Jim Calhoun wasn’t exactly his usual self, but he was pretty close. And he gave his UConn team enough to help it hold off Pittsburgh 74-65 Saturday afternoon.
UConn was up 14 at the half and 15 early in the second half, then fell apart nearly as fast as it did Tuesday night in Providence. This time, however, they didn’t crumble completely.
— Perhaps no one appreciated Calhoun’s return more than Shabazz Napier.
After scoring a total of 24 points over his last four games (including one goose egg against Syracuse, Napier had 23 points, six assists and four steals against Pitt. It was his highest scoring day since he had 27 a loss to Cincinnati Jan. 18.
“He brings that energy and it just makes he want to fight harder, even when I’m tired and on my last straw,” Napier said of Calhoun. “He pumps his fist and I’m like ‘I’m not done. I’m going to keep going.’ And he did that for everybody. Words can’t explain what he means to this team.”
— Calhoun didn’t speak to the media after the game. He was too drained, it seems.
“He is exhausted now,” associate head coach George Blaney said. “The games exhaust you anyway. To be coming off surgery and go through with that, that really can get you.”
Calhoun was almost at full strength.
“The only thing we did different is we put a chair out for him to sit during the time outs,” Blaney said. “I only had to get him once to make sure he sat down.”
— There were plenty of big plays but the charge Roscoe Smith took may have been the biggest.
“It felt good,” Smith said. “They usually hurt but I didn’t feel any pain.”
— UConn’s next game will be Tuesday in the Big East tournament’s first round. The Huskies are likely to be the 10-seed and play Providence at 7 p.m., though there’s a chance they could move up to the 9-spot (UConn would need DePaul to beat Seton Hall tonight, and one other game to go its way….unlikely).