Where’s the appetite in Connecticut? “We’re just going to have to be hungrier than we’ve played so far,” says Coach Jim Calhoun.
Four-point-five games into their run as defending national champs, people are wondering what’s going on inside UConn’s collective head.
This season alone, starting shooting guard Jeremy Lamb was yanked five seconds into a second half for loafing the ball up the court – in direct violation of Coach Jim Calhoun’s half-time orders to push the pace. The team lost freshmen star-in-the-making Ryan Boatright to a six-game NCAA suspension because he received improper benefits from the school.
Now, Calhoun is questioning his own team’s inner fire.
“Sometimes they call it a national championship hangover. You have maybe not the kind of hungriness you need. You cannot play this game and expect things to happen to you. You have to make them happen,” Calhoun says. “We have not gotten quite to that stage yet. We’re just going to have to be hungrier than we’ve played so far.”
Lamb, who scored 25 on a bad ankle not long after getting the coach’s hook, sounds like he’s hearing the doubters and haters: “This year, people are saying we don’t do this. We don’t do that. We are trying to stay hungry.”
His backcourt partner, Shabazz Napier, believes the Huskies are still as ravenous for wins as they were last season when an improbable run led them from the middle of the Big East pack all the way to the NCAA crown.
“But it’s kind of different to be at the top of the peak,” Napier says, “where people expect us to win.”
Not exactly fghtin’ words.
One of Calhoun’s most openly acknowledged concerns is freshman center Andre Drummond who – despite wearing a plastic nose guard during the Battle 4 Atlantis – plays too soft too often, many observers of the team say.
“We just need to get our frontcourt more involved,” Calhoun says. He (Drummond) can be one of the most dominating players. We’ve only seen flashes.
And yet here is UConn, riding the longest winning streak in the NCAA – 15 games. They’re ranked No. 4 and expected to reach the Final Four this season.
Imagine what happens if the Huskies actually do get hungry.
The question tonight is: Can they get out of the Bahamas with that winning streak intact? Florida State looks like the perfect muscular, mind-strong team to put a good smack across the glazed looks that all too often show up on the faces of the UConn players.
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