Saturday, January 31, 2009

UConn Versus Providence Highlights

UConn Versus Providence Preview

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Number One Gunning

While DePaul was able to hang with UConn during the first half, Connecticut proved to be to tall of a task. The balanced attack of UConn continues to thwart teams, having 4 players in double figures. The defense, which allowed the Blue Demons to shoot 50% in the first half, turned the dial up a few notches in the second half and only allowed 14 points. With the defense shutting down DePaul, UConn’s offense played an inside-outside game and found a way to get into the open court. It was too much for a young and thin team like DePaul.

Dyson has strung together three solid performances. He had the line of the night with 18 points, 2 of 3 from three, 4 of 4 from the line, 5 boards, and 1 dime. With his outside shot dropping, it opens his major weapon, his dribble drive. Defenders had to play him tight and respect his shot and he drove past them and to the basket. Price also had a great game. He had 12 points, 3 dimes to 1 turnover, and 1 board. His shot was on, hitting 5 of 8, but he didn’t overshoot and looked for the big men in every possession.

Austrie didn’t have the outside shot tonight so he took it inside and was able to hit the mid-ranged shot. He ended the night with 9 points, 4 boards, 4 dimes, 1 block, and no turnovers. Kemba was hot and cold all night, giving up a freshman-like turnover. He was able to get to the rim and do some damage. He is doing a better job of looking for his teammates, ending the game with 4 assists.

Adrien was a monster. He snared every rebound around him, took the ball to the rim on every touch, and played solid defense. He ended the game with 12 points, 13 boards, 1 assist, and 1 steal. He did have a horrible turnover in the closing minutes of the first half and had 3 total turnovers. Thabeet was being bodied all night and couldn’t establish his game until the second half. He did end the game with 11 points, 9 boards, 3 blocks, and 3 steals. His free throws are the only thing that hasn’t improved this year and only made 1 of his 4 attempts.

Robinson had a horrible game and only played 11 minutes. The basket is a thimble when he shoots the ball and ended the night going 0 for 3 from the field, though he sank two free throws, but it is the rebounding department that he needs to be more reliable at. He only had 2 boards again. That’s not going to get it done.

Gavin also had an off night from the bench and only had 2 points and 1 block. Bird got into the game and had a steal. Haralson is in a shooting slump, not taking a shot in his 1 minute of play.

With Duke losing to Wake Forest, UConn has the chance to claim top spot on the meaningless rankings. Which just gives Providence more ammunition for the upcoming game. This was the team that swept UConn last season and doused them from the outside. Remember Price saying he was going to pay them back. They’ll have their chance just as long as they don’t have any fans come out and call timeout.

UConn Versus DePaul Highlights

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gavin Edwards dunks all over Harangody


It was a tale of two halves. In the first half, UConn was baited into playing Notre Dame’s style by trading jump shots. While they hit some early threes, they aren’t that type of team. They do much better at taking a three every 5 or 6 possessions. During the second half, they forced their style of play on the game. The backcourt began to slip into the lanes and create when the defense collapsed. They forced the action and got to the line which they clanked over a dozen of their chances. It was the only blemish on an otherwise great performance. But it didn’t matter because UConn played spectacular defense on the perimeter. They held Notre Dame’s outside shooters to 8 for 27 from three, and Harangody made two of those.

Notre Dame’s beast was insane, hitting running hook shots, deep threes, fade away jumpers, and his typical hustle plays around the rim, but UConn’s big men combined for 21 points, 30 rebounds, and 6 blocks negating Harangody’s work . While Thabeet’s comments might have sparked some fire into Harangody, his shots were mostly moving away from the basket, he flopped and he barely played Thabeet on defense. Thabeet had trouble controlling the ball in traffic and created several turnovers while trying to gather himself and the refs were letting rough play go at both ends.

Adrien had the line of the night with 12 points, 19 monster boards, 1 block, 2 steals, and made 4 of 6 from the line. He has strung together several great free throw shooting games, which makes his tenacious play around the rim pay off. He is getting confident in that elbow jumper and looks smooth when he flows right into the shot. He also showed great leadership in the huddle and even had to have Calhoun let him sit for awhile to get calmed down.

