Calhoun on UConn's win over Vols: Far and away our best team effort

HARTFORD, Conn. — UConn found itself in situations Saturday that would ordinarily call for Kemba Walker to come up with something spectacular. This could have been another game for teammates to clear out as the Huskies’ star guard took over yet another nip-and-tuck nonconference game.

There was one swelling first-half deficit and then another, both approaching double digits. There was a stubborn opponent in Tennessee that kept pushing throughout the second half. And, ultimately, there was a sellout crowd of 16,294 rising in appreciation not because of Walker’s individual brilliance but because those around him came up with answer after answer.

Walker had a team-high 16 points, but so did Jeremy Lamb as the No. 8 Huskies pulled away for a 72-61 victory over the unranked Vols at the XL Center. It was the first time Walker wasn’t alone atop UConn’s scoring list.

“Far and away our best team effort,” coach Jim Calhoun said.

Walker missed his first five shots, finished 6-for-17 and had a season low in points. But he had seven assists, a sign of trust in those around him and a sign of maturity up and down a roster that has, at times, watched Walker’s one-man show.

Alex Oriakhi had his seventh double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Roscoe Smith had 12 points, making four of five three-pointers. Jamal Coombs-McDaniels pulled UConn out of an early hole with consecutive three-pointers, and Charles Okwandu had six points and five rebounds. Lamb made six of 10 shots.

Tennessee, like every opponent, paid significant attention to Walker, often choosing to ignore a supporting cast that made the Vols pay.

“If you’re going to lose to UConn at UConn, that’s how you’re supposed to get beat,” said Vols coach Bruce Pearl, making a one-day return to the bench while still in the midst of an eight-game SEC suspension. “I thought there were times we left (other players) foolishly, but that’s why they’re better. They’re unselfish.”

UConn (16-2) won all 12 of its nonconference games this season, sweeping the non-Big East portion for the second time in three seasons. The Huskies were also 12-0 out of the conference in the 2008-09 regular season before losing to Michigan State in the Final Four.

Highlights this season included victories over Michigan State, Kentucky, Texas and now Tennessee (12-7), a talented but inconsistent team that entered 3-0 against ranked opponents with victories over Pittsburgh, Villanova and Memphis.

“We’ve been unbeaten out of the league (before), but I’d have to go back to find out if we’ve beaten more quality opponents,” Calhoun said. “I’m exceptionally proud. Twelve out of 12. I can’t complain. Given who they had to face and beat, I’m incredibly proud.”

The Huskies had a 36-31 rebounding edge and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to the Vols’ 12. They held the Vols’ two best players in check. Scotty Hopson had 13 points and five turnovers, and Tobias Harris had 10 points and five rebounds. Hopson and Harris combined to shoot 9-for-23, and the Huskies had answers that Melvin Goins (5-for-8, 15 points) could not match.

UConn was 9-for-19 on three-pointers (47.4 percent). The Huskies shot 48.2 percent overall, 50 percent in the second half.

“We were able to get some opens shots,” Calhoun said. “The big key is, will those guys knock it down?”

The Huskies did. Walker was 1-for-5 from beyond the arc. His teammates were 8-for-14.

“They threw guys at me and I was able to find (others),” said Walker, averaging 25 points. “I’ll gladly sacrifice points.”

Tennessee clogged the lane and sent two players at Walker, preventing him from finding space in the lane. But as the game evolved, UConn adapted. Trailing 12-5, Coombs-McDaniel made consecutive three-pointers. Trailing 21-13, Lamb made consecutive baskets to start an 11-3 run that tied it at 24.

Smith made a three-pointer to give the Huskies a 27-25 lead. John Fields committed a turnover when Tennessee would have liked to hold for the final shot of the half, and Walker, still able to come up with one for the highlight reel, made a 25-foot three-pointer that beat the buzzer and gave the Huskies a 32-31 lead at halftime.

