Shabazz Napier, playing with a contusion to his left shoulder suffered Monday against Louisville, clearly wasn't himself Saturday in Pittsburgh. Napier was cleared to play and was on the floor 34 minutes but he was held to eight points – only the third time this season that he has been under double figures.
Napier was 2-for-7 from the field. But that wasn't the reason UConn (12-5, 2-3 Big East) lost to the Panthers (15-4, 3-3) at Petersen Events Center. Here are the biggest factors in UConn's loss:
- The Huskies had a horrible first half and dug themselves a huge hole. UConn shot 29 percent (7 of 24), got crushed on the boards and trailed 35-22 at halftime. Can't do that on the road in the Big East.
- UConn was outrebounded 38-27. Rebounding has been a theme all season for the Huskies but this was a bad performance against a Pitt team that thrives on crashing the boards. Tyler Olander (6), Niels Giffey (6) and Omar Calhoun (5) combined for 17 of UConn's 27 rebounds. DeAndre Daniels, Phillip Nolan and Enosch Wolf combined for 37 minutes on the floor and no rebounds. You would think a 7-footer playing 14 minutes would have at least one ball fall into his hands.
- Calhoun scored 14 points but there were times he truly played like a freshman. A turnover and a run-back on defense that led to a foul was a big moment in the game.
- The Huskies must get to the free throw line more often. The Huskies were 11-for-17 from the line but Ryan Boatright took six of those free throws. UConn was 5-for-7 from the line in the second half, compared to Pitt's 12-for-15.
Here are interview room quotes, courtesy of Pitt's athletics communications department:
Connecticut at Pitt, January 19, 2013, Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Pitt 69, Connecticut 61
Quoting Pitt Head Coach Jamie Dixon
"Well, another great crowd and great rebounding job by us, which is what we've been emphasizing and we know when we don't, we come up short. This was a great win for us. We knocked down free throws in the second half. I'm proud of our guys. We defended really well in the first half, and defensively that was as good as we've been this season. It really showed. In the second half, it was probably not what we needed to do. The zone didn't work. It worked well in the first half obviously and it didn't work as well to start the second half. We had some guys got in foul trouble, I thought we could get through some minutes with that, and it didn't work to our advantage. That's something we'll look back at. Again, we did a great job as far as rebounding. We took care of the ball. I thought we moved the ball well in the first half and, again, the defense was very good. I thought Dante (Taylor) played really well and I thought our bench was terrific, with Dante down the stretch. A lot of guys were knocking down free throws. We had our best free-throw shooters out there knocking them down, so I thought we really executed. We made a couple adjustments guarding the ball screen at the end and I thought that helped because they were hurting us. As good as we were in the first half, (UConn) seemed to get more penetration and splitting some ball screens on us, so we made some adjustments in the last couple of minutes and I thought that was key for us."
On the need to finish late in conference games:
"You like to finish every one and you like to win every game, but we've lost a few and when you lose you remember those ones probably a little more. (UConn) made shots, they made plays to get back and tie it up, but down the stretch I thought we came up with the rebounds. I thought we defended well and hit free throws obviously, and we got a couple of big jump shots by a number of different guys. I think it's not one guy, it never can be. I think it's going to be a different guy and that was key to see for us. I think the rebounding, if you continue to do that, that's where good things are going to happen."
On the Panthers' game-to-game progress in Big East play:
"The rebounding was the constant and we made free throws. We've won a lot of games, we've won 15, and we'll talk about the four losses obviously because those ones we remember. This is, again, a good point for us, because we keep talking about the rebounding. I seem to be the only one that keeps emphasizing that, or do it more than others. That's where it lies—possessions. We're a low-turnover team. If we get more rebounds we'll have far more possessions than our opponents. That, to me, is the key. We stayed with that all the way through and started to pull away with more rebounds."
On the collective performance of Steven Adams and Dante Taylor at center:
"He's had big rebound games. When you look at it, we had 16 rebounds from Dante (Taylor) and Steve (Adams). Steve was playing and had the four fouls, had two fouls in the first half, so that was something. I thought he was very aggressive. We got the ball to him better offensively too. He's still coming along as far as finishing and being aggressive. He's unselfish and is looking to pass first when he gets it, but on the glass he was very good. He did some very good things for us defensively, also playing in foul trouble pretty much the entire time. And Dante, I can't say enough about him and down the stretch how well he played. I went with him given the free throw shooting and foul situation, and he was big. 16 rebounds out of that spot is pretty productive."
Quoting forward Lamar Patterson:
On if today was another step towards consistency:
"Definitely. In the games we lost, we let them go at the end. Today it showed that even with a momentum change we fought through for the victory."