Dyson has put two solid back-to-back performances. He has been able to hit the outside shot early in the past two games, which opens the driving lanes where he does his damage. He had 15 points, 9 boards, and 2 steals. Only his 3 dimes to 5 turnovers and 2 of 6 from the line marred his outing. Though Price’s outside shot was off, 1 for 5 from the arch, he was able to get into the lane and find the open man or get to the line, 4 of 7 from there. It was probably his best point guard performance of the year and ended the night having 4 dimes to no turnovers.

Kemba played a key role in this victory and knocked down his only three in the closing minutes to pull any hope of a comeback from the grasp of Notre Dame. He had 7 points, was 2 of 2 from the line, and had 2 boards. He seems to have blinders on when on the break and he needs to see the wing players ahead of him when in transition. It’s amazing that UConn had a freshman point guard holding the ball in the closing minutes of a huge Big East win on the road and he hit the dagger shot. This kid is a super star.

Austrie struggled offensively and hit just 2 of 4 from the line, but he still worked hard on the defensive end. Edwards' play has been a pleasant surprise. He has shown the ability to play above the rim and has strong hands for rebounding and attacking the rim. In his 10 minutes, he had 8 points, 1 block, and 5 boards. Robinson is in a very long shooting slump. His shots are all too strong. He needs to be able to shoot the ball a little softer. They are twanging off the rim. But the most disappointing aspect of his game is his rebounding. He should be grabbing more than 2 boards and should be living around the rim.

The identity for this team is set. They play tough nosed help defense, put a hand in front of every shooter, pound the glass, and get to the line. This game would of been a major blowout if they were able to sink 75% of their chances from the charity stripe. But they didn’t need it, because they dominated the glass and smothered the streaky Notre Dame shooters. This is the first win that UConn can hang their hats on to legitimize their number three ranking and soon to be number two. But its not about where they are now, it is all about that number one seed and playing their best at the end of the year, which this squad hasn’t done. There is room for improvement, but this is a huge step in a much larger goal.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ater Majok Press Conference

Rising to the Occasion

It looked like UConn’s perimeter defense wasn’t up to the challenge early on, giving up a barrage of threes in the first half to the pesky Wildcats. Both teams, which pride themselves on their defense, had their offenses firing on all cylinders putting up 48 points respectively. UConn had problems stopping the ball in transition and Villanova smelled blood in the water, attacking the rim and kicking out to open shooters. It wasn’t until the second half that the Huskies were able to clog the wide open lanes to the basket. With the defense finally stopping the outside shot, the offense continued to come from the free throw line and they made Villanova pay, hitting 31 of 39. Though many of those misses came at the most crucial time and nearly cost them the game.

The backcourt needed to step up and they did big time. Price had his best game of the season, though he had way too many turnovers. He had the line of the night with 29 points on 10 of 13 shooting, 4 of 6 from three, 5 of 6 from the line, 5 boards, and 5 dimes to 6 turnovers. It wasn’t only the fact that he scored a career high in points but that he had back-to-back good games. Maybe this is the end of his on one night and off the other performances.

Dyson also had a great shooting night in forever. He had 19 points on 6 of 11 shooting, 7 of 10 from the line (though he clanked two important ones), 4 boards, 1 assist to 2 turnovers, and 3 steals. He made a couple of amazing change of direction driving lay-ups and had one of his patented high-flying dunks. He is still hesitant with his jump shot and only took one three and no mid-ranged shots. His defense was spectacular and he pestered Scottie Reynolds into a 4 for 11 shooting night.

Austrie played a lot of minutes, 27, but had a horrible shooting night, ending the game with hitting just 2 of 10 from the field. He did come in and sink some pressure free throws and had 2 assists to no turnovers. Kemba played sparingly, 16 minutes, and was 1 of 4 from the field. He got to the line and hit 4 of 6. He played great defense in the second half and closed out one the streaky Wildcat shooters on the perimeter.

With Thabeet playing 17 minutes, Adrien was the only muscle down on the block and he produced. Though he struggled with being constantly doubled when he had the ball and shot a paltry 3 of 10, he was a monster on the boards, snaring 14. What was most impressive about his night was his free throw shooting, going a perfect 6 for 6 from the stripe. Hasheem didn’t play very smart on the defensive end, picking up several unnecessary fouls. When he was on the court he produced, scoring 10 points, 3 boards, 3 blocks, and hitting 4 of 5 from the line. He would’ve had a monster night if he could’ve played a wiser game.

