Men's basketball: Omar's coming out party

Senior guard Omar Calhoun rises for a jump shot during UConn's 75-55 victory over Ohio State. He finished with 14 points, making all five of his field goal attempts. It's his highest scoring game since the 2013-14 season. (Ashley Maher/The Daily Campus)

Before Saturday’s game against Ohio State, senior Omar Calhoun stayed on the court after warm ups while the rest of the team (with the exception of Rodney Purvis) had gone into the locker room. Calhoun worked on his jump shot and his free throws.

“I was just making sure I had a feel for my technique and everything like that,” he said. “You always want to be the last one on the court. That’s something we always live by.”

Working hard is something that Calhoun has done, but he hasn’t seen results on the court that he would like to since his freshman season when he averaged 11.1 points per game.

Saturday was different. It was his best game in two years.

Calhoun didn’t miss a shot and scored a season-high 14 points to lead UConn past Ohio State 75-55 in front of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion Saturday afternoon.

“Omar played a huge game for us,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “I was very proud of him. But it just wasn’t his scoring, it was just him punching — it’s not literally punching — it’s really just punching and going in and doing all the tough things that we ask our guys to do.”

Calhoun added two assists and three rebounds.

The senior from Brooklyn, New York came into Saturday averaging just 10.4 minutes per game this season, but Ollie saw something in practice this week from Calhoun.

“We go by what we see in practice,” Ollie said. “I just see him being tough in practice, encouraging his guys. He hasn’t been playing a lot of minutes, but everyday in practice he shows up and he gives me two hours. Full intensity and I wanted to reward that.” 

Ollie awarded Calhoun a season-high 26 minutes.

Despite knowing that Calhoun was primarily used as a shooter in UConn’s offense, Ohio State (4-5) didn’t disrupt his rhythm that he seemingly developed during warm ups.

“The report on him was that he’s a shooter,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. 

Calhoun, who came into the game averaging just 3.4 points per game, was a perfect 5 of 5 from the field, including 4 of 4 from behind the three-point line. His 14-point day was his highest scoring performance since he scored 16 points against Maine on Dec. 6, 2013.

“When I hit the first shot I knew it was about to be a big day,” Calhoun said. “I told Sterling (Gibbs) after he found me the first time that if he kept finding me he might have 10 assists. I was feeling good. He found me about three times and I just kept flowing, playing defense and hitting. That’s what created the offense for me.”

His first three gave the Huskies a 32-18 lead. His second put UConn up 36-20. And his last three of the half put UConn ahead 41-22.

Calhoun scored 11 points in the first half (4 of 4 shooting) as the Huskies led 45-24.

He would make his only shot of the second half, a three-pointer that was part of a 12-2 run to put UConn (6-3) ahead of Ohio State for good. 

Despite being known for his three-point shooting, something that he developed during his freshman season, Ollie likes Calhoun to play tough defense, and that’s what he’s done to start the 2015 season. Ollie gave him so many minutes not just because of his offense, but the way he was playing tough defense as well.

Before Ollie left the court after warm ups to head to the locker room, he said something to Calhoun.

“He just told me to be ready,” Calhoun said. “He doesn’t want me to focus on offense. He wants me to hit and defend and that’s the first thing I did when I came on the court and then the scoring came with it.”

The extra practice helped.

“I stayed on the court just to feel the game out and it paid off in the game,” Calhoun said. 


Matt Zampini is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.zampini@uconn.edu. He tweets @Matt_Zamp