Obviously the mood around here last night was one of elation, and although I am still coming down from the high of the win, I wanted to take a chance to throw out a few of the thoughts I am currently kicking around.
First, I really did not give enough credit to Stanley Robinson for his performance last night. Kemba Walker has been the driving force that has led to the current win streak, and he had a fantastic game, but the more I think about it, the more impressed I am by what Sticks did. He played 37 minutes and scored 15 points (2-4 from beyond the arc), but more importantly, he grabbed 13 rebounds (5 offensive) against what might be the best rebounding team in the country. As Meacham pointed out, rebounding has been this team's Achilles Heel, so for Sticks to control the boards like he did (in a game where two of the big guys fouled out) was essential. More than a few teams he went up and around on a WVU player to avoid a box out and set UConn up in transition.
More thoughts after the jump.
- Only ten turnovers. Keep that up.
- The defense has been phenomenal over the past three games. Jerome Dyson has been getting a lot of credit for shutting down Da'Sean Butler and rightly so. Butler went 2-10 from the floor and was a non-factor on offense. UConn was able to force seven steals, and maybe more importantly, stepped up on the perimeter to hold WVU to 4-18 from outside.
- Kemba, Kemba, Kemba. This is the guy we all hoped to see from the start of the season. Sure he had a rough night from the floor (3 for 10), but he played 39 minutes, got to the line 17 times and picked up three steals, which turned into plays like this. He still had four turnovers, but I'm willing to let that slide because he did everything else so well.
- How much do I love Jim Calhoun? I cannot even begin to count the ways. Less than a minute into the game, things looked bleak, but after firing up the team by drawing a technical foul, the Huskies blew the doors of the Mountaineers and rarely stopped to look back. Sure, the Cincinnati game was rough, but it has been fantastic to see how the team has responded to him in the three games since then. Plus, I cannot imagine him letting this team getting complacent before they take on Louisville.
- Speaking of technical fouls, the refs were pretty horrendous all night and the Huggins ejection (which incinerated an already sealed coffin) was their worst moment. I think UConn probably got a little extra love in the first half, but the second half was brutal for both sides. Just an ugly, ugly game that seemed like it had more whistles than shot attempts.
- A possibly underlooked perk of last night's win? It moved UConn into eighth place in the Big East, which is good enough for a first round bye in the conference tournament. The Huskies are 1.5 games out of 6th/7th (Georgetown and Marquette are tied, plus they hold tie-breakers over UConn), so moving up might be tough. Meanwhile, Notre Dame and USF are both tied with UConn in the loss column, so those games will be extra important for BET purposes. If UConn heads into the BET needing a win that bye could could provide a nice boost/cushion.
- According to CBS, UConn has now jumped to 41 in the RPI and regained its No. 1 strength of schedule. Ken Pomeroy has us ranked at 36 with the No. 2 SOS.
- Finally, I do realize that UConn, like many teams, can still easily miss the tournament, but now it seems to be a matter of them "playing themselves out" rather than "playing themselves in." It is great to see UConn jumping into most of the prognosticator's fields after the win. That Louisville game is looming and feels more important than ever. Hopefully the team is able to keep the momentum going over the long break until Sunday. I am not sure I could handle the pain if they came out flat.