UConn playing for pride under new coach Ollie

UConn playing for pride under new coach Ollie

STORRS, Conn. (AP) There is a lot Connecticut doesn't have this season.

The Huskies don't have a chance to play in the postseason after failing to meet NCAA academic standards. They don't have the five players who left the program early after the postseason ban was announced. And they don't have Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, who retired in September.

The Huskies, however, say the cupboard is not exactly bare. They still have a very strong backcourt. They have a new and energized head coach in Kevin Ollie. And they have a togetherness forged from the adversity of the offseason.

After a disappointing 20-14 season that ended with a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament, they are also in the unusual position of not having to meet anyone else's lofty expectations.

``Nobody thinks we're good enough,'' said sophomore guard Ryan Boatright, one of just five players with notable playing time returning from last year's team. ``But we feel like we've got enough here to have a successful season and to open a lot of people's eyes this year, and to prove everybody wrong. I feel that's the chip we've got on our shoulders, to prove the world wrong.''

And if taking on the world isn't enough of a motivation, players say the also will be playing hard for their coach and his future.

Ollie, who doesn't turn 40 until December, is Calhoun's hand-picked successor. He became an assistant at UConn in 2010, after 13 years as an NBA journeyman. But, he has never been a head coach on any level.

That was the reason Athletic Director Warde Manual said he gave Ollie just a one-season contract, to see if he can do the job.

``We've all formed a bond with him,'' said guard Shabazz Napier. ``We're all upset that he only got seven months. We felt he should have got more than that. But at the end of the day, sometimes I guess you have to prove yourself, and that's what is going to happen.''

Ollie has quickly established himself and his energetic style, running practices that focus on conditioning and accountability. He joins his team in gym shorts, demonstrating what he wants from them and yelling ``full-speed, full-speed.''

He says the Huskies will have a West Coast-style offense with an East Coast mentality on defense.

``We try to play defense all the time; we try to make our free throws and we try to pressure the ball, and we've got to rebound,'' he said. ``We do those four things right and we'll win our share, I believe.''

And while he may be a newcomer to the job, his coaching staff has 57 years of collegiate experience. He also has Calhoun on speed-dial, and is drawing from other mentors from his days in the NBA, such as Larry Brown, who is now the head coach at SMU.

``I love that kid,'' Brown said. ``He's pretty special. He was as well respected as any player I ever coached. He loves Connecticut. He loves coach Calhoun. He's not worried about following a legend; he's going to embrace it. He has experienced guys sitting with him who are loyal and he's got the head coach who is championing this.''

The team's talent level is more of a question.

Their backcourt seems solid with Napier, Boatright, freshman Omar Calhoun and Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans.

But up front, Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith both have transferred, leading the Huskies to rely on former role players such as sophomore DeAndre Daniels and those with even less experience, such as 7-foot-1 center Enosch Wolf.

Ollie says that will mean playing a four-out offense much of the time, emphasizing rebounding and a transition game.

The team's success, he said, will have a lot to do with its attitude, and maintaining that chip on their shoulder.

The Huskies do have a chance to win a couple of trophies early in the season. They open on Nov. 9 against Michigan State in the Armed Forces Classic at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, something that has the team's three German players excited. They also will play in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

``We just want to win,'' said Omar Calhoun. ``We want to upset teams. We want to be the bad boys in the Big East, just go out there and just play hard and have a different intensity than everyone else.''

No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 75-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed.

Virginia entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.

But the Cavaliers couldn't get anything generated on offense and the nation's top-ranked defense couldn't contain American East Conference champions.

The 74 points were the most Virginia had allowed this year.

Lyles was the catalyst.

He diced up Virginia's defense in the second half, getting the hole easily on six different occasions and making easy layups. He also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as UMBC built a 16-point lead.

Lyles finished with 23 of his points in the second half and Joe Sherburne finished with 14 points.

The game was tied at halftime, but the Retrievers came out confident and motivated in the second half and built a double-digit lead that Virginia could never erase.

Sherburne scored on an and-one drive and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a behind-the-back pass from KJ Maura. After Virginia made a foul shot, the shifty 5-foot-8, 140-pound Maura drove the lane for uncontested layup.

A Tony Bennett timeout couldn't stop the bleeding, as Lyles hit two more 3's and Sherburne hit one to extend UMBC's lead to 14 with 14:57 left in the game. Lyles was fouled on a 3-point shot and suddenly the Retrievers led by 16.

A corner 3-pointer and a layups off a fastbreak by Arkel Lamer gave UMBC its biggest lead at 67-48. From there, the party was on as chants of "UMBC" rang through the arena.

It was yet another early exit for the Cavaliers in a season that seemed to hold so much promise.


UMBC: Despite being undersized and unknown, they shocked the world and made history with an epic game.

Virginia: This isn't the first time Virginia has struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.


UMBC: Will face No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday in the second round.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).