Robinson a little rusty, but happy to be back

December, 16, 2008

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Stanley Robinson hit a midrange jumper late in a blowout win over Stony Brook.

The score didn't matter. Only Robinson did Monday night.

Robinson was not in top condition because he'd practiced for just one day after his return from working a real job during the fall semester. He managed seven points and five rebounds in 16 minutes in Connecticut's 91-57 win. The Huskies' next game is a showdown against Gonzaga in Seattle on Saturday.

But what Robinson brought Monday, and will continue to deliver in the coming weeks and months, is energy, rebounding and a defensive presence at small forward. That presence will be much needed in games such as Saturday's, when someone such as 6-foot-10 forward Austin Daye could be a matchup nightmare for the Huskies' smaller guards.

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun took issue to any question about potential rust on Robinson. The forward said he had practiced only one day, so what did the media want him to do exactly?

The answer is, he didn't have to do much to be seen as a huge plus for a national title contender.

"He gives us that big wing player that we didn't have with so many three-guard lineups," UConn senior guard A.J. Price said of Robinson's eating up some minutes with the lineup of Price, Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker. "Stanley will help us with rebounds and defensively."

Senior forward Jeff Adrien, who will get some breaks, said Robinson's athleticism and ability to finish at the rim -- dunking everything -- will give the Huskies "another element to our game."

Robinson said he was excited just to be out on the court. He added that he'll do whatever he is asked in whatever role possible.

"It's been a long time, like five months," Robinson said. "I'm so relieved to be out there and provide energy and be a role player for us."

• Calhoun doesn't want to close the national player of the year race to just Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina) or Stephen Curry (Davidson). He firmly believes that UConn's Hasheem Thabeet should remain in contention with his potential to become a dominant player.

• Freshman Ater Majok has arrived in the United States from his native Australia, but he isn't eligible yet. There is an NCAA Eligibility Center hang-up, and the Huskies are hopeful he will be in uniform soon. The 6-10 Majok could have played against Stony Brook had he been cleared. He just has to be enrolled in spring semester classes.

• There is some concern among the staff that you won't see the full explosion of speed from Price until February, which would be nearly a year since his ACL surgery last March. That makes sense. Price still seems to lack total confidence in his knee.

• Calhoun opened up his postgame news conference Monday by joking there should be a shoe check. He was poking fun at one of this week's most-watched YouTube videos, that of an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush at a news conference in Iraq.

• Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim reiterated Monday that he believes Eric Devendorf and the three players who were with him, who all say Devendorf didn't hit a female student in the face. Boeheim said that if he'd believed Devendorf hit the woman, he would have suspended him and not waited for a judicial panel on campus.

"I have players on my team that told me what happened, and I'm not suspending him for that," Boeheim said.

The panel recommended Devendorf be suspended for the rest of the year. The case is under appeal and will be heard by two faculty members and a student, according to Boeheim. The appeal will take place within 10 business days from Wednesday, he said.

"I would have no problem suspending him if he had hit somebody, but I don't believe he did," Boeheim said.

Devendorf has started the past two games since the recommendation came down -- a win over Long Beach State and a loss to Cleveland State. Both games were at the Carrier Dome.

"Knowing the facts in this case, it was an argument between two students with no physical punch," Boeheim said. "Even if the appeal doesn't hold up, the punishment doesn't fit what happened. Under any appeal, you're eligible to play."

Boeheim said Devendorf's punishment could be anywhere from community service to a suspension for a few days, a semester or the current recommendation of a year.

"I've read the testimonials, and I don't agree with the judicial [panel's] decision," Boeheim said.

• Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said Tuesday morning that junior guard J.P. Prince is out for Tuesday night's game against Marquette in Nashville in the SEC/Big East Invitational. Prince missed Saturday's loss at Temple with a left ankle sprain. He sprained the ankle while going for a loose ball off the court at practice the day before. Pearl said he has seen too many times when a court bleeds into a carpeted area with the same color (red, in this case), and that it's difficult to pick up the difference in surface. "It's a safety issue," he said.

Pearl also said the Vols will have a difficult time defending the "most experienced backcourt in the country," in Marquette's three senior guards -- Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews and Dominic James. "There's nothing wrong with our talent -- Bobby Maze, Scotty Hopson and Cameron Tatum -- but it's two freshmen and a JC transfer. They're still learning the system, and they're not playing as hard as my teams play yet."

Give Tennessee credit for its past few weeks and its difficult upcoming schedule: playing in the Old Spice Classic against Georgetown and Gonzaga in the final two rounds, playing at Temple, facing Marquette at a neutral site, going to Kansas on Jan. 3 and hosting Gonzaga in a previously scheduled game Jan. 7. The Vols also battle in-state rival Memphis on Jan. 24.

• Marquette aims to keep Wayne Chism and Brian Williams off the glass in the Tennessee game. Lazar Hayward, coming off an 18-rebound game, will need help against Tennessee's Chism and Williams. The Golden Eagles have a home win over Wisconsin in their pocket but lost to Dayton on a neutral court. The only true road game the Eagles will play before the Big East conference games begin is at NC State on Monday.

• Scheduling the SEC/Big East Invitational has proven to be one of the most difficult things for the Big East. It comes after the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and the Jimmy V Classic Week (which usually features at least one Big East team) and after, sometimes during, final exams. The Big East and SEC have had a hard time finding schools whose schedules fit into this small window 10 days before Christmas. The other problem is the rotation of teams. The Big East has 16, the SEC has 12. So that means that four SEC teams will double up in the fourth year of the event. The Big East and SEC also didn't want to load up the event with all elite teams in the first two years, choosing to spread out the perceived heavyweights.

Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas and Georgia are the four SEC teams that haven't yet participated. The four teams that will represent the SEC twice this year are yet to be determined.

Pitt, Connecticut, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall and DePaul are the eight Big East teams that haven't participated yet. The problem with this group is that there are four New York or New Jersey teams left to fill out the field, almost forcing one of the neutral sites to be in either New York City or New Jersey. Scheduling with those pro arenas becomes a problem in trying to secure dates, too.

The past two years, the Big East has created its schedule through a process of elimination of who can play, rather than by choosing the best matchups. The freedom of making the best matchups, such as in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, doesn't exist because of all these boxed-in conditions. So the two conferences figure out who can play, then try to find a neutral site that makes sense. Neither league can commit to who will be in for sure in 2009 or where the games will be played.

• Former Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus said Monday that he wants to coach again next season, but only in the right situation in either the NBA or college. That means he wants to coach where he can win. Doesn't everybody? Theus said he was stunned that he was fired because of the injuries the Kings have dealt with the past two seasons and because of their recent win over the L.A. Lakers. But this is the NBA, where everything is about instant gratification. Theus was a huge hit at New Mexico State. He could find another home for next season where his actor personality could do well.

• Cleveland State pulled off the stunning victory over Syracuse on Monday night on a three-quarter heave by Cedric Jackson. But what's amazing is that the Vikings were beaten earlier this season by Butler on a 3-point buzzer-beater at home. How often do you think a team loses that way, then wins that way within a month?

• SMU lost at home to Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Monday night. SMU coach Matt Doherty is a good coach who had North Carolina doing well before all went awry. It's too bad that he's at a place that has so much apathy for the sport, because he has passion for it and otherwise could do well in the business world, thanks to his background.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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