Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Bailout

Make no mistake, UConn didn’t deserve to win this game. They were sloppy on both sides of the ball. Their half court offense had no fluidity with passes off the mark and quick jumpers off the dribble. Where is the catch and shoot? Most of the jumpers were in traffic or off balanced. This team isn’t bad from outside when they set their feet and have a clean look. With the half court struggling, UConn’s heavy diet of blocks was no where to be seen and the easy fast break buckets were at a minimum. The rebounding was much better and they all did a solid job of putting a body on a man. UConn’s defense wasn’t to blame for this loss even though there were some serious lapses that had them playing a few possessions of zone. Once Cincinnati scored against it, Calhoun pulled the plug. Connecticut did show some toughness in battling back from double-digits deficits, but they had problems consistently getting off clean looks and kept digging themselves back. But it wasn't one poor call down the stretch that caused them to lose this one.

Dyson was at times alone on an offensive island. He drove hard to the rim and showed a mid-ranged game, but his outside shot wasn’t there and he missed too many free throws. Even though it wasn’t his best performance, he still produced which superstars can do. He has just about every offensive capability there is in the game. His only issue, other than missing tons of free throws, is that he can't hit the three ball against elite opponents.

Robinson took awhile to get going, struggling in set plays. He didn’t have a bank shot in the post which he used so effectively in the last game. His offense thrives when he is fighting inside for put-backs and second chance opportunities and there were few to be had. What was impressive was his outside shooting. Back-to-back strong games from deep. When he sets his feet, he is deadly from there. He was active on defense and used his combination of speed and length to create steals and fast break opportunities. Hopefully he keeps this pace up.

Walker had another sub-par performance and he needs to create shots and assists more in the pick and roll sets. He is great on the break where he can use his superior speed, but when the defense is settled, he gets caught off-balance and among the trees. He did take more jumpers, which is what he needs to do, but they were contested. But when it counted, he came up clutch. UConn is going to need more from him to survive the Big East schedule.

Edwards had a bad game. He was missing free throws, which he rarely did and he had major issues on inbounds plays, giving up two easy buckets. You can’t blame him for the last call of the game, that was just how his day was going and every player has them. He needs to shake this one off and battle hard in the next one.

Oriakhi showed some serious improvements. While he is still getting pushed under the rim when driving to the rim, he showed a left hook, a tip in, and a double move in the post. He could be turning the corner. Majok took a few steps back. He elbowed someone in the face while posting up, had a couple of bad passes, and didn’t make difference offensively or block any shots.

Beverly did a good job with extended minutes because of Kemba's foul trouble. He took care of the ball and had a nifty no-look pass in transition. He needs to help with points off the bench. He has shown an offensive game before. Coombs-McDaniel didn’t have his outside shot, but he has the ability to score in a variety of ways. He hustles, having a great save and assist in transition. Other than a quick shot that sent Calhoun stomping on the court in his direction, he had a solid night.

It wasn’t a horrible call at the end of a tough nosed defensive game that cost the Huskies the game. Even though the game was not called the way a Big East game should be called. It was the inability to create consistent offense with multiple stops that did them in. Like last year where UConn lost its first Big East game against Georgetown, they needed a wake up call to remember what it takes to compete in the Big East, especially on the road. A couple of balls bouncing your way or runners that fall mean the difference between a win and a loss at this level. Don't blame a lousy call at the end of the game for this loss, that would short change both teams and the thirty-nine minutes and fifty-eight point three seconds of play. But it still was a terrible call.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Know Your Enemy: Cincinnati Bearcats

Ben Gordon in the giving mood

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ray Allen's Challenge

Perfect Medicine

UConn wanted to head into the looming Big East schedule with some momentum and they did so with their most consistent game of the year. From the tip, UConn was aggressive. The guards showed just enough outside touch to keep the defense honest, but the bread and butter of this team is in the dribble drive and athletic ability in transition which they displayed early and often. The defense is slowly coming together, though the rotations are a bit off, but the deflections and blocked shots fueled the offense with easy buckets at the other end. Iona kept themselves alive with the three ball, but it wasn’t enough to slow down Connecticut's red hot offense. The rebounding was much better, especially against an outside shooting team, and the free throw shooting improved. If they can bottle up this effort on both ends, then they'll contend for the Big East championship and much loftier banners.

