BIG EAST: Yo, Adrien! UConn rises behind senior

Nathan McGann

Player of the Week:

Jeff Adrien, Connecticut


While Connecticut continues to assert itself as one of the best teams in both the Big East and the nation, its stars have demonstrated what needs to be done to win night in and night out. Although senior guard A.J. Price totaled a career-high 29 points this past week in a win against Villanova and junior guard Jerome Dyson has put together back-to-back 15-point performances, the Huskies’ winning ways have been driven largely thanks to the force that is this week’s Player of the Week, senior forward Jeff Adrien.

Adrien continues to be the perfect complement to big man Hasheem Thabeet on a team that doesn’t necessarily need to shoot well every night because of its imposing size. Adrien, who stands at 6 feet 7 inches and 243 pounds, is one of the most consistent players in the Big East, and this past week was no exception.

He had 12 points and 14 rebounds against Villanova on Jan. 21. He also stepped up in the low post when Thabeet was in foul trouble. As the Wildcats continued to push the Huskies, Adrien played smart and tough, sitting on the bench for only four minutes while Thabeet only played 17 minutes.

For an encore, Adrien and the Huskies went on the road to South Bend to take on a Notre Dame team that had not lost at home in more than three years. Adrien put up his fifth consecutive double-double with 12 points and 19 boards. Sparked by Adrien’s relentless play, the Huskies won their seventh straight game and broke the Irish’s home winning streak. As the season progresses, Adrien’s performance will continue to be the key to the Huskies’ success.


Team of the Week:

Connecticut Huskies 

After opening conference play with a loss at home to Georgetown, the consistently high-ranked Huskies were left wondering where they really fit in the best conference in the country. Since, UConn has won seven consecutive conference games and nicely positioned itself near the top of the standings.

However, it was not until this past week that the Huskies were truly challenged in the Big East; up until their home victory against Villanova, their best conference win was on the road against then-No. 22 West Virginia Mountaineers.

Guards Price and Dyson made sure Villanova didn’t leave Hartford with the upset as the Huskies held off the Wildcats 89-83. Even more impressive was UConn’s performance in South Bend.

Coming off back-to-back losses to Louisville and Syracuse, the Irish were desperate for a win. In addition, the Huskies were traveling to a building which had hosted 45 straight Irish victories. The Huskies played stifling defense, holding the Irish to only 29.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc. No one other than Harangody could score double digits as the Huskies secured a 69-61 victory. The two wins against ranked conference opponents were more than enough for Connecticut to earn this week’s Team of the Week honor. 

Judgment Week:

Georgetown Hoyas 

Despite losing center Roy Hibbert to the NBA, Georgetown was expected to come into this season and contend for its third-straight Big East regular season title. Coming in was heavily recruited freshman center Greg Monroe, a 6-foot-11-inch, 250 pound behemoth from New Orleans. Many saw Monroe as a more dominant player than Hibbert, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Plus, junior forward DaJuan Summers was christened the team leader and was expected to serve as a prolific scorer who could drive to the basket as well as sit back and shoot the deep three.

Monroe and Summers met early expectations, so much so that they had many spectators confident this young Hoya team was going to make a nice run come March. Wins against non-conference opponent Memphis, then Connecticut and Syracuse certainly excited many in D.C. However, Georgetown has come to realize just how hard it is to win consistently in the league. After losing to the Duke Blue Devils, the Hoyas returned to conference play to face a surging West Virginia and a desperate Seton Hall.

While the 75-58 loss at home to the Mountaineers was tough, it was hard to fathom that the Hoyas would lose at Seton Hall for their third consecutive loss – but they did. Georgetown now finds itself falling in the national rankings and outside the Top 8 of the Big East standings, in dire need of a quick turnaround.

With two more road games on tap for the upcoming week, Georgetown can ill-afford another bad loss when they take on an up-and-down Cincinnati Bearcats team that finds itself tied with the Hoyas in the conference standings. After that, they travel to Marquette, currently No. 1 in the Big East with an undefeated conference record. The Hoyas are certainly hoping they escape with two wins on the road.

Game to Watch:

Louisville vs UConn

While the Big East boasts some big-time matchups, none seem as impressive as on Feb. 2 when the No. 2-ranked Connecticut Huskies travel to Louisville to face the surging and No. 7-ranked Cardinals.

Connecticut possesses one of the biggest and toughest teams around. After an early loss to Georgetown, the Huskies have rebounded to win seven consecutive conference matchups and seem ready to challenge for the Big East crown.

Louisville, after losing to three unranked nonconference opponents – Western Kentucky, Minnesota and UNLV – has transformed itself back into the program that everyone expected would make a run to the Final Four. Undefeated in the Big East, the Cardinals have defeated some serious contenders in Villanova, Notre Dame, Syracuse and the then top-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers to get back into the Top 10.

Considering both teams start some of the conference’s biggest stars – Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, Thabeet and Price – and have their eyes set on hoisting a championship trophy, this battle has all the makings of being one of the best games in college basketball come season’s end.