Over a decade ago, Minneapolis North product Khalid El-Amin, one of the most exciting high school guards in Minnesota high school basketball history, decide to attend UConn. He helped win a national championship for Jim Calhoun in 1999 and I spent much of the next decade resenting UConn basketball. Like most people, I cheered when George Mason upset the Huskies a few years ago, and after a mass exodus of UConn players left for the NBA, I was happy to watch players like Jeff Adrien suffer through a 17-14 season just two years ago.
But as much as I’ve become obsessed with college basketball over the past few years, I’ve learned you have to respect quality coaches. And Jim Calhoun has not only put UConn on the map, he’s earned my respect. Yes, his teams still go for too many blocks instead of making the simple defensive play. But there is something to be said for a team that thinks dunk first and not lay-up. Jim Calhoun’s teams not only win basketball games, they do it with style.
And the more I’ve respected Jim Calhoun, and seniors like AJ Price and Jeff Adrien, the more a victory like this one is all the sweeter. Here was a game where AJ Price ended an early Georgetown run with a pair of threes, where Jeff Adrien would not be denied in the second half, where Hasheem Thabeet was diving on the floor for loose balls, and where much-maligned Stanley Robinson was making a crazy put-back dunk. And yet Georgetown would not be denied.
UConn fans will blame the fouls, (see the early steal by Greg Monroe which followed a clear bump by Monroe), or the lack of effort on backdoor cuts. But this was not about a lack of effort by UConn.
This was about Georgetown flat-out refusing to lose. There was Chris Wright hitting multiple buzzer beating jumpers. There was Austin Freeman with his new-found aggressiveness taking it to the basket earning numerous lay-ups and free throws. There was DaJuan Summers hammering home the offensive rebound dunk. There was Jesse Sapp hitting a clutch three pointer to extend the lead in the second half. There was Jason Clark making a pair of key free throws. There was Julian Vaughn coming in and playing defense on Hasheem Thabeet.
But there was only one Greg Monroe.
Freshman are not supposed to go on the road and dominate the number 2 team in the country. Freshman are not supposed to have this kind of all-around game. At the end of the day, heck at the end of the year, the PPG stats aren't going to be the best because Monroe is a team player. But Greg Monroe showed on Monday why he is one of the most talented freshmen in the country, opening the game with a three pointer, a hook shot over Hasheem Thabeet, 3 assists, and 3 steals. (Oh, and did I mention that he leads the Hoyas in steals, as a forward?) Monroe's performance in the first 6 minutes of the game, not only gave the Hoyas a 15-1 and then a 18-3 lead, it proved that there still are a few freshman worth watching this year.
Look Greg Monroe might cool off under the grind of Big East play. He may get schooled by DeJuan Blair on Saturday. But it is games like this one that make a Georgetown fan want to bask in the moment. Enjoy this season while you can Hoya fans, because if Monroe wants to go pro, he’ll have that option.