Smith gave UConn the lead for good with a three-pointer to make it 44-41. Later, with Tennessee mustering a final push, he made another three to push the lead to 55-51. That started a 14-3 run that included a three-pointer by Lamb and a steal-and-dunk sequence by Oriakhi.

“He can get 30 any night he wants,” Lamb said of Walker. “Tonight he got us involved. It was good. We all contributed.”

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Comments » 25

VolQB writes:

Calhoun should give Scotty the game ball. Everytime there is an off the leg turnover or a bunny miss he changes the game. My estimates he averages 15 but give the opponent 22.

No depth hurts. Pearl/TN subs based on time not feel of the game. I notice Calhoun subbing to make a point vs lack of focus.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

This WAS a very good team that we lost to. If you hold Walker to a season low, that is a good scheme defensively! Unfortunately, UConn had other guys step up and they made the difference. Even so, this game could have been a W if the Vols don't have the 5:30 drought! Good job Goins on O and D! Please get us a big man that can score!

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

Fields: catch the damn ball and finish.

Come on, you are 8o years old...grow up, mature, whatever. We really needed you inside, it was freeing us up outside.

If Fields can't settle down, we are screwed in the NCAA's, because Brian just does not have the ups. Brian plays hard though. Gotta love the hustle.

tnvol4ever writes:

If we can get in NCAA we can possibly beat anyone on neutral court. uh... or lose to anyone. Pretty good effort overall in last 2.5 games.

196SVol writes:

in response to tnvol4ever:

If we can get in NCAA we can possibly beat anyone on neutral court. uh... or lose to anyone. Pretty good effort overall in last 2.5 games.

Beat anyone? You must not watch any other teams play. Effort is good, but having more points than the opponent is probably what you want to do.

Laydbakvol writes:

On any given Sunday...or Saturday...or Tuesday...or

eduardo writes:

If your down and out shooting 25% play us and it all changes!!!

james#216392 writes:

in response to VolQB:

Calhoun should give Scotty the game ball. Everytime there is an off the leg turnover or a bunny miss he changes the game. My estimates he averages 15 but give the opponent 22.

No depth hurts. Pearl/TN subs based on time not feel of the game. I notice Calhoun subbing to make a point vs lack of focus.

Scotty gavae a good effort but made some mistakes. His 3 point shooting kept us in the game. We have to get something from Tatum and Fields. We play 3 on five most of the time.

clvolfan writes:

Wow!Took Ukon's best effort to beat a UT team that only has a couple of scorers-I'm impressed,might be hope afterall.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

in response to 196SVol:

Beat anyone? You must not watch any other teams play. Effort is good, but having more points than the opponent is probably what you want to do.

wtf, you plss on the wins at pitt and villanova??

we just took the no. 9 team in the country to the brink on THEIR turf....and that is with our inside game sucking.

bltch all you want, that was a solid effort.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

in response to VolQB:

Calhoun should give Scotty the game ball. Everytime there is an off the leg turnover or a bunny miss he changes the game. My estimates he averages 15 but give the opponent 22.

No depth hurts. Pearl/TN subs based on time not feel of the game. I notice Calhoun subbing to make a point vs lack of focus.

neither scorty nor cam had really great games, yet there we where, you know???

games like that, though, when you don't value EVERY play...that is why I'm dumping on Fields. 3 separate times he butter-fingered the ball with easy dunks at hand. At least once, maybe twice, he didn't keep the big dude for UConn off the boards.

We had Wayne last year, and Brian came on. This year, we have Brian...and what??

stompintheswamp2 writes:

We played ok, uconn played better. Stop the bashing. Hopson doesn't claim to be the best player - he was crowned the best player by others. He is a good contributer on this leaderless team. I do think it's fair to criticize the rotation this season. We have players that still don't know their roles because of the crazy substitutions.

murrayvol writes:

Scotty's biggest problem when he's off his game is dragging the rest of the team along with him.

