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February 17, 2009
How the universe sees Calhoun

How the universe sees Calhoun

Thanks to Rick for this image.

Lots of papers in Connecticut cover the Huskies. So, lots to run through.

First of all, the UConn players didn’t make excuses for what happened on the court. They showed class and admitted things.

The Huskies, who pride themselves on being physically and mentally tougher than anyone, met their match, losing 76-68. Gone is a 13-game winning streak and by next week so will their No. 1 ranking.

”It’s surprising,” senior Jeff Adrien said of Pitt’s physical superiority. “We haven’t seen anybody else do that this year. Pittsburgh is definitely one of the toughest teams in the country. I give them a lot of credit. They work hard. We do, too, but today they got the better of us.

”We have to move on. It’s going to be in my head, I know that.”

”I’m not in shock,” Price said. “I’m just disappointed. … We knew what type of game it was going to be. Whoever was tougher was going to win. We thought we were the tougher team, and I still think we’re the tougher team. They just out-toughed us tonight and beat us.”

Well, one player whined a bit.

“The coaches told me to play all out,” Thabeet said. “But it’s hard to play all out when every time you go out you get a foul call. I would go to the bench and get cold and then go back in the game. It was an adjustment for me.”

I guess he took the cue from his coach.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun made numerous intimations that the officiating was much of the reason why Thabeet was so ineffective. But the game didn’t appear to be any more physical than every other game against the Panthers.

There was one call that appeared to be bad, and it was an important one. Thabeet and Blair got tangled up as the Huskies moved down on offense, but official Mike Kitts emphatically called a fourth foul on Thabeet. The Huskies were in the midst of a run that gave them a brief lead and, realistically, they played better with Gavin Edwards on the floor and Thabeet on the bench.

Calhoun, in between making veiled references about the officials, seemed to understand that the Huskies needed more from Thabeet in such a physical game.

“One guy could have played better to help us win a basketball game,” Calhoun said.

Ah, yes the Calhoun post-game whinefest. I was more bemused than anything else when I watched it live.

“They played a particular style of basketball that we hadn’t seen this year,” said UConn coach Jim Calhoun, obviously referring to the physical nature of the play. “And it was very effective against us.” A.J. Price had a team-high 18 points and eight assists for UConn (24-2, 12-2 Big East) while Jeff Adrien and Kemba Walker had 13 points each. Sam Young scored 25 points for the Panthers (24-2, 11-2), who beat a No. 1 team for the first time in school history.

The way I took it was that it was typical Jim Calhoun. Knowing just how far he could go in complaining about the refs without actually taking a direct shot. So clearly trying to influence the way the next game gets called in a few weeks.

It was also typical Calhoun because he was calling out his players as well. He was saying, they didn’t respond to the challenge. They couldn’t match the play. And they didn’t.


Briefly interrupting the Pitt basketball lovefest for the obligatory update on the Pitt football quest to replace the offenseive coordinator. After it all appeared that Noel Mazzone was poised to be the new offensive coordinator, things have changed.

Not only does this hire have to be the right fit and have the right credentials and a track record of success, it needs to be someone who can generate at least some excitement and help sell tickets. And don’t underestimate that last part — there is no question the pressure is on Dave Wannstedt to hire a coach with at least some pedigree of success and a track record of quarterback development.

That’s why the latest guy Wannstedt’s radar — California offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti — is such an intriguing name.

Unlike Noel Mazzone, who has fallen way down (if not completely off according to several soures) on the list for a variety of reasons…

[Emphasis added.]

A stunning admission, even via sources, to Paul Zeise. What that says to me, is that Noel Mazzone was killed not  by his track record or anything involving money or the interview. He was killed by the reaction to the leaked news of his impending hire.

It was a universally panned decision. When the closest thing to backing it was, “let’s wait and see” or “I trust Wannstedt,” well that isn’t support.

The credit, has to go to the fans and the often derided message board denizens for making this happen. They are the ones who wouldn’t simply accept being fed the sanitized resume of Mazzone without looking closer.

It is the fans that may force Wannstedt to have to hire outside of his comfort zone. To actually have to consider someone with an imagination and sees the offense as more than something to fear will put the defense in bad field position.

