Huskies' heart and soul (cont.)
Posted: Thursday February 14, 2008 12:59AM; Updated: Thursday February 14, 2008 10:54AM
Harangody plays with an equal level of fearlessness; as he said after Wednesday's game, "I'm not going to back down from anybody." But as a 6-8, 251-pound power forward, he is almost entirely devoid of grace. His crowning moment of Wednesday's game came at the 18:05 mark of the second half, when he got the ball outside the paint, on the left side of the court, matched up with Thabeet. With the student section at Gampel Pavilion chanting "UGLY!" at Harangody and his trademark buzz cut, he put the ball on the deck and barreled past Thabeet for a layup. This came in a stretch where Harangody scored Notre Dame's first 10 points of the second half, but during which the Irish also allowed UConn to take its first lead since the 12:38 mark of the first half.
The biggest difference between the respective situations of Price and Harangody may be their supporting casts. Both of their teams are among the Big East's elite, both were on extended hot streaks entering the night (UConn had won seven straight, Notre Dame five), but the Huskies simply have more weapons and more balance. Thabeet, who had 10 boards and six blocks, is perhaps the preeminent shot-changer in college hoops. Jeff Adrien, who had 13 points and nine boards, is more physical than any player on the Irish's roster. Unheralded senior guard Craig Austrie (5-of-11 shooting for 14 points, as well as four assists against zero turnovers) showed more composure than his Notre Dame counterpart at the two-guard position, Kyle McAlarney (4-of-14 shooting for 12 points, four assists, two turnovers). And when the Huskies re-add scoring guard Jerome Dyson, who is suspended for failing a drug test, he and fellow sophomore Doug Wiggins will give them valuable guard depth off the bench.
On top of his scoring, Price has been the one keeping this band of Huskies together, especially in the wake of the suspensions of Wiggins (who sat out two games before being reinstated) and Dyson for an incident on Jan. 25. Calhoun seems to speak as much about Price's newfound leadership abilities as he does his 16.8-point Big East scoring average. "You need someone to look to," said Calhoun. "Where last year A.J. was just trying to find himself, never mind find the team, now I think he's directing things."
Price had wanted to play that role as a sophomore, but it wasn't possible. He wasn't ready, yet, to walk the walk.
"I wasn't that effective as a player [then], so it's hard for people to listen to you when you're not holding up your end of the bargain," he said. "Guys tend to follow me this year."
Following Price has put UConn in a promising position. Thought of as an NCAA bubble team coming into the season, the Huskies are now behind only Georgetown in the Big East, fighting for seeding rather than merely a bid to the dance. And there is realistic chance that, should Price keep this up, they can remain on their feet, throwing punches later into March than anyone expected.
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