One word describes Dyson. Aggressive. He was fouled eleven times driving to the rim, had a massive dunk, showed his range, had a beautiful transition pass, and was purely dominate. He played better defensively, not letting his man into the lane so easily. If there is a knock on Dyson’s game, it would be from the line. He is a little to streaky there. He’ll knock down five in a row, then go one and one from the line for the rest of the way. He has yet to put together an overall game yet, which is scary because he is a top five player in the Big East right now. If he can, then he will be top five in the country.

Walker put together a solid outing after two sub-par performances. The big difference with Kemba in this game was his care of the basketball and his shots around the rim were finally falling. He is still hesitant to take an early shot and UConn needs him early for an offensive spark in both halves. There were spurts in this game in which Kemba put his stamp on it, a crazy circus shot and a sweet left handed lay-up. UConn needs that from him in every game. He just doesn’t have the confidence in his jumper and relies on his main weapon, his speed, but he has the ability to be an outside threat. If he sticks with it, shakes off a couple of bricks, he could emerge as a superstar.

Robinson put a dent in the backboard with all the shots he banked in. He’s got it down to a science though and made bank shot out of bank shot, and then stepped back and swished in a deep ball. He was his usual rebounding hound and shot blocker, but in these past three games, he has forced the action and has been rewarded with some stout performances. He needs to carry this over into bigger games against bigger opponents.

What more can you say about Edwards? He doesn’t complain about coming off the bench. He just comes in and plays solid defense, denying entry passes into the post, shows a baby hook, hustles for put-backs, and is hitting the elbow jumper which he needs to take more of. He is slowly playing himself into the NBA.

Oriakhi was fed the ball early in the ballgame to try to get him on track offensively, but Alex’s offensive game has become elusive. He is still a man on the boards, but he is showing some freshman moments. He missed some rotations against the pick and roll and was pushed out of the way for an offensive board. It was good to see him right the ship on his free throws. He has a solid stroke and just needed some confidence.

Majok continues to improve. He has terrific length, blocking a three point attempt and altering another. He battled hard on the boards and had two offensive rebounds off of free throws. The hype and huge build-up to his arrival has set some unreasonable expectations. He has improved with each outing and that is all we should expect from him.

Calhoun was waiting for anyone on the bench, other then Edwards, to step up and Coombs-McDaniel just did. He had back-to-back solid games. He showed the ability to hit the outside shot and a dribble drive, which is the offense that UConn desperately needs from the bench. Beverly had trouble passing the ball and needs to take better care of the ball. Smith came in and gave up an inbound lay-up.

It was the solid forty minutes that Calhoun had been searching for the past two months. The big three all made significant plays on both ends of the court and the bench is beginning to find a rotation. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. Their first true road game is only a few days away and this team is going to find out where they stand in the Big East hierarchy. With this game building the confidence of so many players on this team, it was exactly the medicine this team direly needed.

Post Iona Game Interviews


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ray Allen Post Game Interview

Maine Attraction

UConn once again got off to a slow start, caused by sloppy passes into traffic or miscommunication. They couldn’t sniff a fast break bucket and when they did, they forced things and came away empty. It wasn’t until the second half that the blocked shots and rebounds started leading to transition points on the other end and turned the game around. This was UConn’s best rebounding performance of the year. They crashed the boards hard and held onto the ball. Maine did hang around the perimeter but UConn had been struggling against these types of teams. Robinson, Walker, and Dyson all had early shots, even though they clanked, but it is important because it gets them into the flow of the game. Connecticut shot the ball well from deep for the second straight game, which is an excellent sign, especially with no legitimate post threat. While it wasn't a solid forty minutes, it was a drastic improvement.

Dyson took a little while to get going, having trouble finding the rim and was sloppy with his passes, but once he started sinking his jumpers, his all-around game emerged. He had a rim rattling dunk, sank an elbow jumper, and drained three after three. He is using so much energy on the offensive end that he can’t be the dominant defensive player of a year ago. There needs to be some more scoring off the bench to spell him.

Walker had another bad outing, but it hasn’t deterred him from being aggressive. He attacked the rim in transition and split the defense to gash the zone, but the ball wasn’t dropping for him. His passing is also off. He just isn’t delivering the ball to players where they can shoot it. The ball is either too high or being deflected. He is also missing his free throws. If he wants to attack the rim as much as he does, then he needs to sink those free throws. He also needs to mix up his offense a little more. He didn’t take a jumper until fourteen minutes had passed in the first half. Kemba needs to realize that there is a time to be blazing fast and a time to slow down.

