Connecticut's Omar Calhoun scores two of his game-high 22 points while being guarded by Maryland Eastern Shore's Ishaq Pitt during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Hartford, Conn., Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. Connecticut won the game 84-50. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)
STORRS, Conn. – Omar Calhoun went into the first final exams of his college career with something else on his mind.
The end of his first semester in school ended in a dud on the basketball floor.
Calhoun, a versatile scorer from Brooklyn, managed only five points in a loss to N.C State and then put up zero points in a win over Harvard. In those two games the sharp-shooting Calhoun managed to go 1 of 11 from the field and had more turnovers than points.
That wasn’t the way Calhoun wanted to go into finals. Certainly, the academic part was the focus, but getting in the gym is something that Calhoun made sure do to during the layoff.
“I was just analyzing every part of my game,” Calhoun said. “The break time was crucial for me. I looked at different parts of my games. I was struggling and wasn't feeling like myself on the court.”
In the first game out of exams Calhoun was back to his old self.
In Monday’s 84-50 rout of Maryland Eastern Shore, Calhoun broke out of his two game funk with 22 points on 8 of 11 shooting showcasing an all-around scoring arsenal. Calhoun got open on the perimeter and made 3 of 4 3-point attempts and also got points in other ways with a pair of pull-up jumpers, several offensive rebounds baskets and even a fastbreak dunk.
Connecticut's Omar Calhoun (21) drives past North Carolina State's Scott Wood (15) during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Those are the kinds of plays the Huskies need out of Calhoun every night. The 8-2 Huskies will host Fordham tonight at the XL Center in Hartford and the coaching staff is relying on the freshman from Christ the King to keep the points coming.
“We got to do a better job of getting him open,” head coach Kevin Ollie said. “Point guards got to get him the ball and he has to move and get rebounds like he's been doing. He can score within in our offense. Our offense isn't a box you in offense and you have chances to create plays for yourself. I don't have to call a play for yourself every time. This is a situation where you go out and make pays, get out in transition and, hopefully, he can continue to do that.”
Calhoun is having a solid start to his freshman campaign and before his struggles against N.C. State and Harvard had put together four straight double digit games. The 6-4 guard is averaging 10.3 points per game in 10 starts and is shooting 40.8 percent from the floor and 30.8 from 3-point range. It’s those last two numbers that Calhoun wants to improve on as the Huskies wrap up the year with games against Fordham and Washington before flying to Milwaukee for a New Year’s Day showdown against Marquette to begin Big East play.
“I made sure I was in the gym everyday,” Calhoun said. “I didn't like how I was playing. I got in morning and night and after practice and getting shots up and working at things so I can get back to how I should be playing basketball.”
Calhoun's ability is without doubt. The athletic guard is a classic scoring shooting guard and has a knack for putting points on the board. The adjustments that he has had to make as a collegian is the fact he doesn't have unlimited reign on the offensive end and he isn't the focal point of the offense. All high school players are ball dominant. The key for a player like Calhoun is how to score at a high-rate without the volume.
UConn's leading scorer Shabazz Napier knows exactly what needs to happen – take the City out of his game.
"We want (Calhoun) to score, but it’s also important for him to understand, if you can’t score, he has to do something else,” Napier said. “That’s what we have to get him to understand. It’s kind of hard coming from New York. New York, as it is, everyone thinks they’re better than everybody.”
Napier, a Boston native, smiled when asked about the attitude of players from the Hub.
“No, not at all," Napier grinned. "We don’t have that attitude, we just go out there and give it all we’ve got....very humble”
Napier calling Calhoun a bit cocky is the pot calling the kettle black. No one would know how to rein in a game than Napier. Napier has had 17 assists over his last two games and the Huskies' offense was at its best shooting 66 percent from the floor in the win over Maryland Eastern Shore. Napier, who can be flashy and head-strong at times, has refined his game from his freshman year to become a much more efficient player. Napier is shooting 44 percent from the floor and 39.5 percent from 3-point range while averaging 16.5 points per game.
While the friendly jabs at Calhoun are taken in stride, once Calhoun comes to grips with his game the Huskies are going to be better off.
The good thing for the Huskies is it is coming sooner rather than later.