Pahk yah cah, Mista?


UConn center Amida Brimah gets up a few free throws after practice Tuesday.

It’s time for the Battle of New England, sort of.

Harvard is headed to Huskyland (Olliewood, if you prefer) for a game Wednesday night.

UConn has won nine straight games in the series, four over the last four years, but most haven’t been easy. Remember Jeremy Lin nearly beating the Huskies? The Crimson have guys who can play these days.

The last time UConn lost to Harvard was Dec. 22, 1972, five days before UConn coach Kevin Ollie was born.

Ollie said Tuesday after practice in Gampel Pavilion he’s glad New England basketball is on an upswing.

“It’s great. I’m a big (Harvard coach) Tommy Amaker fan. I’m a big (UMass coach) Derek Kellogg fan,” Ollie said. “They’re all great guys and I like to see their programs do well.”

— THE GAME PITS the two teams tied for “31st” in the AP’s top 25 rankings. Neither is ranked (UConn slipped out this week) but both received 41 points in the poll.

UConn (11-3) has dropped two straight and is reeling just a bit.

Harvard (13-1) has won nine straight games and is off to its best start since 1945-46.

Ollie was asked if the Huskies have lost any confidence.

“They’re still together. We have to make shots. I don’t feel like we’ve lost any confidence. I haven’t lost any confidence in myself, in my coaching staff or in my players,” Ollie said. “There’s nobody coming to save us. We have to get ourselves out of it and we will do that.”

— IS THIS THE game that turns into UConn’s 5th non-conference loss in Gampel history? I don’t know but the 75-4 record here against non-league foes is in jeopardy.

— AS USUAL, HUSKY forward Niels Giffey had some good insights.

Giffey on the team’s confidence:

“I think we still believe. Obviously it’s a bump in the road,” Giffey said. “Every season has tough stretches and tough games but it’s a good chance to analyze your strengths and your weaknesses. When you win the whole time you get comfortable. You stop working out as hard as you can.”

On Harvard and the respect they have from UConn:

“They’re not only smart guys. They have great athletes,” Giffey said. “The last couple years we’ve played them they’ve been a great team. I definitely respect them.”

A quick scout on Harvard:

“They have small players. They can go one-on-one. It’s not your typical old school Ivy League, back-door. It’s a regular team,” Giffey said.

— OLLIE HINTED EARLIER there might be some changes to the starting lineup but offered no insight Tuesday.

“We’re going to do what we have to do. I’m going to go back with my coaching staff and evaluate practice and go to the drawing board and see who is going to come out with that fire and that passion,” Ollie said. “But starting is starting. It’s finishing the game and we haven’t been able to do that.”

— IN CASE YOU were interested, the ESPN/Infiniti Charity Coaches Challenge is running again this year. Fans can vote for coach Ollie, if they want.

— OLLIE WAS ASKED if sophomore guard Omar Calhoun, who has been shooting poorly for most of the season, is healthy. Calhoun had off-season hip surgery and also hurt his wrist last season.

“It’s hard for me to say that. You’ll have to ask him that question,” Ollie said. “Whenever I ask him, like all teenagers, he says ‘I’m good. I’m ready to play.’ It’s just like my son.”
“I think he’s fine. It’s more mental now. He’s getting some wide-open shots and I don’t think that’s his hips making him miss those shots.”

— ONE OF THE HUSKIES’ other shooters is having a different problem. He can’t get open very often.

Teams know about Giffey now, it seems.

“You have scouting reports, too. The scouting report says ‘We’re not leaving Niels.’ If the penetration comes, we’re not leaving Niels. He’s shooting probably the highest in the NCAA.

“Niels is not a big guy to put it on the floor, do two cross-overs and get to the lane. That’s not his game. His game is spotting up,” Ollie said.



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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