It wasn’t the brow beating you expected to see from the UConn Huskies men’s basketball team in their opener against the Columbia Lions. In fact, it might have been closer than Jim Calhoun would have liked.
But when you have a special player like Jeremy Lamb, just like with Kemba Walker last season, you don’t have to worry as much as Lamb led the way with a career-high 30 points to help the Huskies to a 70-57 win in front of a sell-out crowd at Gampel Pavilion on campus in Storrs on Friday night.
Shabazz Napier was the only other Husky in double figures as he had 21 points to go along with six rebounds, eight assists and two steals. Roscoe Smith added eight points and seven rebounds while Tyler Olander had seven points and eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Freshman DeAndre Daniels blocked three shots for the Huskies (1-0) while Alex Oriakhi led the way with four blocks.
It was inauspicious debut for the highly hyped Andre Drummond. While showing flashes of brilliance at times, Drummond struggled with foul trouble early on and spent a good amount of time on the bench. And things didn’t get better for him as he was bumped in the face and had to leave the game. He had suffered a concussion and broken nose during the preseason and is wearing a mask.
Noruwa Agho led the Lions (0-1) with 16 points. Blaise Stabb added a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds while Brian Barbour chipped in with 10 points.
It was close early on before the Huskies went on an 8-0 run to open up a 13-5 lead. The Lions would cut the lead back down to five at 15-10 before another UConn run, this one 10-0, increased the lead to 15 points. Columbia would get as close as 10 points the rest of the way in the first half but the Huskies went into the locker room up 15 points at 37-22 on the strength of two Lamb threes including one to beat the halftime buzzer.
Columbia never really threatened the Huskies in the second half. Of course UConn couldn’t pull away from them either. The Huskies were never really able to put a game-killing run together as the scrappy Lions fought hard for the entire 40 minutes giving UConn a good early season battle.
The one thing besides the nasty dunk by Lamb that stood out to me was the play of Olander and Daniels.
For Daniels, his good play came on the defensive end while Olander just had a good overall game. He is definitely much improved from last year and you could see all the hard work he put in during the offseason. Playing in your hometown isn’t easy but Olander is proving it’s no fluke he’s at UConn.
While Oriakhi struggled, Olander stepped up his game on Friday night. Of course it’s only one game but I expect this to continue from Olander.
The Huskies will now get ready for their next game which comes on Monday night when the Wagner Seahawks come to Gampel. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the game can be seen locally in Connecticut on SNY.
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Notes and musings:
The video boards did not work before the game so the opening montage that was supposed to be shown before the game was played at halftime.
There also was a little malfunction in the unveiling of the 2010-11 NCAA Championship Banner.
The starters for the Huskies were Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb, Roscoe Smith, Tyler Olander and Alex Oriakhi.
UConn shot 50% (26-32) from the floor for the game. The Lions shot 28.8% (21-73).
The Huskies had 13 assists on their 26 made baskets.
UConn was 8-of-17 (47.1%) from three point land while Columbia was 9-of-31 (29%).
As we’ve come to expect, the Huskies were awful from the free throw line. They were 10-of-18 (55.6%). Oriakhi missed all three of his attempts and Napier was 4-of-8.
UConn barely won the battle of the boards (43-41) and outscored the Lions 24-20 in the paint.
The Huskies had 15 points off of nine Columbia turnovers. The Lions had 10 points off of 15 UConn turnovers.
Columbia had 19 second chance points to just four for the Huskies. UConn did outscore the Lions 20-2 on the fast break.
Niels Giffey, Michael Bradley and Ryan Boatright were all in street clothes on the bench. Giffey and Bradley are battling injuries while Boatright is still ineligible to play pending the outcome of the NCAA investigation.
Photo credit: Bettina Hansen – Hartford Courant (No. 10 in gallery)