Robinson had a great all-around game and it started with rebounding. After a horrible elbow jumper, he started knocking down threes, which is exciting. If he can be consistent from there then this team will be dangerous. He will always give you the exciting transition dunk and the hard nosed play in the paint, but for this team to take the next step, he’ll need to add the jumper to his arsenal. But it was good to see him aggressive with his offense.

Edwards came in and gave the energy off the bench. He blocked shots, made his free throws, and rebounded well. He needs to be able to add a post game so that the guards can play the inside-outside game that is lacking in the half court. Oriakhi had his best game. He was excellent on the boards, had some athletic put-backs, was very active, and most amazingly showed a baseline jumper. He needs to carry over the momentum in this game into the next. Majok looked much better, protecting the rim and grabbing some offensive boards. He doesn’t need to do everything right away and just needs to focus on rebounding and defense. He learned quickly and didn't take any off-balanced jumpers that yanked him from the last game.

Beverly did a great job off the bench. He was reliable with the ball in his hand and attacked the zone. He is turning into an Austrie type of player. Coombs-McDaniel had a breakout game. He hit the three ball and also had a great rebound and put-back. Like Oriakhi, hopefully he can build on this performance. Okwandu, Smith, and Trice all got in the game in the closing credits.

UConn has yet to solve the first half. They need to have their defense fuel their offense and it just isn’t happening until the second half. It doesn’t matter what caliber of team they are playing, Duke, Kentucky, or Maine, UConn is having problems finding their offense early on with balls rolling off the rim and jumpers missing horribly. It is when they get stops and blocks on the defensive end and get to their offense before the defense settles that they seem to stem the tide. There seems to be a weight on this team until it makes its first jumper. They need to settle down, take care of the ball, get good looks at the basket, and most of all have fun.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Knight and Day

The energy level was nothing like that of the Kentucky game. It could have been the extended layoff or not motivated enough against what they assumed was an inferior opponent, but UConn was sloppy with the ball, getting bodied on the boards and not stopping dribble penetration. The communication on the both ends of the ball wasn’t there, especially when double-teamed. They were getting gashed with back screens that led to wide open lay-ups. The chemistry isn’t there yet and until Calhoun solidifies a rotation and someone steps up, they will struggle to find their way. Other then rebounding, the free throw shooting is a major issue for this team. The back court and wings are struggling there and need to step up. With all the negatives in this game, UConn was still able to find their tempo and take over the game when it mattered, but it was plain ugly.

It was good to see Dyson knock down the early jumper and it didn’t leave him. He drained three after three, hopefully leaving the well full for the next couple of games. He was aggressive with the ball and had to be, with no one stepping up and demanding the ball in the first ten minutes of the game. He had a few lazy passes that turned into turnovers and let his man into the lane a few times, but he was the halfcourt offense in this game.

Walker had a day to forget. He was non-existent offensively for the first ten minutes. He needs to take a few jumpers early to get himself into the game. His passes were way off, bouncing off feet or out of bounds. He double-dribbled, took off-balanced jumpers, was attacked for back door lay-ups, and was beat several times against the pick and roll. UConn needs him to dribble penetrate more, break down the defense and get the big men involved. They are not polished enough to create a shot on their own. He also needs to be more assertive in the offense. It can't be Jerome and Stanley only for the first half offense.

Robinson took some time to find his game, but when he did the points kept on coming. He was running hard on the break and sneaking to the rim for his athletic jams, but it was his three ball and shots off the glass that was more impressive. He is still front rimming a bunch of shots and needs the glass to soften his shot up. Against a more quality opponent, Robinson won’t be able to get to the rim like he can against these types of squads. He will need to be more effective with his jumper and show some type of post game, especially if he wants to be successful at the next level.

You know what you are going to get when Edwards is on the floor. He will battle for boards, block shots, hustle down court, make his free throws, play solid man-to-man, and do the dirty work. With his soft touch at the line, he needs to make the elbow jumpers that made Jeff Adrien effective.

Oriakhi had a couple of blocks and rebounded well, but he is struggling offensively and is hesitant with the ball. He is Boone-like at the line and is getting muscled on the boards. There needs to be more patience with him then Calhoun would like.

Majok made his much anticipated debut and while he didn’t light off fireworks, he didn’t force anything. There were some nerves, passing out of the post, having a lane violation, getting muscled for a free throw rebound, and he took a horrible jumper that had Calhoun slobbering mad. He showed a smooth stroke from the line but he didn’t show much of his athletic ability in this game. Okwandu looks to be the loser in the Majok addition, which is a shame. He showed some improvement and looked to be turning the corner on his game.

