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Gay's slump irks UConn coach

THE BALTIMORE SUN

What Adam Morrison means to Gonzaga and J.J. Redick does for Duke, that's what coach Jim Calhoun wanted out of Rudy Gay at Connecticut this season.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward out of Archbishop Spalding was voted preseason co-Player of the Year in the Big East Conference. In November, Calhoun was predicting NBA greatness for Gay, but after he remained in a shooting slump with a 3-for-12 night in a 15-point loss at Marquette, Calhoun ripped his reluctant star.

"Rudy Gay took himself completely out of the game," Calhoun said Tuesday in Milwaukee. "I don't think Rudy did anything other than report for the starting lineup. ... For the first time, I'm wondering for a couple of kids if they are as good as they are supposed to be."

They're still figuring out their roles in Storrs, where the team considered most likely to keep Duke from the NCAA title added point guard Marcus Williams to a rotation that led the nation in scoring margin before it went to Marquette.

Suspended from the first semester for his role in the theft of laptop computers, Williams was the first to disrupt the Huskies' chemistry. Josh Boone, who played with Gay at the Cecil-Kirk Rec Center, was benched for two games last month because of blase play. Calhoun intimated that he could shake up his lineup for a visit tomorrow (4 p.m., CBS) from LSU, but his first public calling-out of Gay may have been no more than a motivational ploy.

Calhoun already had been trying to coax bigger production out of Gay, who didn't put up big numbers at the Maui Classic, where Connecticut beat Arkansas, Arizona and then Gonzaga in the title game. He's shooting 43.2 percent from the field, has made just one of his past 11 three-pointers and made none at Marquette, where the crowd included LeBron James.

They left raving not about Gay, but Steve Novak, a 6-10 senior forward who is Marquette's answer to Kevin Pittsnogle. Novak pumped in 41 points, a record for a player in his first Big East game. Novak is hardly a rookie, as his three-point shooting helped the Golden Eagles to the 2003 Final Four.

A real beast

It has been a good week for the Big East.

Amid complaints that the conference didn't deserve a spot in a Bowl Championship Series game, West Virginia held off Southeastern Conference champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Whether you feel the Big East is loaded or bloated in basketball, Marquette's handling of Connecticut was an immediate indication it's going to have a wild winter.

Sixteen teams make for an admittedly dysfunctional schedule, as Pittsburgh and Villanova, the only members from Pennsylvania and the only ones with perfect records, won't meet in the regular season.

Perhaps the skeptics who forecast a break-up, with the seven who don't play Division I-A football and Notre Dame splitting off from the other eight who do, will one day be proved correct, but the inaugural conference basketball game displayed the depth that commissioner Mike Tranghese promised when he introduced an unwieldy behemoth that could overshadow the other five leagues that rule major college athletics.

One of the five additions from Conference USA, Marquette was picked to finish 12th. Novak is joined in the starting lineup by three freshmen, including Dominic James, a point guard who was taken out of Indiana by Tom Crean. James is averaging 13.6 points and 5.9 assists, but Cincinnati's Devan Downey might be the best freshman point guard in the conference.

Downey takes Cincinnati to Connecticut on Monday. Another intriguing Big East game sends No. 24 West Virginia to Villanova on Sunday. A year ago yesterday, the Mountaineers went to Villanova with a 10-0 record but left with a 38-point loss.

Tap-ins

Duke, Ohio State, Illinois and Florida are the nation's other unbeatens. ... Baylor is unbeaten with an asterisk. It won't play until Jan. 11, at Texas Tech, part of the penalty for the assorted scandals that got Dave Bliss bounced out of college coaching and sent Carlton Dotson to jail for the murder of Patrick Dennehy. Dotson, a native of the Eastern Shore, is appealing his 35-year sentence. ... The Big Ten, ACC and SEC all rank above the Big East in assorted replicas of the Rating Percentage Index.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

Wire reports contributed to this article.

AROUND THE PERIMETER

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 18 Ohio State at No. 16 Indiana, tomorrow, 4 p.m. -- You'll need the right satellite coordinates to get this one, since most of the nation will see LSU-Connecticut, but this Big Ten matchup is a more compelling game. Second-year coach Thad Matta has taken Ohio State out of Columbus just twice previously, but the Buckeyes posted good wins at St. Joseph's and Iowa State. Indiana's two losses came against Duke and at Indiana State.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Winthrop -- The Eagles of South Carolina have a 5-3 record after last night's not-so-Big South Conference-opening win against Birmingham Southern. All three of the losses came on Southeastern Conference floors, most recently by two at Auburn last week. Winthrop did something Connecticut couldn't, as it won at Marquette. Greg Marshall brought back his top nine scorers, and the seniors expect to make their fourth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

LOCAL FRONT

Andre Collins, Loyola -- Gonzaga's Adam Morrison is the nation's No. 1 scorer with a 27.8-point average. Collins is No. 2 at 25.6, but he can argue that he'll spend the next two months facing tougher competition. Morrison should roll through the West Coast Conference, which stands 12th in the conference computer ratings, four spots behind Loyola's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The pride of Crisfield will put it up this weekend at Reitz Arena, as Loyola is home tonight against Niagara and Sunday against Marist.

Paul McMullen

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