Backcourt Communications

STORRS, Conn. – Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb were not on the same page Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion.

It developed into a glaring weakness on the floor during UConn's 70-67 loss to Cincinnati and it was even more obvious during postgame interview with both players.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun was critical of Lamb's "total game package" and said the All-America candidate didn't play well at either end of the floor. Lately it seems possible to look at the box score and judge Lamb's activity level by his number of field goal attempts. And if the opposing team gets too physical with him, Lamb recoils.

Against the Bearcats, Lamb was 5-for-12 from the field and scored 14 points. The coaching staff would like to see Lamb take at least 15 shots a game – if not more. Napier, from the point guard spot, took 19 and made 10 on the way to a career-high 27 points. Napier scored UConn's final 10 points and there were times down the stretch when Lamb appeared to be open and Napier shot deep three-pointers instead of passing.

"I think there were times I was open coming off screens where they weren't able to give it to me," Lamb said. "I don't think it was anything [Cincinnati was doing]. I'm just saying there were times I could have gotten the ball and didn't get it. I probably could have been more aggressive and taken more initiative with the ball."

So, whose fault is it?

"It's nobody's fault. I think people just didn't see me or they felt I wasn't open," Lamb said. "There were times I was open. I've gotta go full speed. I've got to really make myself look open and work hard to get open."

Lamb certainly can be effective driving to the basket but like so many other great shooters who have come through UConn, there are plays set for him coming off screens. Napier, it seems, favors finding Lamb when he is coming off those screens.

"Jeremy is so good coming off screens," Napier said. "When he has the ball and he's trying to make a play with picks … and when he has to dribble it, he's not that effective. I'm not saying he's not going to score, but he's way better coming off screens. We tried to [get him off screens] but we started lagging."

The difference in opinion between these backcourt mates is certainly interesting. It might be wise for them to discuss the topic before the Huskies step out of Big East action Saturday to play at Tennessee.

Thursday morning, on the weekly Big East coaches conference call with reporters, Calhoun said Napier played "terrific" against the Bearcats and complimented his play at point guard.

"Jeremy is going through a bit of a difficult time right now," Calhoun said. "We've got to get him back on track."


Still no word on whether freshman guard Ryan Boatright might have his eligibility restored in time for UConn's game Saturday at Tennessee. And UConn officials would neither confirm nor deny that the NCAA was on campus Thursday to interview Boatright.

Boatright has not been made available to talk to the Connecticut media since Friday. But Boatright spoke to Andy Katz of ESPN, who was without a camera or microphone on the court, just prior to the Cincinnati game Wednesday night. The game was televised by ESPN2. After the conversation, Katz reported that Boatright would meet with NCAA investigators Thursday in Storrs.

Boatright sat out Wednesday night's game against Cincinnati - the second game he has missed during this second review by the NCAA and UConn. Boatright missed the first six games of the regular season for accepting a plane ticket during his AAU playing days. UConn was notified of the second review last Friday. It isn't known what the issue is in this review but UConn has elected to hold him out of competition until the matter is settled.

After Saturday, UConn is off until Jan. 29 when the Huskies host Notre Dame.


Going into the game, the concern for the backcourt without Boatright was foul trouble. That never materialized. Napier finished with three fouls and Lamb had but one. But with Cincinnati using its new four-guard lineup, this became a bizarre matchup for the Huskies.

Being able to counter with the three-guard attack that has been so successful this season would have been useful. But that was not an option for Calhoun with Boatright on the bench in his street clothes.

Walk-on Brendan Allen did get two minutes of playing time early in the first half, however. Allen made good use of his time, getting open in the right corner. He took a pass, drove hard to the basket along the right baseline and scored on left-handed layup with 12:05 remaining to give UConn a 15-13 lead.

Allen left the game at the next timeout and never returned.

"Maybe I should have played [Allen] more minutes," Calhoun said. "At least he had enough guts to take it to the rim and not look like he was going to fumble it."

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