Beverly was first off the bench. He had some problems with the ball, having a turnover in transition, threw a pass away, and didn’t block out and caused an offensive board. He did make a wide open three pointer which is something this team really needs off the bench. Smith struggled, dribbling the ball off his foot in transition and missing his free throws. He did play much better defense and kept his opponent in front of him. Trice had a hard time against the pick and roll and let his man roam into the lane twice and Coombs-McDaniel didn’t block out and gave up an offensive board.

The much anticipated debut of Ater Majok didn’t set the world on fire, but it is hard for a player to come onto a team and find his role right away. It is going to take a couple of games for him to get comfortable with the flow of the game. Hopefully this team has shaken off the rust from the long layoff and is done giving up career highs. It is not something they want to keep doing. They need to limit their turnovers and offensive boards. Their defense is good enough to win games but their offense isn’t consistent enough and when they give their opponents extra shots, it digs them in holes they need to climb out of. And against quality opponents those holes can be your grave.

Post Game after Central Florida game



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Alumni Profile: Emeka Okafor

Team: New Orleans Hornets

Position: Center/Power Forward

NBA Ranking: 48

Looking back: Emeka signed a large extension with the Bobcats entering the season and had a productive year. His numbers are consistent and he is a double-double machine, as well as a defensive stalwart. He was able to cut down on his turnovers and shoot better from the stripe, but his team was an utter disappointment. During the off-season Emeka was traded to the Hornets.

The Good: Okafor is an all around basketball player. He can rebound, block, has all the post moves, and isn’t afraid of contact. He is as reliable a player as any UConn Alumni, averaging a double-double. He brings it every game. He has improved his mid-ranged game, but it isn’t a major staple of his offense.

The Bad: He is too small to play the true center position and not athletic enough to play the power forward spot. Forever compared to Dwight Howard, Emeka will never reach that level and many feel that he is a bust as a pick, which is an unfair assessment. He hasn’t produced into a twenty point scorer which is what most fans look for in their superstars.

Looking Ahead:
He’s on a more talented squad and with an All-Star point guard, Okafor should have a better season. He needs to remain healthy and produce a little more on the offensive end. There will be a lot of pressure on him to contribute on a team that is expected to make the Playoffs.

For the Love of the Game

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Final Stretch Against Kentucky

Another Brick in the Wall

It was another heartbreaker against another top echelon team, but a much better showing then what UConn showed against Duke. Sure the outside shooting was severely lacking, and they are giving up easy buckets on offensive rebounds, but UConn displayed the heart and tenacity throughout the game. They just couldn't hit their free throws and sink some buckets when it counted. They can’t miss the abundant amount of attempts at the line if they want to play the driving style of ball. What was also clear in this game was UConn’s lack of depth in the frontcourt. Luckily Majok will make his debut in the next game. They are going to need a fourth man in that rotation, especially when they are in foul trouble. They had the perfect opportunity to knock off a quality squad, but came up short, but they aren’t too far off the elites. They just need to do two things, start and finish games strong.

Dyson was lackadaisical at the start of the game and got the early yank, but when he came back, he was his aggressive self. He caused havoc against Kentucky’s guards. He was guilty of missing a few important free throws in crucial stretches and bricked a dunk. But Jerome was UConn’s sole offense and without him, they looked lost. He just needs to be the go-to player at the line and he hasn't been.

Walker took a little while to get going and was having a hard time controlling the dribble, but he played a well rounded game. He was penetrating and putting up floaters, but he isn’t finding open shooters. Most of his dishes were in traffic with the recipient not in position for a shot. He also missed some critical free throws down the stretch and had trouble containing Wall. He is lacking confidence with his outside shot, which is the best on the team. He needs to jack up at least three a game.

Robinson struggled all night. He had a hard time finding rebounds and he felt lost among Kentucky’s bigs. He was fumbling with the ball when he put it on the deck and had way too many turnovers. He needs to simplify his post moves and not do to much. He played solid defense, but UConn needs more from him.

Edwards was brilliant. He got UConn on track when they were down twelve and he did a little of everything. He was aggressive rebounding, hit his free throws, blocked shots, ran hard on the break, and scored in the post. With Oriakhi struggling, Edwards has stepped up his game to another level. He is still having trouble securing the ball after a miss, but without him, UConn would have been blown out.

