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.

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