Sunday, January 25, 2009
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.