Oriakhi was up and down all game, which is to be expected from a freshman. He would miss an easy lay-up and then make a powerful slam, then lose sight of his man for an easy dunk and then have an incredible block, he would turn the ball over and then sneak in for a steal. It must be frustrating for Calhoun, who would normally yank him after a mistake, but he just doesn’t have anyone to replace him with, so he has to live with the freshmen mistakes and it is costing them dearly.

Okwandu was a fouling machine, which is much like Thabeet’s first season. Some of them were bad calls, but he needs to know when to play physical and when not to. Beverly came in early and helped spell Dyson and Walker. He was dribbling the ball too much in the half court sets, but he did hit a nice elbow jumper. Coombs-McDaniel took a bad shot and was not seen again. Trice attacked the rim in transition and got to the line, but also had a horrible pass. Smith roamed the bench.

UConn is just not able to finish halves out. They have no confidence in their outside shot and it is causing slow starts to ballgames, but once they settle down, they can hang with anyone in the country. They just need to get some resume building wins and they had opportunities to, but let them slip out of their hands. They're a few bricks at the line that could have been converted away from two solid wins, but that is the sliver of difference in this sport.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Poison Ivy

There were few aspects of this game that will have Calhoun smiling. Harvard showed more energy, effort, and fortitude then the more talented Huskies. The rebounding was severely lacking again, they weren’t getting back on defense, and the rotation on the help defense was non-existent. Harvard’s guards had no problem getting by the more athletic UConn guards and caused the bigs to help out, leaving their men for easy offensive boards. They must do a better job at the simple pick and roll. It is killing them. UConn didn’t have a horrible game offensively. Their jumpers were sinking and they were excellent with finishing off the break, but if they don’t clean up the rebounding then they are going to be floundering in the middle of the pack in the Big East.

Dyson didn’t see a shot that he didn’t like. He shot elbow jumpers, floaters in the lane, an off-balance three, jumpers on the wings, and finished strong on the break. He had trouble with screens and allowed guards into the lane for easy looks at the basket. He also didn’t block out, because he was ball-watching, and caused an offensive board. He did remain around the basket to help out with rebounding, was aggressive with the ball in his hands, and knocked down free throws late in the game. He needs to attack the lane, draw in the defense and dish out to Kemba for open threes more. He can’t shoulder the offensive load alone.

Walker has one of the most beautiful shots when he sets his feet. He needs to remain behind the arc for this team to be successful. He showed his one-man fast break ability, but it was his threes and jumper in transition that was truly impressive. He needs to keep shooting the ball, because he has the best stroke on the team. The one negative about his day was that he was caught ball-watching and let his man sneak in for an offensive board. He is the tone setter for this team.

Robinson made a concerted effort to remain around the paint and it showed. He had several tip-ins and boards. He showed some great post moves which is exciting, but his shot needs to soften up. It never hits the rim more then once. He is also moving well without the ball and creating easy buckets for himself. He did have a few defensive lapses, and played off his man, creating an and-one situation, but his effort was excellent and he needs to carry it over.

Edwards continues to be UConn’s most reliable post threat, and he has such a soft touch with his shot, shown by his excellent free throw shooting. He should be shooting two or three elbow jumpers a game with the touch he has shown from the line. He was caught twice not blocking out for offensive boards, once at the free throw line which is unacceptable. He is also jumping to block everything, creating fouls and leaving his man for boards. Calhoun doesn’t want to curb his aggressiveness with his blocking though.

Oriakhi didn’t have his best game. He was caught not boxing out and allowed an offensive board, was beat to the spot and allowed an easy bucket, had a rebound knocked out of his hand, and didn’t have a post touch in the first half. He did have a block, offensive board, and steal, but he needs to be able to receive the ball in the post for UConn’s offense to flow. Without an inside-outside game, the half court sets are struggling.

Beverly was the first guard off the bench and worked the point. He dribbled too much in the half court set and let his man run by him twice defensively. Okwandu played well in his limited role, hitting the elbow jumper. Smith is a defensive liability. He is letting his man blow by him and causing the whole defense to breakdown. He isn’t fighting through screens and needs to do better or he will be riding the pine. Coombs-McDaniel struggled from deep, but he looks fluid when attacking the rim. He was also caught not blocking out and caused an offensive board. Trice was a non-factor.

