Saturday, November 22, 2008
Defense. It all boils down to defense. UConn can’t allow a team of La Salle’s stature to outscore them in the paint 42 to 40. If you live by the three guard offense, then you die by the three guard offense. But it is obvious that they miss Stanley Robinson. La Salle’s forwards feasted in the paint and were able to get shots up before Thabeet and Adrien could position themselves to defend. The man to man was so bad that Calhoun went to a zone. It was also an inconsistent called game and there was no flow until halfway into the second half. They would let enormous contact on drives to the basket and then call a tick tack foul on the perimeter. But that wasn’t the reason why La Salle and Hartford have stayed in games against the 2nd ranked team in the country. It has been the interior defense and they need to figure it out fast.
Kemba Sky-Walker came out to play. He was able to drive the length of the court and beat La Salle before they could turn to defend. He was aggressive right from the start and set the tempo. If he can have 23 points on 7 of 11 shooting, 3 boards, 4 assists, and 2 steals a game, then this team will be deadly offensively and take over a starting position. Price hasn’t shaken off the rust yet. He shot the ball well, 2 of 3 from three, but his 4 assists to 4 turnovers isn’t like him. He might be trying to figure out his new role with Kemba on the team. At least he remained composed.
Austrie is finding his minutes being gobbled by Sky-Walker. If he remains a streaky shooter, 0 for 4, he is likely to lose his starting job. The good thing is that he is such a versatile player that coming off the bench won’t hurt his game at all. No matter the situation, Austrie remains a reliable player and an asset. Dyson had a solid performance and took 8 shots, which is around the number he needs to be at. His outside shot wasn’t dropping and he was caught in the air at times, but he was aggressive and went to the line 11 times, hitting 9 of them.
Adrien was impressive. He shot 8 of 16 from the field, made 6 of 8 from the line, pulled down 14 boards, 6 offensive, and had 3 assists to 1 turnover. La Salle couldn’t match up with a player of his strength and skill set. It is good to see him playing this well this early. Thabeet is regressing. He isn’t making post moves, even if he is one on one with his man. He isn’t able to hold onto the ball and had smaller defenders rip it away from him. He needs to hold the thing above his head. For a greater part of this game, he was ineffective but during the middle of the second half, he started pulling down boards and had all of his 5 blocks. Some of the problems are not his. The guards need to move into a better position to make that entry pass and need to pass the ball higher, not down by his feet. Again the zone is taking away UConn’s strength.
The bench was hardly used. They saw a total of 14 minutes, which shows you how close this game was. Beverly was in for a brief 3 minutes and had goose-eggs. Gavin came in for 7 minutes and missed a shot. Okwandu was in for 3 minutes and had 2 fouls and 1 turnover. And there was a Mandeldove sighting for about 1 minute.
This team is not even close to where they want to be defensively. While the three guard lineup has allowed them to run the floor, protect the perimeter, and shoot effectively from the line and from the outside, the interior defense is taking a hit. There needs to be that third player to help battle in the paint. Teams are flooding the lanes and able to shoot quickly over the bigs. The zone was a big help during the second half and allowed Thabeet to roam the paint. Watch for them to utilize it more against a more forward oriented offense. Whatever defense they use they can’t allow a team to shoot 50% from the field. They need to patch this leaky interior defense or they are an upset ready to happen.