Defending The Three

LOUISVILLE – Connecticut has had trouble defending three-point shooters since the first game this season. The Huskies talk about what they need to do, but the problem hasn't gone away.

And that's not a good thing considering UConn's second-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament is Iowa State. The Cyclones are one of the most prolific three-point shooting teams in the nation.

UConn forward Alex Oriakhi thinks he has found a solution. He says the Huskies should cut back on their "help" defense.

"I watch film and we help way too much," Oriakhi said Wednesday at the KFC Yum! Center. "We leave guys open at the three-point line. Guys have to not help as much, especially in the post, and stick to their man. If we let them get hot at the three-point line, then it will definitely be a long game."

In Fred Hoiberg's two seasons as coach at Iowa State Iowa State has made 10 or more three-pointers in 27 games – including 14 this season. Chris Babb, Tyrus McGee, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson have all made more than 50 threes this season. Allen leads the way with 72 made. Christopherson shoots 45 percent.

"The problem we're going to have is that we have to stay in contact with three-point shooters, three at a time, sometimes four," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "We can't then allow penetration. The problem, when you do, you stretch yourself out on the threes. When you run a team off with two, that's easy. With three, that's okay. With four, it's really, really difficult.

"I think this team can make threes volume. Just mind boggling stuff, and you know that that can really get a team to start doubting its own defense."

Hoiberg, himself a sharp-shooter from outside when he played at ISU, says the Cyclones don't enter games with a target number of three-point attempts.

"We're not going to chuck away," Hoiberg said. "I tell my guys, the only time I'll take you out is if you pass up an open look. We have to be very careful that we don't come down and jack up quick contested shots. That's when we've struggled this year."

Hoiberg is concerned about UConn's Oriakhi and Andre Drummond clogging the middle, which could result in those rushed shots. And Calhoun is worried about the same thing Big 12 coaches worried about all season.

Kansas coach Bill Self said the problem is staying "staying attached to Iowa State's shooters but still discouraging penetration."

"Connecticut may be good enough to do that because they're so long inside," Self said. "But we're kind of long too. It's a tough matchup."

MINNESOTA MEN

Iowa State big man Royce White is from Minneapolis, home of Khalid El-Amin. And guess what? The two are buddies and they have played basketball together. Of course, the point guard of the 1999 national champion UConn Huskies is basketball royalty in Minnesota. "Khalid is great," White said Wednesday. "He's one of the great players ever to come out of Minnesota. He's a legend." In the summer of 2010, White and El-Amin were teammates and won the championship in the Howard Pully Pro-Am League. The summer league team was sponsored by El-Amin Fish House, Khalid's family restaurant. White said he hasn't spoken to El-Amin since the pairings were released. "At this stage, I try to keep who I talk to very minimal," White said. "It would only add to my anxiety." White suffers from an anxiety disorder.

SECOND CHANCE

This is UConn's first visit to the KFC Yum! Center since the 80-59 loss to the Louisville Cardinals on Feb. 6. That game feature the memorably bad second half by the Huskies when Rick Pitino's team turned the game into a dunk fest. "A lot of people say that game didn't go so well," guard Ryan Boatright said. "I don't think that was the case. I think that the second half didn't go so well. I think we played great in the first half and we just needed to stay together and keep it together like we did in the first half." . . . White has been described as the most unique player in college basketball. He's 6-8, 270 and leads his team in scoring, rebounding, steals and assists. He's hard to simulate in practice. "We don't have anybody who plays like him," Calhoun said. "Hard to simulate in practice. He isolates a lot. He brings it up full court against pressure and he makes everybody on his team better. He's a handful without question." . . . Kierstyn Schumpert, sister of DeAndre Daniels, plays basketball at Manchester High School. She had surgery to remove a tumor from her brain and Daniels said Wednesday the tumor is not cancerous and the outlook is good. . . . Calhoun flew for the first time since his back surgery two weeks. "I feel good; much stronger," Calhoun said. . . . Upset of the day: Alex Oriakhi, Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier spent less than four minutes answering questions in Wednesday's formal press conference. Napier, the most talkative of the Huskies, wasn't asked a question. . . . Are the players having more fun with Calhoun back? "I think cantankerous is the word associated with me," Calhoun said. "Kind of a barrel of laughs, most people would refer to me as. Most officials do. They really just think I'm a hell of a guy."

BY THE WAY

UConn is 46-13 in 17 NCAA appearances under Calhoun. In that time, the Huskies have lost their first game only once. That was 2008, a 70-69 loss to San Diego in overtime - when A.J. Price got hurt in the first half.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Kemba Walker is not coming back, is he? . . . We feel like we earned our way to be here too. I think we respect them, but I don't think there's a fear factor with them at all." – Iowa State guard Scott Christopherson, when asked if there is an intimidation factor in playing the defending national champions.


UCONN Playbook Top Stories