Robinson continues to sort out his offensive game. His shot is all over the rim, if it even gets there. But he is playing solid defense, though he could be a little better rebounding, only pulling down 2 boards in his 28 minutes of play. Gavin played well in his 11 minutes, ending with 4 points, 1 board, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.

In a night where the pressure to win fell squarely on the shoulders of the Huskies backcourt, it was good to see Price and Dyson rise to the occasion. While Price was showering from deep, Dyson was carving the lanes. But even with their stellar offensive performance, they nearly let this one slip through their grasp. They were careless under pressure, missed the crucial free throws, and didn’t have the intensity on the defensive end down the stretch. Part of that goes to the gritty Villanova team, but this team needs to be able to step on a team’s throat when they are down and they didn’t do it. They had just enough cushion to sneak this one out, but it could cost them down the stretch and in a one-and-done situation, it could be game over. It only gets easier from here, they’ll have to play a hungry Notre Dame team in their impregnable home court fortress. Hasheem better have a full stomach, because he doesn’t want to eat his own words.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rising and Falling Prices

This is what the offense was capable of doing in every game. The guards were hitting the outside shot, the big men dominated the paint, they passed the ball crisply and they weren’t careless with the possessions. This team’s weakness since entering conference play was their turnovers. They would have stretches of ballgames that they would cough it up due to poor decisions. In this game, they were able to keep control of the ball and find the open teammate, ending the game with 20 assists to 7 turnovers. On defense, they stayed in their man-to-man, protecting the perimeter and limiting the streaky Seton Hall’s shooters to only 7 of 24 from the behind the arch. They were able to contain Eugene Harvey, Jeremy Hazell, and Robert Mitchell to 18 of 44 from the field and were able to limit their possessions to one and done, dominating the boards with 38 rebounds.

Price continues his rollercoaster season. He finished with 23 points on 9 of 16 shooting, 5 assists to 1 turnover, and 2 boards. His midrange game was in full effect, pulling up for jumpers in the lane, and dropping floaters over the bigs. He also displayed his silky smooth touch from the outside, hitting 3 of 6 from deep. He wasn’t forcing passes inside and made it a priority of not turning the ball over. He needs to put back-to-back good games together though. These on one game and off another puts a lot of pressure on the other guards.

Dyson early on looked like he was going to come out of his four game long shooting slump. He hit an early three and also was able to drop a few runners, but the lid on the basket soon closed and he ended the night shooting 3 of 13. During stretches of the ballgame he was too quick to take a shot and was caught in the air and made some erratic passes. He played great defense, taking a charge, and showed his toughness with playing through a twisted ankle. He did pull-up and try a mid-ranged shot which clanked and he needs to continue to shoot that shot, even though this slump is getting pretty lengthy.

Austrie, Mr. Reliable, had the outside shot working, hitting 2 of 3, pulled down a board, had an assist, and didn’t turn the ball over. He doesn’t complain, doesn’t get flustered, and doesn’t do anything to negatively impact his team. He just does his job. Kemba was 3 of 4 from the field, had 2 boards, 1 block and 4 assists to 3 turnovers. He looks like a senior playing man-to-man defense and is able to play in your face defense without fouling.

Thabeet had a monster double-double and ended with the line of the night with 15 points, 17 boards, 1 assist to 2 turnovers, and 4 blocks. He has been struggling at the line in the past couple of games, only hitting 3 of 7. Hasheem has improved drastically in the rebounding department. He was solid on the defensive end, and handled being pulled out of the paint and still played solid help defense. He needs to seal his man off better with his right arm. He is letting the defender get inside him and not letting the guard’s have a clean entry pass. Adrien was just as solid with 13 points, 12 boards, 3 assists to 1 turnover, and 2 blocks. He also had a poor free throw shooting game, ending the game shooting 3 of 8 from the line. His elbow jumper is looking better and he isn’t hesitating with taking that shot.

