JUST THE BEGINNING
Freshman, Calhoun scores 24 in UConn win
Published: Friday, November 2, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 00:11
Although the book is officially closed on the Jim Calhoun era, it appears another Calhoun’s book is just beginning.
The UConn Huskies men’s basketball team was able to overcome a sluggish start and a one-point halftime deficit to defeat Division II side American International College (AIC) 78-63 in their first exhibition of the season at Gampel Pavilion on Thursday night. Freshman reserve swingman Omar Calhoun led all scorers with 24 points, 21 of them coming in the second half.
“Omar’s a natural scorer and he’s got a lot of confidence,” said sophomore guard and captain Ryan Boatright, who had 14 points. “You can expect that all year coming from what I’ve seen him do.”
Calhoun missed his first two shots of the game, but that’s about as cold as things got for him. He seemed to flip a switch in the second half and ended up going 8-14 from the field and hitting 3-6 of his three-point attempts in the game.
“In the first half I was a little jittery,” Calhoun admitted. “I was able to pick it up in the second half. I’m looking forward to getting better every day.”
Shabazz Napier was the third and final double-digit scorer for the Huskies, as he scored 11 points to go along with six assists.
In what most expected to be a wipe-the-floor type of blowout, AIC outplayed UConn in an ugly first half that saw both teams turn the ball over 10 times apiece.
UConn started lethargically, scoring only four points in the seven-and-a-half minutes of the game. Out of the gate, it appeared that AIC was going to do whatever it wanted against UConn. A Ricky Hudson backdoor lay-up and a transition basket from Spencer Braithwaite helped AIC get out to a 12-4 lead. UConn was able to claw its way back into the game and cut the deficit to one, keyed by a Napier three with eight seconds left in the half. AIC led UConn 29-28 at halftime.
The second half was a completely different story, however. The Huskies traded baskets early in the half, but then Boatright took over. The Aurora, Ill. native scored 11 points in a three-minute stretch when the Huskies went on a 16-0 run to put them up 46-33 and effectively end the game. The game’s lone lead change happened when UConn forward/center Tyler Olander hit two free throws to give the Huskies the lead, 35-33. The Huskies never relinquished the lead after that.
Head coach Kevin Ollie, who is in his first season as UConn’s main man, attributed the dominant second half to “getting back to the basics.”
“We had ball movement, we started making shots and I think Boatright started getting us going with his ball pressure,” Ollie said. “Nobody said it was gonna be easy. I praise AIC for coming out there and giving us a great game.”
Boatright echoed Ollie and thought the underwhelming first half was due to a lack of experience.
“We just had to get the jitters out,” Boatright said. “We got a young team and in the first couple minutes everybody just tried to do too much, too fast. We just had to relax and play our game.”
The game was the first of two home exhibitions for the Huskies against the Northeast-10 Conference. UConn’s next contest is against UMass-Lowell at the XL Center on Sunday at 1 p.m.
“This is a process,” Ollie said. “We’re going to go out there and play with effort. They did that in spurts [tonight]. We’re going to have to do it for 40 minutes and try to sustain it.”