March 27, 2009

Thabeet presents big challenge to Tigers

GLENDALE, AZ - If Friday's press conference was any indication, Saturday's Elite Eight matchup between No. 1 seed Connecticut and No. 3 seed Missouri will be a game of cat-and-mouse.

UConn stuck around the arena Thursday to watch the first half of Missouri's 102-91 shellacking of Memphis. The Huskies saw first-hand how Missouri can make a more talented opponent get thrown all out of whack.

Even a team like Memphis, who said it liked to play an up-tempo game, couldn't keep up with the Tigers as they played their up-and-down game to perfection. Well, almost.

"I think we've yet to actually reach our full potential," Missouri junior guard J.T. Tiller said. "I think we played maybe, like, 30 minutes of a game yesterday … We have yet to put together 40 minutes. It is still to come, though."

UConn coach Jim Calhoun said he simplified his team's offense in Friday's practice to adapt to Missouri's ever-changing defensive schemes. His players made one thing clear, though: they don't want to get caught playing Missouri's game and turn it into a track meet.

"You definitely don't want to get caught up with that type of game with this team," UConn senior guard A.J. Price< said. "We like to play fast, but we don't want to play as fast as I think they want to play … We would be foolish not to slow the game down at times and use that to our advantage."

Part of Anderson's game plan will be to try and get 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet out of the lane so guards like Tiller and Zaire Taylor can slash and get to the hoop. On Thursday, Tiller and Taylor were able to slice and dice their way to a combined 37 points.

Missouri forwards Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll said they also want to see if UConn's big fella can handle a fast-paced game.

"We got to get that big beast to run," Carroll said. "We got to get him up and down the court. We got to play to our advantage. Me and Leo, you know, we're versatile big men."

Since both Carroll and Lyons can face up and hit the mid-range shot, it will be interesting to see how often they can get Thabeet out of the paint. One thing is for certain, though, Carroll said he and Lyons don't feel like underdogs going into Saturday's matchup.

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