Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Not Pretty but Effective

At times it looked like UConn was playing against their youngest sibling. The bigs pounded their way inside, set up shop, and didn’t leave. Delaware did have Donald Johnson who went 6 for 11 from three. It exposed one of UConn’s greatest weakness, the perimeter defense. Though UConn did a great job containing him in the second half, against a team that can stay with them inside, a hot shooter like that could be deadly. Last year UConn had trouble stopping a player with a hot hand and handed out career days on a regular basis. To get them over the hump and win a playoff game, they are going to need to have some lockdown defenders.

Thabeet continues to rebound aggressively. He is catching the ball at the highest peak, muscling it away, and finding the outlet quickly. He’s getting to the rim, finishing strong and protecting the paint with 4 blocks. Has there been a 7-footer that has hit the deck more then Thabeet? He took a wicked fall on a flush attempt. No call. He’s found his role and a game he is comfortable with. Adrien had an off night. He missed some bunnies and his defense wasn’t up to his standards, but did step it up during the second half. But even on an off night, he scored 12 points and grabbed 6 boards. It was also good to see him sinking free throws, 6 of 8.

Dyson has set the bar so high to start the season that his 15 points, 4 boards, and 2 dishes looks like a bad day. He’s been the fuel to UConn’s quick starts, but tonight his shots weren’t falling. Last year he might have shied away from the offense after a slow start, but he kept being aggressive and got to the line, sinking all 4 attempts. Kemba played more minutes, 30, then Dyson or Austrie. He’s earning the trust of Calhoun and enters the starting lineup within the first media timeout. He was solid, showed some range, was active on defense, hit the boards, and made some pretty passes that rewarded the big men for running the floor.

Austrie’s shot wasn’t falling but he mentally stayed in the game. He got to the line, had 2 assists to 0 turnovers, and didn’t force shots. Price was also struggling with shooting, but he had a game high 5 assists to 1 turnover. The shots will fall eventually but its good to see the assists to turnovers improving.

Gavin had the game of his life. He had 17 points, made 3 of 5 from the line, muscled 2 offensive boards, dished out an assist, 1 block, and 1 steal in just 16 minutes of play. He was playing only a few feet from the basket and manhandled Delaware’s interior. Go figure that Okwandu would play 7 minutes and have no rebounds and 2 assists with a block. Beverly comes in and plays under control, runs the offense fluidly and you don’t even know he was out there until he has 2 dimes and 2 rebounds.

Talk about having no conscience. Haralson comes in and in 4 minutes jacks up two threes, banking one in, and has 6 points. Calhoun didn’t bother giving the no shot signal this time and let the kid shoot it. Its great to see that. He also looks like the oldest freshman ever to play at Storrs. Bird made an appearance and probably wants to play that minute over again with 1 turnover, 1 foul, and 1 miss. He has shown speed and athleticism in his brief playing time. Linder gets into the books with a rebound!

Sure UConn’s opponents aren’t close to the competition that they will see in conference play but there is no one that needs these warm up games more than Price. While the scoring is coming from all over, UConn’s big picture lays in his hands. UConn won’t always get a 25 to 5 free throw advantage and it will be up to the backcourt to keep defenses honest. While it hasn’t been pretty, it has been effective and a learning experience.

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