Reasons for Cheer in Storrs!

Thanks to an absolute romp against Morehead State (129-61), the Huskies head to their short Christmas break with an unblemished record of 9-0. Though the stiffest competition is yet to come, UConnfan.com fills you in on why there's plenty of good reason for a heavy dose of holiday cheer in Storrs this Christmas.

Tis' the season to be jolly! And it starts where it always starts at Connecticut – at the top.  The Hall of Fame coach continues to bring some of the nation's top talent to Storrs. Jim Calhoun is amongst college basketball's best of this era and probably of all-time and make no mistake about it, the man patrolling the sideline is the main reason UConn will be a serious contender for its third title in the last eight years.

 

Joy to the world! This team is as stacked with as much quality talent as any team Calhoun has ever had. They go a legit 10-deep and could go 11-deep once point guard Marcus Williams returns. Calhoun will likely shorten the rotation a bit but it's a good problem to have when Denham Brown rests his ailing knee for two games and freshman Marcus Johnson fills in with 34 points! When I visited a Husky practice a few weeks ago I came away quite impressed with Johnson. He plays tough defense and attacked the rim on offense more than any other player. I'm not surprised he's produced like he has. Ed Nelson hadn't reached double-figures all season but has scored 12, and 17 respectively in the last two contests. "Ed gives us a physical presence that we're going to need going into conference play," said Calhoun. We haven't even mentioned freshman warrior Jeff Adrien, or junior Josh Boone, and remember, three-point marksman Rashad Anderson comes off the bench for this team! That's depth.

 

Which reminds me…Sing it with me, "Ra-shad the UConn sharp-shooter …" We could certainly sip some extra egg nog and celebrate the return of Rashad Anderson. UConn's senior finally has his legs and seems as if he's fully recovered from a skin abscess -- he's certainly found his jump shot. Anderson has been on a tear since firing a blank against Arkansas. Over his last seven games he's averaging 17.5 points a game including a 33-point effort against Morehead State Friday where he hit all seven of his three-point attempts.

"I am particularly happy for Rashad. Coming back from the situation of last year, playing his way step-by-step last fall, I had my misgivings. When I think of him going 7 for 7 today, I've seen that before. I've seen it against Vanderbilt. I've seen it in the Final 8 against Alabama," Calhoun continued. "I've seen him make one of those corner threes against Duke in the semifinals of the national championship game… Rashad doesn't mind who he takes a three on. We put him at point guard and every play worked its way to be for him. That's kind of unusual."

The fun-loving
Anderson is back and chasing UConn history. The senior has a chance to become the school's leading three-point shooter and is currently shooting nearly 60 percent from beyond the arc. The Lakeland, FL native now has 213 threes in his career and trails only Ray Allen (233), Richard Hamilton (237), Chris Smith (242), and Ben Gordon (246).

"He will be on track to be the greatest three point shooter we've ever had here, and we've had some pretty good ones," said Calhoun.

You know the star you put at the top of your Christmas tree? That's sophomore Rudy Gay. Make no mistake about it Gay is the leader of this one horse open sleigh. He is a star-in-the-making in Storrs and his head coach is working to bring out the best in the Baltimore area native. Gay can fill a stat sheet like no other and did again Friday vs. Morehead State the 2004 Big Freshman of the Year scored 18 points, had eight assists (and only one turnover), six blocks and four steals.

"Rudy had perhaps his best all-around game. He was unselfish. Certainly he could have scored 30 himself very easily but instead had 8 assists, 5-6 blocks, 4 steals," Calhoun commented after Friday's game. 

But when UConn fans take a peek into their Christmas stockings they'll find the one gift they've been looking for – Marcus Williams. He returns on January 1st just when the competition starts to kick into gear.

Though I'm not convinced Santa shouldn't leave a little something extra under the tree for guards Craig Austrie and Robert Garrison. UConn got an early, but necessary Christmas present this summer by adding Garrison and Austrie to the roster. Williams will now have two very capable backups right behind him. The freshmen duo faced their toughest test out in Maui but both have run the team admirably and amassed nearly a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. While it has pleasantly surprised most UConn fans, their effort and solid play has not gone unnoticed by their teammates.

"He's (Craig Austrie) done a lot of things I didn't really expect early on. He played against a lot of good point guards and he's also battle (tested). What more could you ask of him?" Gay asked. "He's a freshman taking on a big role at a high Division I college. It's going to be hard for Marcus to come in and do a lot of things but I think Marcus is a great player and Craig's a great player so I just can't wait to see that in practice."

"Craig and Rob have been really good really," stated Boone. "I think that Maui really helped both of them because they got a chance to see right away what it's like to play in high level games. To play against the Gonzagas, the Arizonas in the country. You can't really ask for more than that. Craig has done a good job of running our offense and really getting us into things and Rob has done a really good job of getting in the lane and creating shots for everybody."


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