MBB : Huskies lose steam without Drummond for crucial stretch in 2nd half
A hobbled Andre Drummond emerged from Connecticut’s locker room. Limping down the hallway in the underbelly of the Carrier Dome, his royal blue and black Nike Airmax sneakers bore an unequal load.
The left shoe compressed heavily under the weight of the 6-foot-10, 270-pound freshman center. The right shoe, which covered the foot connected to his injured right ankle, hardly supported him at all.
His trudge out of the locker room was visual proof of the pain.
‘When it first happened, I thought it was broken or something,’ Drummond said.
In a game that featured one giant turning point — an 18-1 Syracuse run after UConn had pulled within two — Drummond’s injury was perhaps a precursor to the SU surge. His strong play out of halftime helped whittle the Orange lead down to just five with 14:19 to play. But he missed a six-minute stretch of the second half while receiving medical attention in the locker room, and he was well short of 100 percent when he retook the floor late in the game. The end result was an 85-67 victory for Syracuse.
Though he finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, his lack of mobility for the final nine-plus minutes allowed the Syracuse guards to penetrate with ease and run away from the Huskies.
‘It was different,’ UConn guard Ryan Boatright said of the game after Drummond’s injury. ‘We had a roll going, so it was just another bump in the road. We’ve got to overcome that, though.’
In the first half, Drummond attempted to finesse the ball into the basket rather than going strong to the rim. He lost the ball on the way up for a layup against Syracuse center Fab Melo in the game’s opening minutes. Later in the half, he had what appeared to be an easy dunk opportunity, but he dished the ball off to Olander and the play resulted in zero points.
That’s when Jeremy Lamb said he and his teammates gave Drummond a simple message.
‘We just told him, ‘When you’re around the rim, dunk it,” Lamb said. ‘There was a lot of stuff he tried to layup or got blocked and stuff like that.’
Drummond stormed out of the locker room for the second half with a different mentality, and he scored eight points in the first 4:19. He fought for position inside on nearly every possession to begin the half, pushing the lighter Melo and Baye Keita around.
He grabbed two offensive rebounds, dunked twice and hit two of his four shots from the free-throw line during the stretch. He shoots 35 percent from the line on the season.
On one possession, he lurked behind the Syracuse 2-3 zone on the left baseline, received a perfect one-handed pass from Shabazz Napier and dunked it home.
On the next possession, he posted up Melo and drew a foul.
‘I was really, really excited about Andre Drummond finally going to the rim like we know he can,’ said associate head coach George Blaney, filling in as head coach for Connecticut while Jim Calhoun remains out with a spinal condition. ‘And more importantly, really posting in a good position and deep. We were able to get him the ball a number of times, and he was phenomenal with how he did that.’
But then came the injury. Just when UConn looked like it had found a go-to option offensively, Drummond collapsed to the floor.
He and Napier both went to scoop up a loose ball on the defensive end of the floor. And when Napier got there first, Drummond attempted to stop his momentum.
He couldn’t. His ankle twisted, and the center lay writhing in pain gripping his right leg.
‘I was getting ready to dive for it, but (Napier) already grabbed it,’ Drummond said. ‘So I stopped myself and just turned the wrong way.’
Drummond struggled to put any weight on the ankle as he was helped off the floor by a Connecticut trainer. When he returned six minutes later, jogging up the floor was a difficult task. He failed to score after the injury.
Syracuse guards Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters knifed into the lane with ease, as Drummond couldn’t recover defensively on pick and rolls. The two combined for all 18 points in the 18-1 run, and the SU lead soared as high as 20.
After the game, Drummond said he wasn’t stressing about the injury and would take care of it back in Connecticut.
But when asked how the injury changed the momentum of the game, his answer was simple.
Said Drummond: ‘It killed everything.’
Thomas Wolfe is leaving his position as senior vice president and dean of student affairs to become the new president of Iliff School of Theology… Read more »
UPDATED: MAY 15, 4:35 p.m. Syracuse University students will soon see new living options in downtown Syracuse, after a new construction company revamps a vacant… Read more »
THEY'RE BACK: Syracuse pulls off furious comeback win against Yale to return to final four after longest absence since 1979
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Brian Megill sprinted over to Dominic Lamolinara and catapulted into his arms. The game was over. The unthinkable was no longer… Read more »