. Daniels twisted his right ankle in practice and limped to the sideline for a while but appeared to be fine at the end. . . Calhoun likes the way Roscoe Smith works at power forward, so he is likely to stay there for a while.