Robinson was active all game. He was constantly moving without the ball, probing the paint for rebounds and put-backs. He ended the game with 4 points on 2 of 3 shooting, 1 block, 2 boards, and he only played 10 minutes. Edwards only had 6 minutes and was effective, ending with 2 points and 2 boards.

This team’s offensive woes seem to come down to taking care of the ball and sharing it, and that relies on the guards being patient and playing under control. But the way to the championship rests on their defense. They have shown more consistency in that department. They can play the zone to clog the paint or they can stay man-to-man to protect the arch from deadly shooters. They are playing hard on that end of the court and the opponent’s missed shots are turning into fast break opportunities on the other end of the court. They’ll need to show this solid defensive performance again to throw a wrench in a streaky Villanova squad.

Friday, January 16, 2009

UConn in the Zone

It wasn’t pretty ball. Right from the tip, UConn was careless with the ball and it continued throughout the first half. They ended the game with 17 turnovers to only 15 assists. The guards forced passes when the big men weren’t in a good position to score, stopped their dribble unnecessarily, and forced the offense instead of making the extra pass to an open shooter. It wasn’t until the defense picked up its intensity that UConn found a way to get on the break and score easily. Calhoun was masterful on the defensive end, using the zone on made baskets and full-court pressure that threw St. John’s offense off kilter. With the shot blockers clogging the paint, the Red Storm were forced to make outside shots which isn’t their strength.

Sky-Walker gave his hometown crowd a show. It was his best game wearing the Connecticut jersey. He had the line of the night with 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting, 1 of 2 from deep, 4 of 5 from the line, 5 boards, 4 assists to 1 turnover, and 1 steal. He was able to use his strength, his speed, to get into the open court and force the action and his shots around the rim were dropping. He was also exceptional on defense, playing great pressure defense and stopping his man from dribble penetrating.

Price continues to have his inconsistency. He is forcing the action and not getting into any flow, except for the last 10 minutes of the game. His 6 turnovers to 5 assists is indicative to how he is forcing things. He needs to settle down and not try to take over the offense. He must find the safest pass and not be so careless with possessions. Dyson is also in a major slump. He has totally lost his mid-ranged game. He is either taking it all the way to the rim or spotting up for a three. He needs to show that dribble into the key and the quick jumper that he had in the preseason. He did have a multitude of bad calls go his way and he gives everything he has on the defensive side of the ball. Austrie was solid. His turnover streak ended at three games, giving up one in this outing. But he is Mr. Reliable, giving you the deep threat, some rebounding, and steady ball handling that this team needs.

Adrien was a beast inside, finishing with a monster double-double of 17 points, 11 boards, 1 steal, 1 block, and a fantastic 3 of 4 from the line. Hasheem continues to search for some semblance of a post game. He is fighting hard for position but when he gets the ball, he is out of his range for a one dribble move to the hole. He’s also fading away from contact around the basket and not attacking the rim unless he has a clear path. He’s too big and strong to be a finesse player. He still had 5 blocks, 1 steal, 8 boards, and 10 points. Not anything to brag about but he did spread the stats around across the board.

Gavin played 3 minutes and had a rebound and a turnover.

UConn has found its identity on the defensive end, with a mixture of pressure defense and a sprinkling of zone. The offense continues to be the enigma for this team. They’ve got all the pieces, they’ve just got to find that consistency. With Price and Dyson trying to recapture their luster, the pressure falls on the front court and a freshman point guard, who stepped up, shouldered the scoring burden, and placed himself as a central piece to this team. Without Walker, this game would’ve ended like the Buffalo game, where St. John’s would’ve had a chance to pull the upset. But UConn found a way, through a gritty defensive performance and a sensational freshman to give Calhoun his first 3 game Big East road sweep in his career. Now it is time for some home cooking.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Player Breakdown of UConn versus St. John's

Justin Burrell versus Jeff Adrien: They both match-up body wise. Both are 6-8 and 240 pounds and play a similar style of ball, though Burrell has shown that he can hit from deep. Adrien is going to have to concentrate on putting a body on Burrell on every possession. Adrien plays at the elbow, dribbling down the lane or spotting up for a quick jumper. He also can play with his back to the basket and is an aggressive rebounder.

