The Morning After

George Blaney found himself subbing for Jim Calhoun again on Thursday morning. This time it was during the weekly Big East men's basketball coaches teleconference call. Reporters were told Calhoun wasn't feeling well and wasn't in his office.

Perhaps Calhoun watched the video of UConn's 58-44 loss to Georgetown and came down with the same despondent feeling UConn fans had as they tuned in on TV. Just when it seemed the Huskies couldn't turn in an offensive performance worse than the showing against Notre Dame Sunday . . . well, they did.

With the Huskies now mired in a four-game losing streak, the issue of leadership came up again with UConn's associate head coach.

"I still would like to see Shabazz [Napier], and Alex [Oriakhi] and Jeremy [Lamb] assume those roles," Blaney said. "Jeremy's really been working hard at it. It's not his personality to do that but he's working hard at it and trying to do it. Hopefully we'll get the other two to do it as well."

Calhoun shuffled the lineup and brought co-captains Napier and Oriakhi off the bench Wednesday night against the Hoyas. The Huskies got off to a good start but when Ryan Boatright picked up his second foul and went to the bench everything changed.

The offensive struggle has turned historic. The Huskies shot 30 percent, their lowest since the 1996-97 season. The 44-point output was the second-lowest total every for a UConn team in Big East play. The low is 42, set in 1982 and 1999. Napier was 0-for-9 from the field with one point. He now has missed 17 straight shots from the field. Lamb was 4-for-18. New starters Boatright, Niels Giffey and Roscoe Smith were 1-for-9 from the field with two points.

Blaney commented that the Huskies got many good looks and just didn't hit their shots. The coaching staff seems a lot more concerned – and rightly so – about the poor body language of UConn players. Napier and Oriakhi are at the top of that list.

Oriakhi can't seem to shake the funk that has lasted this entire season. He isn't even close to the same player who was so aggressive and dominant during UConn's run to the 2011 national championship.

I asked Blaney if he thought Oriakhi is still struggling with his new role, playing more power forward and playing next to center Andre Drummond.

"Yeah, Alex is struggling a lot," Blaney said. "He's working at it and trying to figure it out. We're trying to figure it out for him. He hasn't played with the same dominating defensive ability or the dominating rebounding ability he had last year. That's what we need to get him back to.

"He got very used to playing the 5 position. He wasn't away from the basket quite as much. But honestly, he still mostly defends the 5 man and Andre generally defends the four man. He's still around the basket as much as possible. But he has struggled offensively, I think."

UConn returns to the court Saturday against Seton Hall in Hartford. The Pirates have lost five straight but started many of the problems for the Huskies when they defeated UConn in Newark. Blaney was filling in for Calhoun during his three-game NCAA suspension at that time.

Seton Hall center Herb Pope, one of the top players in the Big East, has bruised ribs and will be a game-time decision, according to Pirates coach Kevin Willard. Pope, averaging 15.9 points and 10.2, was injured in Tuesday's loss to Marquette.

The 11 finalists for the 2012 Bob Cousy Award have been announced. Kemba Walker won the award, which goes to the nation's top point guard, last year. But there's only one Big East point guard on the list this year and that's Scoop Jardine of Syracuse. The other finalists are: Pierre Jackson, Baylor; Scott Machado, Iona; Casper Ware, Long Beach State; Phil Pressey, Missouri; Isaiah Canaan, Murray State; Kendall Marshall, North Carolina; Aaron Craft, Ohio State; Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's; Damian Lillard, Weber State; and Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin.


UCONN Playbook Top Stories