Play through it, defend, block out, rebound, set a pick, anything. Just don't hang your head and mope.

There's no moping at the next level.

WhoIsJohnGalt writes:

in response to stompintheswamp2:

We played ok, uconn played better. Stop the bashing. Hopson doesn't claim to be the best player - he was crowned the best player by others. He is a good contributer on this leaderless team. I do think it's fair to criticize the rotation this season. We have players that still don't know their roles because of the crazy substitutions.

One of the "others" who claim Hopson is our best player is his head coach. Pearl, in the post-game comments: "We are inconsistent because our best player is inconsistent."

WhoIsJohnGalt writes:

in response to stompintheswamp2:

We played ok, uconn played better. Stop the bashing. Hopson doesn't claim to be the best player - he was crowned the best player by others. He is a good contributer on this leaderless team. I do think it's fair to criticize the rotation this season. We have players that still don't know their roles because of the crazy substitutions.

Also, Hopson SHOULD be one of this team's leaders. If not him, then who? I want to like Hopson, and he has been pretty good over the past 6 or 7 games, but when his shots aren't falling he lets it affect other parts of his game. Like one of the previous commenters posted, "There's no moping at the next level."

alvol writes:

In other words; "we played way over our heads"

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

in response to alvol:

In other words; "we played way over our heads"

pretty true; but, if you notice, Bruce has a whole bunch of guys who in a given game can put together a great run.

Can and Scotty are the two who really need to be exploding, followed by Harris. But, then, add in those unlooked for guys like McBee, Bone...you know how it goes.

We aren't there yet, but there is hope.

callforlogic2 writes:

James, I am not sure when you saw Scottie give a good effort. Maybe in warm ups. He consistently left his man on defense for no apparent reason, he stood around on offense instead of cutting and moving, and he had unforced turnovers. He was the main reason for our loss.

veinsoforange writes:

I soooooo hate to comment like this. I really do. I'm as big of a UT fan as there gets. I guess that's why I'm finally going to put it like this.....

BENCH HOPSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I "TRULY" believe if he does not play at all, we beat UConn. I hate it for him because I do believe he is a good kid. However, he just can't put it together mentally.

He was the only kid that set foot on the court for us that didn't work their tails off. All other guys put every ounce of effort they could into that game. Not ole Scotty though. He's just slow & lazy, period!

pvtoe writes:

in response to veinsoforange:

I soooooo hate to comment like this. I really do. I'm as big of a UT fan as there gets. I guess that's why I'm finally going to put it like this.....

BENCH HOPSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I "TRULY" believe if he does not play at all, we beat UConn. I hate it for him because I do believe he is a good kid. However, he just can't put it together mentally.

He was the only kid that set foot on the court for us that didn't work their tails off. All other guys put every ounce of effort they could into that game. Not ole Scotty though. He's just slow & lazy, period!

Right before church service I told a guy, "Without Hopson, we win that game." I agree with you, I hate to say it but its true. He needs to sit.

illorangevol writes:

This team gave an excellent effort in the first half, but it seams as though some of the players are looking for someone else to take charge when it gets tough at times. A good effort is what is expected on every play. This happen that is also expected, but when things start to go south and mistakes happen you can' just give up.

You must manup and take charge. There only 2 players on this team that I feel demonstrate heart at each play - Williams and Goins. You can't pin things on a freshman when he makes mistakes (Harris), but when a Junior makes mistakes and takes the rest of the play off by laying down - that is a different story.