Sean Evans and Dele Coker versus Hasheem Thabeet: Sean needs to crowd Thabeet and not give him any position where he can make one move to the basket. On offense Sean will pull the shot blocker out of the paint while in man-to-man. UConn has had problems with teams that do not have a conventional center. UConn will need to show that they can handle this type of attack.

D.J. Kennedy versus Stanley Robinson: Kennedy will need to keep Robinson in front of him and make him a jump shooter, which he has struggled since returning to the team in mid-season. Stanley has freakish athletic ability to get second chance points on put-backs. He is focused on rebounding the ball and defense and his outside shot is a last resort.

Malik Boothe versus A.J. Price: Boothe will need to stay with Price, especially when he doesn’t have the ball. He is UConn’s best three point shooter. Price is getting his burst back from his knee injury but getting into the lane isn’t his greatest asset now. He is beginning to come back to form in passing the ball where his man can score.

Paris Horne versus Jerome Dyson and Craig Austrie: Dyson is in a shooting slump, having three games in a row of clanking shots. He still has a fantastic burst to the basket and will look for contact on the way to the rim. He is also UConn’s best perimeter defender and takes pride in locking down the opponents best player. These two are their teams best at getting steals. Paris is going to need to stay in front of Dyson, who can beat anyone with his first step. Austrie is a deep threat but doesn’t have the first step of Dyson. He is reliable and doesn’t turn the ball over.

Quincy Roberts versus Kemba Walker: Kemba has a sixth gear and can dribble up the court as fast as someone passing it. He has begun to take over the point during stretches of the ballgame. Quincy will need to stay in front of him and get back on defense to negate his greatest weapon, the open court.

Rob Thomas versus Gavin Edwards: Gavin fills in for both the power forward position and the center position. He roams the paint and concentrates on all the little things, boxing out, staying in front of his man, and loose balls. This will be the battle of who has the most hustle.

Kemba Walker High School Highlights

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Big East Power Rankings

1. Pittsburgh. The Panthers are playing great basketball and have all the tools to break through the Elite Eight barrier. Super Sam and Levance Fields are at the top of their games now, scoring a combined 29.6 points a game. DeJuan Blair has emerged as one of the top big men in the conference, averaging 14.2 points and 12.5 rebounds a game. They have a deep bench, going 11 deep at times. They lead the league in rebounding margin at +10.9 a game.

2. UConn. The Huskies have three players, Dyson, Adrien, and Thabeet, all averaging 14 points a game. Price has started finding his groove since the Gonzaga game and the addition of Stanley Robinson has stabilized the man-to-man defense. They are third in the conference in scoring margin at 19.4 points a game and second in three-point percentage at .377 a game, though they have shot a league low 167.

3. Syracuse. They continue to win playing a run-and-gun style of play. They have the number one rated offense but come in at a woeful 13th in defense and that’s with the leagues best perimeter defense. They are getting killed inside. Jonny Flynn is tearing it up, averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 assists a game. Arinze Onuaku is the X-factor for this team and is filling in nicely with 12.1 points and 7.6 rebounds a game.

4. Marquette. Lazar Hayward is having a heck of a season, averaging 17 points a game and 8.7 boards. They aren’t clicking on all cylinders yet. When Dominic James gets going, 11.2 ppg and 3.5 boards, then this team will be deadly. With Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal playing great and knocking down shots, they haven’t needed to lean on James. But their defense is a work in progress ranking a low 11th.

5. Louisville. Here come the Cardinals. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams are the pillars of this team but they have struggled in finding role players to help the offense. Samardo Samuels is one of next great Big East big men, but he has had his freshman games. Knowles and Sosa need to contribute more. Preston Knowles is shooting the ball well, hitting .452 from three.

6. Georgetown. This young team is having its ups and downs. DeJuan Summers and Austin Freeman are anchoring the team, but they're horrible rebounding will cost them games. They don’t have a player averaging 6 rebounds or more a game. With the emergence of Greg Monroe this team will be dangerous come tournament time.

7. West Virginia. Ruoff and Butler shoulder much of the scoring burden. They group rebound well with Butler, Ebanks, Smith, Jones and Flowers creating the 5th placed rebounding team in the league. They rank 1st in offensive rebounds but dead last in defensive rebounds. The myth about this team is that they are a three-point shooting team. They are seventh in the league in three pointers attempted. They also boast the leagues best turnover margin.