The problem with the rebounding falls on the ease that UConn’s guards are letting their man drive into the lane, causing the bigs to help out with no one rotating over to take their man, ball-watching, and simply leaping for the ball instead of putting a body on a defender. It is something that they need to correct and in a hurry because it doesn’t get any easier with Kentucky. It is also troubling when UConn starts giving up career highs, which was a habit that they thought they cured. It isn’t a combination that they want to have, especially with an athletic and explosive team laying in wait for them.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rudy Gay blocks Dirk Nowitzki


MVP: Jerome Dyson

November was supposed to be a time to work out the wrinkles and find some answers, but UConn is leaving this month with more questions than answers. Do they have an outside threat? Can the frontcourt be counted on to rebound, not to mention score? Will they start hitting free throws? Which of the freshmen will step up and secure minutes off the bench? Calhoun really hasn’t figured it out and there aren’t many easy games left.

The backcourt is the strength of this team and Dyson and Walker anchor it offensively and defensively. They are both fantastic on the break and attacking the rim, but they struggle in the half court, especially against the zone. Dyson started out the year strong from outside, but he has tailed off. Kemba hasn’t shown the consistent jumper either and it has sputtered the offense. But in transition there is no better duo in the country.

Robinson continues to have on and off nights. He comes out one night, hitting threes, snagging boards, and knocking down the mid-ranged shot, but then he disappears from games. He is always deadly in transition, but until he can hit the jumper and find a post game, then he will remain inconsistent. Edwards started out the month in Calhoun’s doghouse and lost his starting job to Okwandu. He has shown a reliable post move and hustles on the court, but he isn’t rebounding well and it is costing UConn.

Out of all the freshmen, Oriakhi has stood out. He has the size to play against the elite frontcourt players in college, but he is still adjusting to playing at a different speed then in high school. When the ball gets to him, he hangs on, but he is not always in the best position to get the board and it is bouncing over his head for easy offensive rebounds. His offense is still a work in progress and usually shines early on in games but disappears in the second half.

November has been a rollercoaster for Okwandu. He was in Calhoun’s doghouse to start the year, but was soon kicked out to make room for Edwards. Since being instituted back into the starting lineup, he has shown improvement. He is athletic, showing the ability to block and has eliminated the defensive lapses. If he can become a solid rebounder and a low-post threat by February, then UConn will have a formidable frontline.

Beverly has shown to be the most reliable guard off the bench. He is a vocal leader, which is something UConn needs, especially in the man-to-man defense. He’s shown the ability to score in a variety of ways and is effective in short spurts on the court.

Trice, Coombs-McDaniel, and Smith could’ve benefited by heavy minutes in a blowout, but they struggled in their limited role. They don’t have the confidence, especially in tight games, to take the open shot. They all have been hot and cold defensively and have Calhoun’s trust, but he doesn’t have a problem interchanging them and hasn’t had a specific rotation.

With November behind them and their identity as a team still a question, UConn has some work to do. The bench rotation is a mystery and there are some big games on the horizon. They will need to work on their serious flaws for this team, rebounding and outside shooting, but the fans can’t be disappointed by the heart, effort, and defense . They are still deep, athletic, and have experience in the important parts that they will be a potent team once they gel.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Butler with sweet assist

Bounce Back

This was a great bounce back game for the Huskies. They made a concerted effort to attack the boards on both ends. Sure the competition wasn’t on UConn’s level, but they made it an emphasis, especially the guards, to create space and seal off their man. On offense it took nearly nine minutes for UConn to finally hit a jumper, but when they did, you could see the confidence start to mount. On the defensive end, Connecticut was solid, they gave up a few open threes in transition, but in the half court sets, they were stout. This was exactly the game that Calhoun needed. With all the close games that they have been playing, he couldn’t give his freshmen the playing time they needed, but with the Huskies holding a comfortable lead, Trice, Coombs-McDaniel, and Smith all got quality minutes.

Dyson is as tough as nails. He attacked the rim like always, but also found his elusive jumper. Other then the scary moment when he went down, he was unstoppable. He found ways to split the defense and get into the lane for fouls, which he knocked down, and lay-ups. His defense was also stellar and he protected the weak-side for rebounds.

Walker had a solid night and filled the role of the outside shooter, which he needs to. Like A.J. Price, he’ll be able to get open looks from deep through the flow of the offense and he needs to hit a few each game. He was great in transition, flashing his speed and looking up the court. He also played good defense with a great block and dove to the floor for loose balls.

It is taking Robinson awhile to get into the flow of the game and it wasn’t until eight minutes had passed until he put up his first shot, a dunk. He stuck his nose around the paint all night and helped out on the rebounding end, which fuels his game. Soon his jumpers began to sink and he started finding his way to the rim. He still needs to show a post game. With his length and skills, he should be able to turn and shoot over anyone.

