Struggling UConn men trying to block out the noise and negativity
TULSA ,Okla. — It’s out there. It always is these days, when things aren’t going well for a particular team or coach. Or both.
The noise and negativity gets louder, amplified by social media, message boards, blogs and the like. It’s practically unavoidable.
Yet UConn, which has lost three straight and four of its last five and has already suffered more losses of 20 points or more than any Husky team since Jim Calhoun’s first season in 1986-87, is doing its best to shut out that noise.
“We usually just ignore stuff like that,” said junior guard Jalen Adams. “A lot of us aren’t really on social media. So, we feel like we’re in control of our own destiny still, even though things aren’t looking as good as they should. We still believe we can turn things around.”
And if they don’t, coach Kevin Ollie’s job could be in peril. #FireOllie has popped up on Twitter quite a bit in recent weeks, particularly since that 35-point loss to Arkansas back on Nov. 26. That’s the one that really seems to have struck a nerve with the anti-Ollie crowd.
Things haven’t gotten much better since, and UConn sits at 7-6 overall and 0-1 in the American Athletic Conference heading into Wednesday’s bout at Tulsa (7 p.m., ESPNews).
If Ollie hears the noise or is starting to feel the heat, he’s not letting on.
“Negativity, positivity ... that’s your own opinion,” Ollie said before practice on Tuesday evening. “We’re just gonna keep working. I’ve been doing that my whole career, my whole coaching career. The only thing I can take care of is our guys and getting them prepared. That’s the only thing that I worry about.”
The Reynolds Center isn’t exactly the ideal place for the Huskies to get better quick. UConn has played here three times since Tulsa joined the AAC in 2015, and the Huskies have lost all three times — most recently on New Year’s Eve, 2016, a two-point loss in overtime.
“It’s definitely a tough place to play,” Adams noted. “In past years, they definitely have had good teams.”
Tulsa (9-5, 2-0) isn’t so bad this season, either. The Golden Hurricane have a win at Kansas State on their resume and have won their first two league games, including a 65-56 win at Tulane on New Year’s Eve.
While the Huskies haven’t been able to break through against the three ranked teams they’ve played, they hung with No. 14 Arizona two weeks ago and with No. 9 Wichita State in their AAC opener at home on Saturday.
Adams believes the team can take something from those two games, even though they were losses.
“I think we’re just kind of figuring things out,” he said. “We put up a good fight against Wichita State. We’re looking to get to .500 in conference play. We just need to bring that same fight when we play against Tulsa. Hopefully, things will work out in our favor.”
Indeed, while UConn have played ranked teams fairly tough, it has struggled to beat low-majors like Columbia, Monmouth and Coppin State.
“I’ve kinda noticed that trend,” Adams added. “It’s something that we definitely need to break. We need to play every team with the same energy and passion to win.”
“I feel like that’s been a problem,” added freshman forward Isaiah Whaley. “We have to be super-ready, super-pumped, (but) we come out slower against a lower-ranked team.”
Through it all, Ollie said the team’s overall attitude has remained upbeat.
“We’re staying positive, we’re looking forward to (Wednesday’s) game,” he said. “We can get a nice, little road victory here and be 1-1 in the conference coming back home on Saturday.”
And, perhaps for a few days, anyway, quiet down some of the noise and negativity out there in Twitterverse and beyond.