8. Notre Dame. Harangody has emerged as the best player in the conference with a monster line of 24 p.p.g . and 12.4 rebounds. Mcalarney and Ayers are deadly shooters that you must respect and the big man feasts inside. They also have the best home court in the country. While the offense is a jet engine, the defense is a Jetta, coming in at 12th in the league.

9. Villanova. Dante Cunningham is a player. He scores, knocks down big buckets, rebounds, hits free throws and plays solid defense. With Scottie Reynolds running the show and Corey Stokes and Fisher knocking down threes this team is sneaky dangerous. The defense is carrying them, ranking 5th in the league.

10. Providence. The team is looking for defenders, coming in at 15th in the league in defense. Geoff McDermott is rebounding well but he needs to contribute more offensively. They have started conference play well against the lower echelon team, but need to knock off a top team to move farther up the rankings. They need another body inside to help rebound.

11. St. John’s. Paris Horne and D.J. Kennedy are playing well. Anthony Mason Jr. is coming into his own and Sean Evans is doing a great job on the boards. They took out a great Notre Dame team at home, which is a big boost to this squad, but their offense, 13th in the conference, is struggling. They are dead last in the league in 3-pointers made. This team is missing an explosive scorer.

12. Cincinnati. They have struggled entering Big East play. Deonta Vaughn is doing all he can to keep Cincinnati in ballgames but he needs another scorer to step up. Larry Davis is an outside threat, Yancy Gates has shown flashes and Mike Williams looks the part, but they haven’t been able to finish games. They do a great job rebounding, ranking 3rd at +7.9 a game, but rank a low 11th in scoring margin at +6.7 a game.

13. Seton Hall. Jeremy Hazell is tearing up the league, averaging 22.4 points a game. Robert Mitchell and Eugene Harvey chip in a combined 28.9 points also. They also have the worst defense, coming in dead last. They try to outscore opponents, but in this league defense wins and they are not committed to that end of the floor.

14. Rutgers. This team should be much better. They have a talented freshman in Mike Rosario, scoring 17.4 points a game, and they have big men in Hamady Ndiaye and Gregory Echenique but they haven’t gotten it done. They just can’t find buckets. J.R. Inman needs to play better, 6.4 points a game isn’t cutting it.

15. USF. Dominique Jones and Jesus Verdejo are playing well but no one on this team is averaging 5 rebounds or better. They are also struggling on the offensive end of the floor, ranking dead last. They are a young team and they are finding out that getting wins in this league aren’t easy.

16. DePaul. Dar Tucker and Mac Koshwal pack a good one-two punch but they aren’t getting wins. They are struggling from deep and only Koshwal is a rebounding threat. They need to do a better job on the boards and work harder on the defensive end of the court, coming in at 14th.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Price

While the weather outside has been frigid, UConn’s game is beginning to heat up and it started with the defense. The guards had active hands all game and kept their men in front of them. The big men controlled the paint and never let Williams and Bishop feel comfortable. Calhoun even dusted off the zone for a prolonged period in the first half and it didn’t look pretty, giving the Bearcats open looks which they drained. The offense was clicking, with the outside shooting catching fire, hitting 8 for 15. They were able to get into the open court and attack the basket before the defense could settle and when they were in the half court, they remained patient and the guards found the open man, ending the game with 15 assists.

No one expected this. After the horrid game against West Virginia, Price comes out and explodes, displaying his entire arsenal. He had the line of the night, 22 points, with 5 of 8 from three, 5 assists to 2 turnovers, and 1 steal. He was in the zone all game, hitting the outside shot, driving the lanes, dishing to the bigs, and setting up in the half court and executing effective plays. He is a much different shooter when he gets his shot off a pass then if he creates his own shot off the dribble. Now that he has this game under his belt, he needs to carry this game over. He’s been hot and cold so far this season.