Fight out every play, every second. Get Fields off the court until he learns the basics of catching and passing. Put Hopson through dribbling drills in traffic. Get cam off the court until he decides to grow up.

volpreacher writes:

The more I look at comments on this page whether it is basketball or football, there are very few who actually know what they are talking about. ONe minute they say, Hopson is a beast, then if UT loses, Hopson is a joke. This was a really good effort by UT and I agree with a previous poster, we can beat anyone on a given night. Now in my opinion it is not the players on the team or the coach, it is the lack of a consistent scorer, one who you can depend on in the clutch like Chris Loften. But that isn't a knock on this team. Everyone has their limitations. I look forward to controlled chaos in a couple years as stated by a previous article.

stompintheswamp2 writes:

in response to WhoIsJohnGalt:

Also, Hopson SHOULD be one of this team's leaders. If not him, then who? I want to like Hopson, and he has been pretty good over the past 6 or 7 games, but when his shots aren't falling he lets it affect other parts of his game. Like one of the previous commenters posted, "There's no moping at the next level."

Why are you asking me who? I just said the team is leaderless. Does a team leader have to be the best player? Most consistent? Best defender? Most passionate? Pearl calls Scottie his best player. What does that mean? I think Pearl is the teams leader by default. Sorry but that's where the buck stops. Pearl has to figure it all out because this is HIS team.

TicklesTheTwine writes:

Seems like you all do not get it. Hopson did not lose the game for the Vols (although some pretty blooperesque late turnovers marked the beginning of the end). This was a combined effort. Fields left 6 points on the court by taking his eye off the ball AND hurled a wild 15 foot pass off a rebound to Goins in the backcourt with about 8 mins left, Brian missed 2 key shots in the lane in the second half that could have swung momentum after important UConn misses, Bone did not box Kemba out off the 3 ball miss put back, Cam could not knock a 3 down all night, etc. My BIG gripe of the night is - in the final minutes the plays MUST go through Mel. He's hot, been hot all night. The announcers even said Goins seemed as if he was in attack mode. Playing solid D, slapping balls away. He wants the rock - why does the offense go through Scotty? I'll tell you one thing, Tobias is getting irritated first of all by Skylar wanting to run the point - he's waving him off or ignoring the pleas all together when McBee demands the ball. Tobias' is also fed up with the lack of touches. You can tell by his hand-raising, frustrated clapping, and overall body language. Tobias is a slasher, runner-in-the-lane type player BUT, if he would work on the 3 ball in the off season he will be the complete package. Scotty should work on DRIBBLING and BALL HANDLING in the off season AFTER he declares that ONCE AGAIN he will not be declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft. There, that's my 2 cents worth.

dcap8424 writes:

in response to TicklesTheTwine:

Seems like you all do not get it. Hopson did not lose the game for the Vols (although some pretty blooperesque late turnovers marked the beginning of the end). This was a combined effort. Fields left 6 points on the court by taking his eye off the ball AND hurled a wild 15 foot pass off a rebound to Goins in the backcourt with about 8 mins left, Brian missed 2 key shots in the lane in the second half that could have swung momentum after important UConn misses, Bone did not box Kemba out off the 3 ball miss put back, Cam could not knock a 3 down all night, etc. My BIG gripe of the night is - in the final minutes the plays MUST go through Mel. He's hot, been hot all night. The announcers even said Goins seemed as if he was in attack mode. Playing solid D, slapping balls away. He wants the rock - why does the offense go through Scotty? I'll tell you one thing, Tobias is getting irritated first of all by Skylar wanting to run the point - he's waving him off or ignoring the pleas all together when McBee demands the ball. Tobias' is also fed up with the lack of touches. You can tell by his hand-raising, frustrated clapping, and overall body language. Tobias is a slasher, runner-in-the-lane type player BUT, if he would work on the 3 ball in the off season he will be the complete package. Scotty should work on DRIBBLING and BALL HANDLING in the off season AFTER he declares that ONCE AGAIN he will not be declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft. There, that's my 2 cents worth.

Skylar was playing point guard at the time Tobias waved him off. It doesn't really matter if he was wanting to play point or not, that was the position he was playing. It's Skylar's job to bring the ball up since he was playing point guard.

If Tobias wants to wave him off, that's fine, I don't blame him, but don't get on Skylar for doing his job.

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