UConn's annual basketball run has a March finish

UConn's annual basketball run has a March finish

STORRS, Conn. (AP) Connecticut's basketball team runs a road race around campus each fall to mark the start of their run toward a championship.

Thursday afternoon's Husky Run, as it has always been, was 3.4 miles. But this year, the season's run will be shorter than usual, ending in March. UConn didn't qualify academically for the NCAA tournament and is also banned from the Big East tournament.

New coach Kevin Ollie, who took over last month when Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun retired, said they are finding other things to motivate them, including a regular season championship and respect.

``I really want the opponent to leave the court and say, `Why are they playing so hard?''' Ollie said. ``They're not playing for an NCAA tournament. They ain't going to the Big East. Why are they playing so hard? That's what I want them to leave with every day. If they do that, then we've succeeded.''

Ollie, who played for Calhoun at UConn and spent 13 years in the NBA, will make his debut against Michigan State on Nov. 9 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Because he's never been a head coach at any level, he was given just a one-season contract. The final game on that deal is March 9 against Providence.

``We know what he's got at stake,'' said guard Ryan Boatright. ``We know what we've got to do to help him fulfill what he wants to do. So, everybody's playing for each other. It's a brotherhood.''

Connecticut lost not only Calhoun, but five underclassmen in the offseason. Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb are in the NBA. Alex Oriakhi (Missouri), Roscoe Smith (UNLV) and Michael Bradley (Western Kentucky) all transferred after the NCAA ban was confirmed.

This year's Huskies will be led by the backcourt of Boatright and Shabazz Napier. Junior forwards Tyler Olander and Niels Giffey and sophomore DeAndre Daniels, also saw playing time last season. R.J. Evans will play his final year of eligibility as a transfer from Holy Cross.

But the rest of the Huskies are relatively unknown commodities. Omar Calhoun was a highly sought after guard from Brooklyn, N.Y. He leads a recruiting class that also includes forwards Phil Nolan and Leon Tolksdorf.

``Committing to UConn wasn't just all about Coach Calhoun, and winning a national championship,'' Nolan said. ``I knew we weren't going to be able to play for a national championship. But, UConn has so much history behind its name. The name and being part of that. It speaks for itself.''

Daniels was the first player to cross the finish line Thursday, completing the course in 18:47, about a minute ahead of Boatright.

The run is a prelude to Saturday's first practice, which under Calhoun was legendary for its intensity and ability to stretch players to their physical limits.

Calhoun is gone, and the players say Ollie has a more player-friendly style. But Ollie said when it comes to pushing his players and emphasizing hard work, they are two suits cut from the same cloth.

``I might wear mine as a European cut, while coach might wear his a little loose,'' Ollie said. ``It's going to be the same thing. It's defense. It's toughness. It's playing together.''

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3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

The Capitals play their last home game of October on Friday as they host the Florida Panthers (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Here’s what you need to watch.

Dmitrij Jaskin is back in

Todd Reirden has made one adjustment to the lineup for Friday’s game, putting Dmitrij Jaskin back in on the fourth line in place of Nathan Walker. Jaskin has yet to record a point since joining the Capitals, but that has a lot to do with where he was coming from.

“This team is based on being creative and it's probably something that I missed in the last few years,” Jaskin said following Friday’s morning skate.

In St. Louis, Jaskin was coached by Mike Yeo and, before him, Ken Hitchcock. Both coaches preach a hard-nosed offensive style based more on effort and being defensively responsible than skill. Coming to a team like Washington then, a team that encourages skill and creativity on offense, is a pretty dramatic change.

Jaskin has played a very safe style since coming into the lineup. It’s good to be defensively responsible, but not if it completely chokes the life out of the offense. Jaskin is hardly generating any offense at all thus far since coming to Washington.

After a few more practices, can it finally spark some skill and creativity from Jaskin?

Can the Caps get the bottom six back on track?

The Caps have gotten only two goals in six games from their bottom six and both came in the team’s blowout opening win against Boston. The third and fourth lines generated some chances on Wednesday, but afterward, Reirden stressed that the team needed to see more production from its depth forwards.

“We've got to continue to get scoring depth wise if we want to have success in this league,” he said. “That's where everything's headed is you can't rely on your top guys to come through for you every night and we'll continue to focus on finding the right chemistry with that third and fourth line to be able to give us some added offense there as well.”

Florida could provide a good opportunity for those players to get some points on the board.

Starting goalie Roberto Luongo is out with an injury and James Reimer will get the start on Friday. In three games, Reimer has a GAA of 3.62 and save percentage of .885.

As a team, the Panthers currently rank 24th in goals against per game with 3.50.

Two teams in need of a win

Florida is still searching for its first win of the season with a 0-2-2 record. It is still early, but this is a Panthers team with playoff aspirations and you don’t want to dig yourself in too deep a hole to start or it becomes very difficult to dig out.

The Caps, meanwhile, will be playing in their final home game of October. They leave Saturday for Vancouver to kick-off a three-game Western Canada trip. They then will face the Canadiens in Montreal on Nov. 1 before finally returning home.

Washington’s next home game will not come until Nov. 3. That makes Friday’s game a big one for the Caps as they try to secure two points before hitting the road.

“It's definitely a big game,” Reirden said. “We want to build on some of the things we were able to accomplish last game. It's difficult anytime you go out west with time changes and different stuff. We know that [Florida is] going to be a desperate team that hasn't had the start that they want and they're talented so it's an important game for us to go on the road on a winning note.”


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Redskins need to stop Cowboys' Cole Beasley to win in Week 7

Redskins need to stop Cowboys' Cole Beasley to win in Week 7

When the Redskins take on the Cowboys on Sunday in Week 7, there's one player NBC Sports Washington's resident GM Charley Casserly says they need to contain in this week's "Matchup to Watch."

The player: Wide receiver Cole Beasley

The comparison: Randall Cobb (Packers), Jamison Crowder (Redskins)

Who will cover him: Casserly's guess? Fabian Moreau

The key for the Redskins: Get physical with him. "Jam Beasley off the line of scrimmage," Casserly says, "reroute him and be physical with him."

Click "Play' in the video box above to watch Charley Casserly's full Redskins vs. Cowboys Matchup of the Week.