It has been tough haul when you consider four of UConn's first six Big East games have been on the road. Life on the road in the Big East is never easy and Notre Dame is one of those intimidating venues.
Freshman guard Ryan Boatright says there's no reason for concern among Husky Nation. That's because Boatright plans on bringing a boatload of support from his hometown in nearby Aurora, Ill.
"People are going to be surprised; we're going to have a lot of UConn fans there from Chicago," Boatright said. "It's going to be crazy. From what my mom is telling me, my whole city is going to be there. They went online and a lot of people bought tickets.
"I'm just looking forward to being close to home and us getting another win. It's always a plus to see your family."
If his fans from Aurora were tuned in to ESPN2 Monday night they might have been wondering if Boatright's relationship with coach Jim Calhoun would allow the two to coexist long enough for the Notre Dame game. But things aren't bad.
With 14:40 left in the game, and UConn trailing 39-34, Boatright overthrew Tyler Olander on an inbound pass. Twelve seconds later there a 30-second timeout.
Calhoun briskly stomped to midcourt and greeted Boatright before he could get past him to the bench. And right there at center stage, Calhoun got in Boatright's face and started screaming. It was hard to read lips. But it was easy to see that Boatright spoke back to Calhoun, a response that is both rare and risky.
Boatright got the hook to the bench and Calhoun's gesture resembled a baseball umpire calling the freshman guard "out." Niels Giffey replaced Boatright on the floor. But Boatright was back in with 11:55 to play, returning to the floor after Calhoun was assessed a technical foul for arguing a foul call against Andre Drummond.
"It really wasn't even talking back," Boatright said. "He thought I had tried to blame it on Tyler for not catching the ball. And that's not what it was at all. I had to let him know that. I didn't want him thinking I was blaming any of my teammates. We all mess up. I looked at the bench and said, ‘Bad pass, on my behalf.'
"He thought it was the other way, so I decided to tell him. Coach is going to be coach, man. You've got to suck it up and keep playing."
Boatright is wise to learn that at such an early stage of his career.
Cleaning out the notebook …
The improved play of UConn forward Alex Oriakhi got somewhat overlooked Monday night. The junior has been a mystery and hasn't had the same energy he played with last season, especially during the NCAA tournament. Oriakhi had eight points, three rebounds, three blocks and just two fouls in 28 minutes. More important than the numbers, Oriakhi played with energy and bounce. "I thought that Alex played his best game in probably a month," Calhoun said. "There is still a lot more from him, but he was very important given the fact of the physicality of their big guy [Deniz Kilicli]." . . . Odd stat of the season: UConn was outrebounded 18-14 in the first half, and had ZERO offensive boards. "We might have set the all-time record without an offensive rebound," Calhoun said. Said Drummond: "Coach didn't like that at all. He wasn't too happy about that." …
Odd quote of the night, from West Virginia guard Darryl Bryant: "This is another game that were suppose to win that we didn't win, and it hurts." I guess he was referring to the 10-point lead. But the Mountaineers certainly didn't enter the game as a favorite. … Best quote of the night came from WVU coach Bob Huggins, commenting on his team's aversion to passing the ball. "I think that's a lost art," Huggins said of passing and sharing. "I used to have an assistant who would say, ‘They killed ants.' There wouldn't be a damn ant alive if they had any in here. I'm telling you we would have killed them all. We just dribble it and dribble it and dribble it and dribble it and dribble it. We don't pass the ball. It's hard to score when you don't pass the ball. We don't have Jeremy Lamb. We don't have guys who can create a good shot. We have guys who have to get that out of the context of the offense. . . . But you have to run offense to do that."
UConnPlaybook.com intern Chris Hathaway contributed to this story.