Sunday, November 16, 2008
Opening a can of whoop
UConn did what it had to do, come out of the gates strong and play with a comfortable lead. The offense looked crisp and they swung the ball around the defense and got it inside to their bigs. The defense mirrored the offense and kept Western Carolina to only 34.4% shooting. It was surprising to see the amount of minutes the starters had versus the bench. Gavin, Beverly, Haralson, and Okwandu only played 30 combined minutes.
Jerome Dyson was a man on a mission. It was great to see him playing with confidence again. He hit 3 of 4 from three! If this continues, watch out Big East. He stayed aggressive and got to the line 9 times, dished the ball 5 times, found 3 steals, had a massive dunk, and the greatest sign of a different Dyson-he drove into the lane and sunk a jumper. A.J. Price needs to focus on his game and needs to play the game right. There is no excuse for jabbing a player in the stomach. It doesn’t matter what happened prior. There will be frustrations while he adjusts to playing with a reconstructed knee. Ask Tony Allen of the Celtics how long it took to return to form after the injury. He might not be 100% throughout the season.
Craig Austrie had a solid game hitting 4 of 8 from the field, but was 1 of 4 from three. He needs to be that clutch shooter from there for this team. He also needs to get into the paint and find some boards, coming up empty in 23 minutes. With no small forwards, it is up to the guards to find the loose change. Kemba Walker is looking the part of a big time player. He split the double team twice and looked like Adrien Peterson making a cut. He has a tremendous first step and he played aggressive, getting into the paint and to the line 6 times. He also picked up 3 boards and 5 dishes. He showed some solid defensive.
Hasheem Thabeet was a man among boys but his stats should be taken with a grain of salt. The competition wasn’t up to par and he could get to any spot he wanted without resistance. There are a few things that Thabeet showed that could be carried over into a more competitive game. He hit 9 of 13 from the charity stripe. If he can improve on last seasons stellar free throw percentage, he will find his points. He also was aggressive with the ball in the post. He might be more apprehensive to drive against the monster post players in the league but the aggression will force the referees to make a call. Adrien did what we all expect and he gets lost in the Hasheem hype. He was 6 of 7 from the floor, hit all his free throws (just two), pulled down 7 boards, blocked a shot, stole the ball twice, and the most amazing stat was his 2 assists to only 1 turnover.
Donnell Beverly came in and played solid. He was 1 of 2 in his 6 minutes of play. Gavin also did his job, pulling down 3 boards, 1 offensive, and was 1 of 2 from the field. Haralson continues to struggle, going 0 for 3 from the field. He needs to remain confident in his shot, but he did get a rebound in his 7 minutes. Charles Okwandu looked like he belonged while he made his brief appearance. He has great footwork and wasn’t lost on the defensive end. He even managed to get an offensive board in his 5 minutes.
If Jerome can be the offensive threat that he displayed in this game, then this team will have a great chance of doing damage at the end of the season. He needs to have at least 7 to 10 shot attempts a game. How much of a luxury is it to have Kemba Walker on the team? A.J. Price was nonexistent in this game and UConn hardly noticed. There wasn’t a lull in the offense. But we need to put the Final Four ticket purchases on hold though, until they prove that they can remain composed against comparable talent and on the road, these games are just meaningful preseason games.