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.