On what UConn did that provided them trouble in the second half:
"They just were hitting shots. They were getting easy baskets and we just had to make an adjustment. That's what we did and that's definitely some growth for this team.
Quoting guard Tray Woodall:
On how the team handled the comeback by Connecticut:
"That's the Big East. It's a tough league and we know UConn is a tough team. The fans stuck behind us, and there was a great atmosphere out there. We fed off of them and we stuck with it. We know we wanted to get some stops and they got some baskets, but we wanted to be patient and we also wanted to be poised. We wanted to get good shots because we know if we get good shots we'll get baskets."
On if withstanding the comeback was a learning experience for the team:
"It's a testament to our depth. We have a lot of guys that work really hard in practice and they're always ready when their name is called. A guy like (Trey) Zig, who had been playing a little bit early on in the season and now his minutes are going up as practice and the year go on. He's been working real hard and you have guys like Cameron Wright who comes in and makes a tough shot. We just keep going. Those guys work hard in practice and it shows on the court. We didn't get rattled; we just did our thing and kept playing."
|The Oakland Zoo was ready for UConn|
Quoting forward Dante Taylor:
On making big plays down the stretch:
"Just tried to step up as a senior. Tray trusted me and passed it to me for that shot. I had one earlier where Lamar passed it to me in the same kind of play and I trusted in James and passed it to the corner for the three. We just all trust in each other and we can all make plays and we're all good players. That's one thing about this team, we all trust each other and we all work hard. We know what each guy can do. He trusted in me and I trusted in him."
On if a senior is expected to make big plays:
"Yeah, I definitely want to step up for my team being a senior. I definitely wanted to get this home win and didn't want to lose another one here."
Quoting guard Trey Zeigler:
On guarding Ryan Boatright in the second half:
"That was the biggest thing in the second half. He's real quick, so we tried to just force him in to tough shots. Tray, myself, and James (Robinson) were probably the guys that guarded him the most and just tried to make him take tough shots."
On finding his role in the offense:
"Just taking advantage of the minutes I get. Being aggressive and trying to make things happen. I'm starting to fit in well and I think I'm able to show the things I can do. That's the biggest thing right now, just being able to play and have fun and help the team as much as I can."
Quoting Connecticut Head Coach Kevin Ollie?
"They came out aggressive. Once again, we didn't rebound like I expected our team to rebound, and they took it to us in the first half. You can't spot a good Pittsburgh team 13 points. In the second half the guys came out and responded the right way and got in the game. We had the score tied twice, but we couldn't get a stop in the end. Woodall hit a three and then we were even after Boatright drove the length of the court and got a one-and-one and made the free throw, but we gave up another three to Robinson. We can't do that. We have to play hard, we have to play for 40 minutes and I thought we only played 20. You can't do that in the Big East."
On Pitt's aggression in the first half :
"We knew it was going to be a dogfight. Every time we come here to play Pitt we know they're going to get us, they're going to hold us, they're going to go over our backs and rebound. They played aggressive, and I kept telling them it was going to be like that. We weren't able to withstand them. They hit us first in the first half. In the second half we challenged them, our coaching staff challenged them, and they responded. You can't let a great team like Pitt get a lead of 13 points on their own court; it can't happen, not in the Big East."
On UConn's performance in the second half
"It was just about us being aggressive. We were rebounding, hitting, and being aggressive. We had some shots fall that came off of our penetration, us getting steals, and us getting layups. It was just all aggressive things that we need to do to win. We're not a talented group in the sense that we can go out individually and try to win. We have to do it as a collective group, play hard, and do all the small things, such as sacrificing your body. We didn't do that in the first half and it was an embarrassment. In the second half we came out and played. I'm proud of them for coming back, but at the end of the game we needed some stops. We let Pitt score on us in four out of their last five possessions. We can't let a game be that imbalanced."
Quoting Connecticut guard Ryan Boatright:
On penetrating more towards the basket in the second half: "In the first half my shot wouldn't fall. If your shot isn't falling, you try to get to the basket. In the second half I was just trying to get to the basket. It was wide open so I just continued to do it the rest of the game."
On Shabazz Napier's injury:
"Shabazz's (Napier) shoulder is hurt. As anyone could tell, he wasn't himself. We need to him get healthy as soon as possible."
Quoting Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier:
On when he was cleared to play:
"We practiced yesterday and I shot around a little. It wasn't that much of a problem. We went five on five and I was only slightly limited. Shooting wise I felt a hitch in my shoulder. I was told I was able to go so I went out and tried my best."
On what his limitations were due to his injury:
"I couldn't dribble with my left hand. I tried to get to the middle and drove with my left at the end of half time but it hit my arm resulting in a turnover. I'm usually able to fix that contact and get a shot up but I wasn't able to dribble with my left hand."
For the AP game story, box score and photos click here.