No, it won’t be Walt Harris taking over the offense. (A shame, but not surprising.) It also won’t be a mere NFL retread/crony.

Calling For A Photoshopper

Filed under: Admin,Uncategorized — Chas @ 1:34 pm

Are you good with photoshop or any good photo editing software (like Gimp or photoplus, etc)? Do you take joy in superimposing heads or bodies onto others to form mildly humorous creations? Do you want to occasionally do some of that for this site? Will you do it for free and with little notice?

Then shoot me an e-mail at pittblather-at-gmail-dot-com and we can discuss.

I would love to know how many press credentials were issued for the game last night. It must have been huge, because there is no shortage of different stories from the game. Usually, it’s a matter of weeding through all the AP wire stories. Not today. So, I may have to break this up into three different parts. Pittsburgh media, Connecticut media and then national outlets.

Obviously the focus of every story is — and with good reason — DeJuan Blair. It’s still a team. It starts with the trio.

As the national anthem slowly came to a close, the two teammates on either side of DeJuan Blair held him tightly by the collar of his jersey as he had both hands in the air and rocked quickly back and forth.

Then they let him go.

“They unleashed the dog,” Pittsburgh’s Levance Fields said.

Did they ever.

Sam Young claims he’s the toughest. Fields begs to differ and points to himself. Blair doesn’t hesitate before also saying he is the answer to the question.

In a program that has exemplified toughness, this trio has no peer. Not at Pittsburgh nor maybe anywhere.

But Blair stood alone Monday night. Believe it or not, above Connecticut’s 7-foot-3 big man Hasheem Thabeet.

“They’re like the Bad Boys,” UConn senior guard A.J. Price said after the No. 4 Panthers went into Hartford and dethroned the nation’s top team, 76-68.

“They’re the toughest team in the country,” he added. “It starts with Blair and trickles down to the whole team.”

Blair. Hasheem Thabeet will see him in his nightmares.

Part of the hype revolved around the battle of post men, UConn’s 7-foot-3-inch shot blocker, Hasheem Thabeet, against Pitt’s 6-7 DeJuan Blair, who has bulk and range to match Thabeet’s size.

That battle turned into a mismatch – in favor of Blair, who dominated from the start, posting a monster double-double of 22 points and 23 rebounds to Thabeet’s 5 points and four rebounds, the catalyst for Pitt’s 76-68 victory.

Considering the circumstances – facing the No. 1 team on the road, going up against a bigger center who has turned into one of the more dominant defensive forces in the game – Blair’s performance deserved the rave reviews it received from both sides.

“He’s a nightmare for every single opposing coach,” said Calhoun. “He’s just a man, a warrior.”

It also drew a sigh of relief from Blair.

“This was the most physical game I ever played in my life,” he said. “But for us, it’s just a game. This is the Big East. I can’t wait for the next time we play.”

Some of the credit goes to the coaches as well as the players. The coaches made sure the players knew that the best way to win was to get into UConn. Not to fade. Attack. Not let the mystique or fear of a block deter. Sam Young talked about it after the game as well.

Hasheem Thabeet scared away shots for most of this season. Not just blocked or altered the arc of the ball, but prevented attempts from ever being taken.

Forget about the missed opportunities to score by Providence, Seton Hall, Michigan and Syracuse of late. Thabeet’s 7-foot-3 inch towering presence — and that’s before he raises his arms up high — was frightful for some.

“I wasn’t going to allow him to re-arrange my shot unless I got a foul out of it,” Young said of Thabeet. “I think the intimidation was gone after he got flipped over DeJuan’s back.”

Yes. The flip. It was as physical a statement you could hope to see that any fear or intimidation would be held by Thabeet, not Blair.

Blair completely neutralized UConn’s 7-3 junior Hasheem Thabeet, who struggled with five points, four rebounds and two blocks before fouling out with 29 seconds left.

“That’s how I am,” Blair said. “I don’t care if you’re 4-8 or 7-8, I’m going to play hard regardless. I came out here with the mind-set of me being the underdog. I just went at it. He blocked a couple of my shots, but I got it right back and took it right to him. I tried to get into his chest and I did a good job of that.”