Dyson continues to struggle shooting the ball, though he hit a nice three-pointer. He still does all the intangibles that a team needs, ending his day with 12 points, 6 boards, 5 dimes, and 2 steals. His shots around the rim are beginning to fall. All he needs to do is find that mid-ranged game he has shown to possess. His defense was amazing, shadowing Deonta Vaughn and denying him the ball.

Austrie had his best game in awhile. He never hurts his team, having his fourth game in a row without a turnover. His outside shot was on, hitting 2 for 3, and he got to the line, hitting 3 of 4. Walker did a little of everything, flashing his speed on the break, hitting free throws, pulling down boards, and finding the open man. While his shot wasn’t there tonight, he was able to show more of his point guard skills tonight and his defensive energy is amazing.

Adrien had a powerful game, ending with another double-double, with 13 points and 12 boards. He showed his overall game, hitting the jumper from the free throw line, getting deep into the paint in transition, battling for second chance points, and finishing strong. Thabeet had a loud 8 points and 3 rebound performance. He missed his two attempts at the line and he had trouble setting up for position in the half court. He needs to be more aggressive in the rebounding department, 3 does not cut it.

Robinson came out of the gates on fire and set the momentum that UConn never let go of. He is active without the ball and was able to finish plays around the basket. It was surprising to see that he only had 1 rebound since he seemed to be playing around the paint all game. His shot still isn’t even close. He is either overshooting it by a mile or front rimming them.

Gavin had an off night, only playing 8 minutes, ending his day with only 2 points and no rebounds. It was great to see Mandeldove out there but it also shows Calhoun’s lack of trust with Okwandu. I thought that Charles would have had a larger role in the rotation at this point of the season.

With the defense finding its stride and the stuttering starts behind them, UConn looks to be playing great basketball at the beginning of conference play. And it starts with the defense. They are able to create a frantic pace to the game by pressuring the ball and forcing teams into their plays late and it helps to have anchors in the paint that can erase mistakes. They need to ride this momentum, like last year’s winning streak that catapulted the team into the Big Dance, and continue to play this controlled chaos style of play where their assists far outweigh their turnovers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Measuring Up

It wasn’t pretty but this game was a classic Big East match-up, showcasing two defensive minded teams. UConn dominated the glass 51 to 28 but West Virginia’s swarming defenders created 18 turnovers. Clamping down on the perimeter, one of UConn’s problems all year, they held the streaky Mountaineers to just 6 for 26 from behind the arch, taking away their primary weapon and West Virginia clogged the paint with defenders daring UConn to shoot the three. With neither team able to pull away, it was UConn who made the stops down the stretch and knocked off their fourth ranked team of the year.

The big men were solid with Thabeet leading the way. He had the line of the night with 13 points, 13 boards, 3 of 4 from the line, and 3 blocks. While he got off to a great start, he faded towards the middle of the game, only to show up at the end to help stave off a great West Virginia team. This is back-to-back good games for the big man. Jeff Adrien put the Huskies on his shoulders during some crucial stretches, using his muscle and quick footwork to score around the basket, ending the game with a team best 17 points.

The guards struggled all game offensively but played superb perimeter defense. Dyson is officially in a slump with his third poor shooting performance in a row, but he kept at it. He had a difficult task in chasing Ruoff and Bryant around the perimeter and did a great job. He was aggressive and took the ball to the rim and was rewarded with 8 trips to the charity stripe. Walker had a solid game, hitting the team’s only three pointer and pulled down 8 boards, though he didn’t have an assist. He’s settling down in the half court offense and not turning the ball over as much.

Austrie played 21 minutes, had 2 points on 1 of 2 shooting, 1 board, 1 assist, and no turnovers. He hasn’t turned the ball over in the past three games but he needs to show more in rebounding and scoring to warrant the minutes. Price had his worst game of the year. He went 0 for 9 from the field, 1 rebound, 2 assists to 2 turnovers, and ended his day with 1 point. His ill-advised three near the end of the game had him riding the pine for the last three minutes.

Robinson played the entire game which shows how far he has come. While his shot is as ugly as those Snuggie commercials, he was tenacious on the boards, pulling down 15. He played solid defense and had 3 blocks and 1 steal. He has a knack for sticking his nose into the paint and scoring on put-backs . It isn’t a coincidence that ever since he has started, UConn has found it’s defensive swagger.

