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Updates from Storrs, preparing for the red-hot Hoyas

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: theday.com

Published 02/26/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 02/26/2013 10:33 PM

The countdown has reached four.

Four games remain in the regular season for the UConn Huskies.

It’s really too bad.

This is a fun team to watch. They always play hard. And they care about winning and care about the program.

Hopefully, they’ll play before a full house against seventh-ranked Georgetown on Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion. As of late Tuesday afternoon, only 300 tickets remained.

Before practice Tuesday, they talked about playing the Big East leader. They’re happy the game is at Gampel Pavilion, where they’re undefeated this season.

“I love Gampel,” junior Shabazz Napier said. “If I had a chance to pick our home games, they would all be at Gampel. The crowd is right on you. It can be devastating for the other team.”

Some news, notes and quotes from Wednesday’s practice:

-- Coach Kevin Ollie raved about the Hoyas, who’ve won nine straight.

“They’re doing it on both ends,” Ollie said. “They’re a great team -- long, athletic. We can’t let them get out and get in transition and give them easy buckets. Then we’re going to have to guard them for the whole 35 seconds.”

 -- Georgetown's versatile sophomore forward Otto Porter, Jr., cemented his status as front-runner for Big East player-of-the-year by scoring 33 points in Saturday’s win atSyracuse.

Porter can score from anywhere on the floor. He leads Georgetown in scoring (15.9 points) and rebounding (7.7).

“He’s got the whole game,” Giffey said.

Sophomore DeAndre Daniels may draw the tough defensive assignment.

 -- Napier is on a scoring tear, averaging 27.5 points in the last two games. He’s made 15 of 27 field goals, including 11 of 16 from 3-point land.

“I just want to be a little more aggressive,” Napier said of the reason behind his scoring tear. “It’s coming down the stretch where a lot of guys are kind of tired and restless and I’ve always got fresh legs because I just treat my body so well.

“… All-around, I’m just trying to play good basketball.”

 -- Junior Niels Giffey has been UConn’s best reserve in recent weeks. In the last four games, he’s averaging 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds. He’s also played sound defense.

“I have more confidence in my game,” Giffey said. “I’m a junior now; I have to be more aggressive.”

 -- Battling a sore right wrist, freshman Omar Calhoun has found a way to remain productive. He’s expanded his overall game, becoming a better passer, rebounder and defender.

“He’s passing the ball a little bit more because of the wrist,” Ollie said. “That’s a good thing. He added to his game by default.”

Since jamming his wrist against Villanova, Calhoun has averaged 13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals in wins over Cincinnati and DePaul. He’s converted 9 of 15 field goals.

“My wrist still hurts me and bothers me a little bit,” Calhoun said. “But I’m still fighting through it.”

 -- UConn (19-7, 9-5) resides in sixth place. But the Huskies aren’t far behind the first-place Hoyas (21-4, 11-3). They basically need to win their remaining games to still have a shot at winning the regular season title.

“We have to try to win as many games as possible,” Napier said. “They’re in first place. It would sit well if we win this game knowing that we can keep moving up in the standing. It’s kind of, I guess, a championship game, in a sense.”

-- According to Ollie, UConn has to rebound and run to win Wednesday’s game. That’s a huge challenge for the Huskies, who’ve struggled in the rebounding department all season.

If they can’t rebound, they can’t run.

UConn is ranked 13th in Big East games in rebound margin. Georgetown is eighth.

 -- Georgetown had one strange loss in the Big East, falling at last place South Florida. It is the Bulls’ only conference win this season. The Hoyas also lost to Pittsburgh and Marquette. Their non-conference loss came against Indiana in overtime.

-- UConn closes out its regular season by visiting Cincinnati Saturday and South Florida Wednesday and then hosting Providence on March 9 in Storrs.

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