ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The coaching rivalry between Jim Calhoun and Jim O'Brien dates back to when they came into the Big East together in 1986. The first official function was at a league get-together on a Florida beach. "It seems like 100 years ago," Calhoun said last week.
There were 25 games played between Calhoun's Huskies teams and O'Brien's teams at Boston College over 11 seasons. Connecticut won 22 of them, including the last 18 before O'Brien left for Ohio State last season.
If it seems that long to Calhoun, consider how long it must feel to O'Brien. Last night's 64-58 victory for the Huskies was the 19th straight for Calhoun over O'Brien, the 24th in 27 games overall.
"I think the venue has changed," Calhoun had said Friday. "When Jim had good teams, we had very good teams. When they have very good teams, we had great teams."
O'Brien had joked during the week about his losing streak to Calhoun.
"Jim Calhoun is obviously a wonderful guy; we've become friendly down through the years," O'Brien said. "When he sees me, he says: 'It's really nice to see you.' He's probably feeling good that he's playing against me."
Like most big men, Duke's Elton Brand thinks his open-court skills are better than they are. After he had grabbed one of his 15 rebounds last night, he made like a point guard and regretted it, as Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves stopped a 3-on-1 break by drawing a charge from the man in the middle, none other than Brand.
"I got the rebound and just tried to push it," Brand said. "Sometimes in practice, sometimes in games I do that. He [Cleaves] made a brilliant play."
Cleaves, a first-team All-American like Brand, had an up-and-down game in his team's 68-62 loss to the Blue Devils. He had 10 assists, but he committed five turnovers and connected on only five of his 16 shots.
William Avery, his Duke counterpart at the point, had an equally strange stat line, as he scored 14 points but didn't have a single assist. Trajan Langdon had a team-high three assists for the Blue Devils. His seven points were a season low, but he never hesitated on a huge three-pointer 18 seconds after the Spartans got within three points.
"Michigan State was doing a great job on me all game, keeping the ball out of my hands," Langdon said. "That's a move I've made a lot of times. I'm not worried about my shooting anymore."
'A lot of shots'
Richard Hamilton went over the 2,000-point mark for his career and is the second-highest scorer in UConn history.
"I earned 2,000 points. That's a great accomplishment," Hamilton said. "Right now, I can't worry about individual goals. We still have another game ahead of us."
Said teammate Khalid El-Amin: "That's a lot of shots."
What's in a number?
Scoonie Penn, Ohio State's top player, wore No. 35 instead of his customary uniform number of 12. At first, tournament officials scrambled to investigate a possible break-in into the Buckeyes' locker room, until they were told that the jersey simply wasn't packed.
Penn said after the game that when he went back to the locker room after pre-game warm-ups, his jersey was missing. Though he and his teammates are known for their superstitions, Penn didn't use the nameless jersey he wore as an excuse.
"It had nothing to do with the game," he said.
Calhoun has an interesting relationship with point guard El-Amin that extends beyond the court.
"He's Muslim, I'm Catholic," said Calhoun. "He said, 'Tell me about Mass, Coach.' " Any place we're at, he wants to know more, [like he did] about the Wailing Wall and the significance of it when we were in Jerusalem."
Calhoun has been quoted as saying that El-Amin, a sophomore, is more mature than 20. Most of the time.
"It varies in the day between 35 and 15," Calhoun said.
Duke equaled the NCAA record for wins, with its 37th. Michigan State's bench outscored Duke's 18-0 in the second half. The Duke-Connecticut final means that for the first time since the Blue Devils won in 1992, the NCAA champion will also have won its conference tournament.