With no Huskies in major foul trouble, Gavin only had 8 minutes of action and managed to pull down 4 boards.

This game was the measuring stick that everyone was looking at to see where this team was at. They have proven that the Georgetown game was a fluke and that they can rise up and play solid basketball against an elite Big East opponent. With their defense coming together and their multitude of ways to score the basket, this team is dangerous. Stealing these games on the road early in the season takes the pressure off them later in conference play. This is a big win but they can’t be complacent. Not in this conference. Just ask Notre Dame.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Taking care of business

This was just what the doctor ordered. UConn took care of a tough nosed team and did it with decisiveness. This was UConn basketball. There wasn’t a dominate scorer and they had a little of everyone sprinkle in points, with five players in double figures. The interior and help defense were much better and kept free runners from the basket, though Rutgers didn’t have a big man that could pull Thabeet out of the paint. The Scarlet Knights also had their share of open looks and clanked most of them. Even with this blowout, the slow starts are becoming a problem. They are settling for out of rhythm jump shots and not making the extra pass or driving to the basket. Calhoun also dusted off the zone defense for a possession but it ended up giving Rutgers an open shot which they drained and that was the end of that.

If anyone questioned Thabeet’s heart and toughness before, they shouldn’t now. The Ndiaye and Thabeet match-up has always been intriguing because they have similar games, but this time Thabeet laid the wood. Last years match-up had Thabeet going 0 for 7 from the floor with 2 points, 10 boards and 6 blocks. But this time around, he had the line of the night with 15 points, 8 boards, 1 block, and doing it all on one leg, wincing up and down the court. Hopefully his poor play in the Georgetown game was just an anomaly and UConn will get this Thabeet all year. Adrien gave the team his usual performance, 13 points and 7 boards. He worked the high-low well, though his elbow jumper is non-existent this year.

Robinson had his best game of the year. He had several spectacular put-backs but none more impressive then his gliding and high-flying lay-up. He received the ball just inside the three point line and took a running jump, gliding past two defenders, ordered dinner, double-clutched, and gently laid the ball in. He also played solid man-to-man and did a great job boxing his man out, coming down with 7 boards. What was so impressive about his game today was his 4 assists and 3 blocks. He is really getting into the flow of the game.

3 total points from Price might look like he had a horrible night, but he was the general that UConn had been hoping for. His 7 assists to only 1 turnover, was his best point guard performance of the year. He concentrated on getting everyone involved and wasn’t look for his shot, shooting only 4 times all game. Dyson only made 2 more field goals in this game then he had in the Georgetown game, but he was a totally different animal. The difference was that he was getting to the line and he was able to knock down a couple of threes. But no points were more amazing then his power slam. He has an uncanny way of sending that ball through the hoop with monster force.

Austrie was solid, going 3 for 5 from the field, 1 for 1 from three, with 3 dimes to 0 turnovers. Kemba had his best outing in a number of games. He played in control while going at such a high rate of speed. He hit the outside shot and finished plays around the rim. He also played great man-to-man defense, using his speed to beat his man to the spot on several occasions.

Gavin had his most impressive play of his career with a high-flying two-handed flush on an ally-oop. It was so impressive that he wanted to do it again. He finished his day with 10 points and 4 rebounds. He is such an important piece to this team, filling the backup role for power forward and center positions. Okwandu found his way into the game and ended his 3 minutes with 1 turnover and 1 foul. Beverly had 1 rebound in his 2 minutes and Haralson had goose eggs in his 1 minute.

Calhoun had another half-game performance, fighting a illness. George Blaney is an overlooked essential piece to this team. Not many teams can have two well respected coaches on the sidelines. They do a great job of playing good cop, bad cop with their players.

This was a must win for the Connecticut and while they couldn’t right the ship early on offense, they played in your face defense, showed the toughness that they lacked in the previous game, and played the match-up zone well. This was the first time that they showed UConn type of basketball, getting on the fast break and ending the game with 21 assists to only 6 turnovers. The slow starts continue to become their greatest weakness and caused them the Georgetown game and it is something they need to fix. With the Big East filled with such parody, these games against the lower half of the league are essential, especially at home. Now let’s see if they can take this show on the road.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Team on Georgetown loss