Edwards had a solid night and is UConn’s best post player. He also has a reliable outside shot, if he doesn’t rush it. He needs to show more patience with the ball in his hands. He had a few travel calls that he could’ve avoided if he slowed down. He was much better rebounding and didn’t fumble the ball when it was in his hands.

Oriakhi brought it on the rebounding end. He was aggressive on the offensive boards, creating multiple opportunities for UConn. He still is a little awkward in the post and is finding himself stretching around the rim for lay-ups and missed an easy dunk because he didn’t finish strong. On defense, he was ball watching and not putting a body on his man, which is something he will learn.

Okwandu didn’t have his best performance. He turned the ball over, couldn’t handle a simple rebound, and had his arms extended on defense for an easy foul call. Beverly was consistent off the bench, hit a jumper and made a great pass in transition. Smith was a bit erratic. He was forcing the entry pass and was getting beat repeatedly on defense. Coombs-McDaniel struggled offensively and clanked several wide open shots and was stripped in transition, but he kept at it and was fouled a couple of times going to the rim where he made his free throws. He also hit a three late in the game. It was good to see him aggressive though. Trice had a great steal and was fouled, but didn’t box out his man and allowed an offensive board.

This game was the confidence booster that the Huskies needed after the drumming by Duke. The elusive jumper reappeared and the rebounding returned. While there is still some work to do, they can feel content that the hard work in practice is showing up on the court. They need to carry this effort on the glass over into the next game and this should give them the much needed confidence to do that. But who knows which team will show up next?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thabeet denies Aldridge

Litmus Test

It was plain ugly for the Huskies. There was no outside or mid-ranged shots, free throws clanked, easy buckets rolled off the rim for most of the game and at times it looked like they were playing with carnival rims. They played well enough on the defense end to stay in this game but with the offense sputtering, the referees calling an inconsistent game and the rebounding taking step back, UConn had no chance. The object of the season is to play your best by the end of the year and this team knows it’s flaws, outside shooting and rebounding. This was a good litmus test for UConn and if they can clean up some of these imperfections then they can play with the elites.

Dyson had a day to forget. There is no questioning his heart and toughness out there, but nothing was dropping for him. He showed more emotion when he missed one of his many free throws down the stretch then he has shown in his four years at Storrs. His outside shot wasn’t there and he started attacking the basket with no regard to his body. He was the only scoring threat out there and if he hit his free throws, then this game would’ve been a nail biter down the stretch, because Duke wasn’t exactly lights out on the offensive end.

Walker was a little up and down in this game. He was solid defensively and created havoc with steals, but he struggled controlling the dribble and made some poor decisions in traffic. He needs to be the reliable jump shooter for the starters, with Dyson and Robinson more driving oriented. The elbow jumper will be there every time for him with his speed.

Robinson had one of those frustrating performances. He disappeared from the game when he couldn’t get to the rim. When he isn’t getting boards or sticking his nose into the paint, then the whole team suffers. He is demanding the ball in the post but his dribble drive and jumpers aren’t falling. He needs to focus on attacking the glass on every shot. UConn needs all hands on deck in that department.

Edwards showed some range but then he took two poor jumpers right after that. He is more of a threat at the post and has shown a reliable turn around hook. His major issue is that he is bobbling the ball while rebounding. It is as if his hands are to small for the ball. He needs to secure the ball and not have teams swat it out of his hands.

UConn looked to Oriakhi early and he produced, but that was about it for the game. He is getting caught with the ball under the backboard and resorting to stretching around the rim for a shot. He is still getting knocked off the block for offensive boards. For his size, he should be able to hold his own. He is still a freshman and has tremendous upside.

It was good to see Okwandu with some real emotion on the put-back dunk and he showed some post moves. He is really showing some major improvement with his transition into the starting lineup. Beverly had a sloppy game and was caught ball watching and allowed an offensive board and took a bad jumper. Smith showed some of his speed but made some poor decisions in transition. Trice and Coombs-McDaniel were needed for some outside shooting and they didn’t show up.

While it was a tough game to watch, UConn will rarely have a shooting performance of this magnitude. What they need to figure out and fast is how to secure a miss, make free throws, and find someone to hit an outside shot. If they can’t find this then this team will be losing close games all year, because their defense will keep them in games. With several games under their belt, they only rebounded well in one and that has to be giving Calhoun fits.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Doctor is in

UConn fans didn’t know what to expect from their Huskies in this game. Their team was sick with some type of rebounding N1H1 and this was the medicine that UConn needed. The passing was crisp, the defense was stout, the press caused havoc, and most importantly the rebounding was solid. With LSU a one-dimensional team with no outside shooters, UConn was able to stay in front of their man and play the drive. They cut down on the sloppy perimeter passes and found the right combination to group rebound and also be able to display their transition game. Another amazing aspect to this team is their ability to block shots at an incredible clip. This game was a major confidence builder for this squad and should pay dividends no matter the outcome of Friday's game.