Blair took an elbow to the face in the second half, but it didn’t compare to the damage he did to Thabeet’s psyche earlier in the game, when he flipped the Huskies’ giant over his back after grabbing a rebound. Thabeet had to leave after landing hard on his shoulder.

So at the end of the game, it was fitting that Blair didn’t just block Thabeet, he took the ball from him.

As fourth-ranked Pittsburgh pulled away from No. 1 Connecticut in the final minute of their game Monday night, Panthers center DeJuan Blair snared a shot attempt out of the hands of 7-foot-3 UConn center Hasheem Thabeet.

Blair is eight inches shorter, but he had already proved that heft could overpower height. He heaved a full-court pass to a teammate for an easy layup.

It was a fitting end, as UConn surely lost its grip on the top ranking and Pitt showed that it could run past its biggest rival. With a 76-68 victory, Pitt loudly announced its arrival as a leading national-title contender by silencing UConn and its vociferous faithful at the XL Center.

It wasn’t just the way Blair shut down Thabeet. It was that Blair showed more than people outside of Pitt realized he had.

“Blair is a good player,” said Thabeet, who fouled out with 29 seconds remaining. “I didn’t have a good game, and he took advantage of it.”

Actually, Blair caused it.

Partly, at least.

I can’t begin to properly describe how good he was early, showing off an array of post moves that suggested he’s way more than the offensive rebound/stickback artist some have labeled him. He got position at will, called for the ball, out-maneuvered Thabeet and scored with ease. He had 15 points, 13 rebounds and zero fouls at the break, which represented the most dominant half of basketball anybody on press row could remember seeing this season and propelled him to his second 20-20 game in 16 days.

Blair slowed down in the second half some.

But really, how could he not?

And yet when Thabeet grabbed a rebound late that could’ve cut the lead to four points had he put it back in, there was Blair, ripping the ball away and throwing it upcourt for a breakaway layup by Jermaine Dixon that secured the win in the final minute and set the stage for the March 7 rematch at the Peterson Events Center.

No question in my mind, that Blair cost Thabeet some coin come June. The physical nature of the game and Calhoun’s less than veiled complaints afterwards were mostly ignored by the major media (I will get to them later with the CT media).

His eye nearly swelled shut, but no foul was called on this play, a fracas for a rebound under the Pitt basket. The whistles from the officiating crew of Mike Kitts, Ed Hightower and Tony Greene were, to say it nicely, erratic: Thabeet’s third foul, which came just 57 seconds into the second half, while challenging a Sam Young dunk, was legitimate, but his fourth, a whistle for a meaningless away-from-the-ball bump into Blair, was questionable.

How the teams responded to the physical style ultimately decided their fates: Pitt thrived in it, winning the rebounding war (48-31), and with that, the game, while UConn was knocked off-kilter, and lost. In the post-game interview session, Huskies coach Jim Calhoun replied to questions about the officiating by saying, “The game was played different than any other game we’ve played. … [The media has] got to come up the conclusions. I can’t. I’d like to, but I can’t.”

UConn guard A.J. Price, who kept his team alive until the final minute by scoring 18 points and dishing out eight assists against just one turnover, said “that was a Final Four-type game, how physical it was,” and admitted that the Huskies need to learn to handle such situations better in the stretch run. It was their first meaningful outing without junior wing guard Jerome Dyson, who tore a lateral meniscus in his right knee last week and is likely gone for the season, and they dearly missed his defensive toughness and ability to drive into the lane at will.

Later, when Pitt coach Jamie Dixon was asked about the bruising nature of the victory, it was telling that he didn’t find it all that remarkable.

“[The physicality] didn’t seem like too much of a surprise to us, or to them, I would think,” he said. (Obviously, he hadn’t heard Calhoun’s press conference.)

That ten minute stretch (roughly) to start the second half was maddening in that the refs seemed to be trying to make more calls — which was what Calhoun badgered to get — but it went against the officials’ nature. So it threw things off worse than letting them play. It went inconsistent and you know Calhoun was plenty ticked that he got what he wanted, just not the way intended.

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