In all likelihood, there was a time in George Blaney’s seven years as an assistant under Jim Calhoun that the UConn men’s basketball team was beaten as badly on the boards as it was Friday in its 81-70 loss to No. 3 Memphis. Blaney, who Calhoun often cites when it comes to statistics and numbers, just couldn’t recall when.
In all likelihood, there was a time in George Blaney’s seven years as an assistant under Jim Calhoun that the UConn men’s basketball team was beaten as badly on the boards as it was Friday in its 81-70 loss to No. 3 Memphis.
Blaney, who Calhoun often cites when it comes to statistics and numbers, just couldn’t recall when.
“There probably was a time,” Calhoun said after the setback in which Memphis outrebounded the Huskies by 12, 47-35. “But I can’t remember it.”
That’s how bad it got at times in the final of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic at Madison Square Garden. UConn, also outshined on the offensive glass by an 18-11 margin, produced no players with double-digit rebounds – Hasheem Thabeet being the closest with nine – and no frontcourt player had more than two other than the 7-foot-3 center.
Curtis Kelly and Gavin Edwards (a combined zero in 16 minutes) were held in check and Stanley Robinson had zero on the defensive end.
Jeff Adrien had one total, but it was the only time in his career he’s played more than 16 minutes and failed to grab multiple boards. When he averaged 9.7 a year ago, the 6-foot-7 forward never recorded fewer than four.
“Incredibly disappointing,” Calhoun said. “Jeff’s been a very good player for us and he’s going to turn out to be a very good player … And to go against Memphis, a great opportunity, I know he was psyched about the game (and) to get one rebound, it has to be obviously disappointing for him and us.”
The Huskies’ problems, however, stretched further than any one player Friday.
Consider this: Last season, when the Huskies finished Big East play with a plus-2.3 in rebounding, it was their lowest margin on the boards since at least the 2000-’01 season, and Calhoun several times has contended it was the lowest in his first 21 years at UConn. But even then they were only outrebounded by 10 or more twice, on Feb. 17 in a 73-63 loss to Syracuse (minus-10) and on Jan. 10 in a 73-69 loss to Marquette (minus-11).
As bad as it got in the conference last year, it never was a bad as this.
“I feel it’s really starting to come together but it’s always just one thing we just kind of forget to do,” said Jerome Dyson, who actually had four rebounds to go along with A.J. Price’s five, good for second on the team. “They killed us on the boards (Friday), which really hurt us and then we didn’t get as many second-shot opportunities and it could have been a closer game than what it was.”
In UConn’s defense, Memphis features one of the country’s top low-post defenders in 6-foot-9 Joey Dorsey, who averaged nearly 10 rebounds a game last year and had 12 Friday. In addition, they also have expansive guards like 6-foot-7 Chris Douglas-Roberts (seven rebounds) and 6-foot-6 Antonio Anderson (six).
But forwards Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart both played in foul trouble and still grabbed eight and five respectively.
“I’d say not everybody (did this) but sometimes we were ball-watching,” said Thabeet, who looked his best so far this season, making 7-of-7 free throws as well. “I’m not talking bad about a teammate but sometimes they’re watching or somebody (else) is getting the rebound. Sometimes it happens to me, too, I watched somebody get a rebound, but just we were ball-watching a lot.”
It’s all led to four games in which UConn has won the overall rebound battle (46 a game compared to its opponent’s 41) but lost the edge on the offensive glass, 65-57. Gardner-Webb, for one, grabbed 16 offensive rebounds Thursday.
“We need more people tougher, and willing to sacrifice numbers to get wins,” Calhoun said. “I’ll be very honest with you, in our first four games, except maybe in the first game (against Morgan State), we haven’t been anywhere near as good up front as we should be.
“Down the stretch of the game, the thing I was disappointed with was we couldn’t find anybody to give Hasheem help,” he later added. “We needed one more guy inside and there was nobody on the team.”
Reach Matt Stout at 425-4250 or firstname.lastname@example.org