Dyson was outstanding. He attacked the basket and was able to sink several and-ones. He demonstrated the ability to hit the open three, which will allow him the room for the dribble drive. He also was making a concerted effort to help out on rebounding, especially on the weak side. It is amazing to see his transformation into the leader on this team.

Walker did a great job of creating tempo. He turned on the jets in transition and was able to go anywhere he wanted. He was spectacular on defense, getting into the passing lanes and controlling the point guard off ball screens. His day was only marred by a few poor passes and a couple of bad decisions while in traffic, but overall he was solid. He is also settling into the two-guard position when Dyson comes off the court and is making plays there.

Robinson had his whole arsenal on display. He demonstrated his strong rebounding that UConn needs and which fuels his game. But what makes Robinson so tough to handle is when he is hitting the outside shot. It only gives him the confidence he needs to remain aggresive. It was great to see him demand the isolation play and create off the dribble. He is really taking his game into another stratosphere.

Calhoun lit a fire under Edwards by sending him to the bench and he got the message. He came out and displayed a hook shot, blocked shots, played solid defense, and most importantly rebounded. The only problem is that Calhoun might keep him on the bench due to his strong play there. One game does not make a season and Edwards needs to carry this effort over into the next one.

Okwandu started for the first time and showed major improvement. He had a beautiful transition block, rebounded well, and played good defense. Even though he fouled out, most of the fouls where either helping out other defenders or poor whistles. He looks better with each and every game. Calhoun has shown a great deal of patience with him and it is paying off.

Oriakhi had a tough evening and didn’t even touch the ball on offense until seven minutes had passed. He was pushed out of position on a free throw rebound and clanked them when he got there. He did stay active and had two massive put-back dunks, but he needs to be more demanding of the basketball in the post and more physical in the paint. For UConn to take the next step then they need Oriakhi to be an offensive threat.

Beverly is playing well as the first guard off the bench. He ran the break well, had a sensational off the glass dribble drive, and ran the point with Kemba in the game. He has solidified that backup position which was what Calhoun was searching for. He did have a few poor decisions with the ball in traffic, but he has been a pleasant surprise. Smith, Trice, and Coombs-McDaniels played a limited role. The first player to demonstrate solid defense and a jumper will eat up the minutes most of the bench minutes.

UConn had the transition game clicking and it was fed with hard defense and blocked shots. They need to carry this defensive performance into the next game. Even though two of their big men fouled out, they all did a great job of securing the ball off a miss and not letting players slip in for offensive boards. It doesn’t get any easier for the Huskies, but as long as they don’t give up second chance opportunities, then they have a talent to play against anyone. One thing they don’t need is another case of the rebounding flu.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alumni Profile: Rudy Gay

Name: Rudy Gay

Team: Memphis Grizzlies

Position: Small Forward

Looking Back: Rudy Gay was entering his third year on a young team and had to adjust to an incoming superstar in O.J. Mayo that plays a similar style of ball, though at a different position. It wasn’t easy for the high flyer and he didn’t show much improvement statistically throughout the year with only his three point percentage rising a hair. His team had trouble finding the chemistry to compete in the West and floundered at the bottom of the league.

The Good:
Rudy is UConn’s most athletic alumni in the NBA and is at his best in the open court and slashing to the rim. He has slowly worked on his jumper and has improved, but it isn’t a reliable weapon yet. He is a scorer though, ranking 16th in the NBA in field goal attempts and 18th in field goals made.

The Bad: Defense isn’t Rudy’s best attribute. While he does get his hands on the ball, ranking 22nd in steals, he isn’t known for his ability to shut down an opposing player. He also has issues with ball security and is ranked 22nd in turnovers a game at 2.57. With the leaping ability that Gay possesses, he doesn’t block shots, ranking a horrible 41st in the NBA at .75 a game.

Looking Ahead:
Rudy and the Grizzlies look like they have a team that could compete for a bottom of the echelon playoff spot, but they need to find that team chemistry that they lacked last year. Entering his fourth year, Rudy should have the maturity and focus on becoming a leader that he needs to be.