Calhoun shakes up lineup: Boatright, Smith will start

The UConn basketball team is trying to turn things around now that February is here. January couldn’t have gone much worse (2-5).

The Huskies (14-6, 4-4) will try and snap a three-game losing streak Wednesday here in Washington against No. 14 Georgetown (16-4, 6-3). Coach Jim Calhoun spent a few minutes with the media Tuesday night after arriving at the team hotel and announced a few changes:

— Freshman Ryan Boatright will start at point guard, displacing sophomore Shabazz Napier for at least this game.

In addition, sophomore Roscoe Smith will start in place of junior Alex Oriakhi.

Yes, the Huskies two captains will ride the bench to start things against the Hoyas.

Calhoun said the decision came after a “long, long, long” staff meeting.

“It’s for us to get more quickness, more speed,” Calhoun said. “It’s not against anybody. It’s for the team. It’s what we think is best.”

Notre Dame was the worst example but UConn hasn’t been pushing the pace very well for the last few weeks.

“If we don’t push the pace, we can’t win,” Calhoun said. “And we can’t win over these next 10 games against anybody if we continue to score at the rate we’re scoring.”

UConn hasn’t cracked the 67-point barrier since a Dec. 31 win over St. John’s.

— With Smith at the four, UConn will have a quickness advantage over most teams.

“He will get up the court,” Calhoun said. “I don’t know what he’s going to do when he gets there, but he’ll try to make something happen. We all know that for sure.”

(Insert jokes about Texas game last year here).

— In addition to, or at least akin to increasing pace, the Huskies also want to get more easy points. Fast breaking would be a good place to start, as would offensive rebounding.

“We have to get some cheap, easy points, whether it be against Georgetown or be against Seton Hall, we just can’t keep getting 50-something points a game. We’re just not going to win that way,” Calhoun said. “You put so much on your defense.”

UConn’s defense, as Calhoun sees it, has been better than fine.

“We’ve giving up 37 percent. Last year at this time we were 17-3, a three-game difference to the good,” Calhoun said. “And we gave up 39 percent. But, we could score and we were explosive. And at the end of games we had a go-to guy.”

— There will be another change to the starting lineup in addition to Smith and Boatright, though this one is kind of a regular.

Niels Giffey will start again Wednesday. He and DeAndre Daniels have been flip-flopping a lot a the small fowrard.

— Don’t expect Napier to sit all evening, of course.

“I fully expect Shabazz will play close to his minutes, maybe not quite as high as that,” Calhoun said. “But the game has to be played at a different pace.”

— UConn beat Georgetown twice last season, including a matchup in the Big East Tournament.

— UConn has lost three straight games against Georgetown at the Verizon Center (MCI or whatever else the “Phone Booth” has been called). It did win its first two NCAA Tournament games here last season, however, on the way to the school’s third national title.

UConn is 12-5 in the building overall, 4-3 against Georgetown. The last time UConn played here it blew a 19-point lead and lost 72-69.

— Georgetown is 10-1 at home, 3-1 in league play.

“We have a lot of respect for Georgetown,” Calhoun said. “I think their freshmen are terrific.”

Their veterans are good, too.

“(Henry) Sims, I can’t believe just how much he’s improved,” Calhoun said. “And I’ve always liked Hollis (Thompson). They’ve got a good team.”

— After his 15-point, 11-rebound effort against Notre Dame, Andre Drummond now has seven double-doubles this season. That’s ties him with Emeka Okafor (2001-02) for the most by a freshman under Calhoun.

Neill

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About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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