UConn Feeling Good With Dyson Back

By Josh Herwitt - February 26, 2008

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- It's ironic how a team can sometimes play even better without one of its leading scorers.

For No. 15 UConn, that's happened to be the case since Jerome Dyson was suspended at the end of January for a failed drug test following a charge for possession of alcohol as a minor.

Yet the Huskies didn't waver with their second-leading scorer gone, and in fact, showed that they had enough maturity and firepower to knock off some of the premiere programs in the country, including Big Ten power Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., ACC foe Georgia Tech in Storrs, Conn., and Big East staples Louisville, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Marquette.

On Tuesday night, Rutgers couldn't be compared to one of those Big East contenders, but UConn still did its part in rolling by the Scarlet Knights with a 79-61 victory in front of 5,833 at the RAC.

"This has always been a chamber of horrors for us, even when we have been successful here," UConn head coach Jim Calhoun admitted during his post-game press conference.

The RAC isn't just a chamber of horrors for Connecticut, though. Rutgers' small gym, in fact, often gets talked about as one of the toughest arenas to play in the country, but you wouldn't have known that from the way Jeff Adrien played, dominating the Scarlet Knights at both ends of the floor with a career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds.

"The performance by Jeff Adrien was special," Calhoun added. "He got his career-high, but the greatest thing he did was on defense. I've really been trying to get Jeff to play 40 full [minutes]. He always plays great defense down the stretch, but he played the entire game tonight."

"He basically kicked our butt," Rutgers head coach Fred Hill said of Adrien.

Adrien wasn't the only one who showed up for the Huskies on a cold February night in northern New Jersey.

That's because when the Scarlet Knights doubled the 6-foot-7 junior down on the post, sophomore swingman Stanley Robinson was wide open on the perimeter for uncontested jumpers and easy bunnies around the rim.

"If you double, then you're leaving Robinson open," Hill further explained. "We have a defense where we double the post, but you're leaving a kid who can knock it down open."

And knock it down he did, as Robinson finished with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting and a game-high 13 rebounds in 34 minutes of action.

"We have not started games well and we started a little better tonight," Calhoun remarked. "I think we also wore them down a little bit."

Rutgers (10-19 overall, 2-14 Big East) managed to have only one scorer reach double figures, and that was reserve freshman guard Earl Pettis, who drilled eight of his 11 shots, including two from behind the arc, for a team-high 18 points.

But that was the only offensive spark Hill would see from his team, as UConn (22-6, 11-4) got solid perimeter play from Craig Austrie, the hero in the Huskies' win at South Florida earlier this year, as the 6-foot-3 junior knocked down all four of his three-point attempts for 18 points in addition to three assists.

Dyson, meanwhile, got to see 15 minutes on the court, and while the Rockville, Md., native didn't do a lot of scoring with the ball, tallying just two points on the night, he did contribute five of the Huskies' 17 assists, a stat that continues to reveal the unselfish play that Calhoun's players are exhibiting at the moment.

So while some might argue that UConn was playing basketball without the services of Dyson, Tuesday night showed that the Huskies can be just as good, if not even better, with the sophomore guard in the backcourt along side point guard A.J. Price.

And with three winnable upcoming Big East games against the likes of West Virginia, Providence and Cincinnati, it's Calhoun who could find his team heading into the Big East Tournament in less than two weeks with a chip on its shoulder and ultimately an impressive resume to go along with it.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 09:53 PM on February 26, 2008

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