UCF guard Calvin Newell had some harsh words for his team after a loss to Marshall. (February 20, 2013)
UCF guard Calvin Newell talks after the Knights loss to Marshall on Wednesday night.
UCF junior guard Calvin Newell has been a clear, honest voice for much of the season, even in the early stretches when he could only sit and watch as he sat out and waited for his time to come.
Eighteen days ago on the court in Huntington, W.Va., after the Knights’ first loss to Marshall, Newell stewed as people milled around him. A reporter approached him to ask about the game, and Newell began to emphasize what he believed had pulled UCF down, and could continue to do so if they didn’t fix it.
“Any one guy from our team can go off on any night,” he said. It’s on the other end of the court that is hurting us, he continued. Defense.
Newell said it again in the tunnel after a game at Memphis last week.
“We [didn’t] get back on defense,” he said, his voice raspy and frustrated. “We didn’t get back and we didn’t stop the ball at all.”
Six games after that first defeat to Marshall, the Knights fell to the Herd again, this time at UCF Arena, their fourth loss in that stretch and third straight. Again it was Newell who walked into a media session on Wednesday night and set forth with some brutal honesty. In many ways he echoed what he said after games
Newell put his forehead into his hand before looking up to answer the first question.
“Basically I think it’s our defense,” he said, his face growing more stern as he talked. “Offensively we can score with the best of them, but if we don’t play defense, it doesn’t matter. We’re giving them wide open shots, we’re not getting back, we gave up alley-oop dunks like the Harlem Globetrotters out there. Everywhere you look, they were scoring left and right. … No one is going to win like that.”
He continued minutes later when asked what spurred the Knights 16-2 run in the second half.
“We started playing with more defense,” Newell said. “Like I said it keeps coming back to defense. You can’t get the offense if you got [no] defense. If they up 10 points and you go shot for shot it’s not going to work, they’re up 10 points.”
Newell teed off on the offense as well.
“I don’t remember that,” Newell said, when asked why the offense had been disoriented and out of synch on screens and movement “Because we don’t set any screens, we’re not executing the plays right. It’s just everyone one for one and it’s not working. That’s why we keep beating ourselves. When we were winning it was team ball, making an extra pass, including myself. We’re all just going one on one. It’s not working. You can’t beat a team if we keep turning the ball over and going one on one. There’s no way possible.”
The Oklahoma transfer’s attitude and his reflection on the game, later echoed by UCF coach Donnie Jones, were the types of comments you hoped to hear from a player with some experience on a team that has very little.
What’s worrisome, though, is how long he has been saying it.
UCF has five games remaining this season, the next three at home. They will use that time to try to get to the 20-point mark, and to try to get some sort of rhythm back.
If they’re paying attention to what’s been happening lately, the focus will be on defense.