STORRS, Conn. – DePaul forward Cleveland Melvin has become one of the most respected players in the Big East Conference. The junior from Baltimore was Big East Rookie of the Year in 2010-11, an honorable mention All-Big East player as a sophomore, and entered this season as a preseason All-Big East second team selection.
Together with junior guard Brandon Young, who averages 16.1 points a game, Melvin (16.7 poits, 7.7 rebounds) has elevated DePaul from laughingstock status in the conference and the Blue Demons who take the floor at Gampel Pavilion Tuesday night (7 p.m., SNY, UConn IMG Sports Radio Network) are no longer a pushover.
Just ask Providence.
DePaul (10-5, 1-1 Big East) stopped into Providence Saturday on its way here and defeated the Friars 83-73. It was the fourth road victory of the season for coach Oliver Purnell's team and Melvin led the way with 23 points and nine rebounds. The Blue Demons forced 23 turnovers and hit 24 of 29 free throw attempts.
"They've been playing very, very well," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said after practice Monday morning. "They've got a belief in themselves and their coaching staff. They're doing a real good job. We've got to come and play."
Melvin ranks eighth in the Big East in scoring and fifth in the conference in rebounding.
"Melvin is doing what Melvin does," Ollie said. "Just getting buckets every chance he gets."
Melvin's matchup with UConn's DeAndre Daniels could take the spotlight in this game. Melvin and Daniels are both 6-foot-8, but Melvin is at least 13 pounds heavier.
"I know he's strong," Daniels said. "I've just got to go out there, play hard, and try to box him out."
The Huskies need Daniels to rebound. He didn't do that in UConn's loss to Marquette last week and Ollie benched him.
"If you're not rebounding, you're not playing," Ollie said Monday.
|Ollie wants Daniels to rebound more|
UConn guard Ryan Boatright called Melvin "a great player; kind of what DeAndre is for us - a stretch-out 4, not really a 5. He's got a little more weight than DeAndre, but it's time for [Daniels] to step it up."
Even though that may be the key matchup, Daniels can't do it by himself.
"We've got to make sure we don't let him get easy, clean catches and then keep him out of transition." Ollie said. "When we take ill-advised shots he's the first one out and running. At the 4 position, he's running even harder. It's hard for 4's to get back in front of him. That's where he gets his mismatches and his early post ups."
Beyond that, the Huskies (10-3, 0-1) must take care of the ball. DePaul is third in the Big East behind Louisville and Syracuse with 9.67 steals per game and opponents are averaging 18.1 turnovers against the Blue Demons.
"In the last two games, opponents have been averaging almost 24 turnovers against them," Ollie said. "They're going to come with their pressure. We're going to have to break pressure and that's one of the things we're going to focus on.
"One of our strengths is our ability to have our point guards take the ball up and make good decisions. We've been limiting our turnovers to 11 or 12 a game. Hopefully we can do that and have a high assist-to-turnover ratio."
Boatright, always the confident one, isn't worried about the press.
"When I see a press, my eyes light up," he said. "I call it ‘layup city.' As long as we do our job and break the press, we'll be all right."
Ollie: Marquette error "over with"
Ollie said he talked to Big East commissioner Mike Aresco and coordinator of basketball officiating Art Hyland about the mistake made in UConn's loss to Marquette last Tuesday. "It's over with. Satisfied or not, it doesn't make a difference. I talked to the commissioner. I talked to the head of officials and they all apologized. I accept their apology and we move on. Things happen. Hopefully we learn from it. The past doesn't equal the future unless you live in it. We're not going to live in it, we're going to move on." The controversy centered with the start of overtime when the teams lined up going the wrong direction. It appeared UConn would get the first basket on a goaltending call on Jamil Wilson but instead the play was ruled a turnover on UConn and Cadougan gave Marquette the first OT lead on a jumper with 4:17 to play. The officials huddled but later admitted, in a statement by official Karl Hess, they made the wrong call. "The players went in the wrong direction," Hess said. "Because we allowed that to happen, the only thing that was wrong is there was a goaltend on the play. We should have scored the goaltend and given Connecticut two points for that."
Scuffle in practice
With a week between games and no classes in session, Ollie said the players have been a little testy in practice. "We almost had a fight the other day, which is good. I imagine they're tired of hitting each other. Nobody was going to fight but it was good to see it," Ollie said. Turns out the combatants were Daniels and Boatright, roommates and still good friends. The scuffle happened during a box out drill. "I'm so little and strong, when I get low, [the big men] kind of get mad and start grabbing and stuff," Boatright said. "That's UConn basketball. Everybody gets in scuffles." Daniels just laughed and said, "It's all love. We're just on the floor trying to compete."
Former Husky Haralson hits big shot
Former UConn guard Scottie Haralson had a key three-point basket for Tulsa with 24 seconds left as the Golden Hurricane defeated SMU 48-47 Sunday night. The game received a lot of national attention because it matched coaches Larry Brown of SMU and Danny Manning of Tulsa. Brown was coach and Manning the star player at Kansas on the 1988 NCAA national championship team. Haralson is averaging 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 31.3 minutes for Manning's team (9-6).