Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Born to Run
This was as physical of a game that UConn had played all season. Louisville’s guards were bumping and hand-checking the smaller Connecticut backcourt early on, creating several turnovers. But once Calhoun applied the three guard lineup, they broke the pressure and were ahead of the Cardinal’s defense, setting up the big men for easy paths to the basket. They never hit a three point shot, going 0 for 8, but they didn’t need it, with Louisville rolling out the red carpet to the basket. UConn’s defense was anchored inside by the bigs that walled off the rim and the guards did an excellent job of fighting through screens and contesting shots. This team is playing great team defense and are being unselfish on the offensive end.
Thabeet has put together two games which he has been a factor for every minute that he was on the floor. He is demanding the basketball on the offensive end, clogging the lane and taking the dribble penetration away, and even displayed a fifteen foot jumper. If he can consistently hit that shot then he will have a long career at the next level. He had the line of the night with 14 points, 11 boards, 4 blocks, 2 steals, and hitting 4 of 5 from the line. Adrien was just as effective with a monster 18 points, 7 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 4 of 5 from the line. While most of his points came in the first half, his ability to work around the top of the key has opened Thabeet down low and created a driving lane to the basket.
Dyson put together a great line with 14 points, 4 boards, 1 block, 2 steals, 2 dimes, and a perfect 4 of 4 from the line. He was able to find the creases in the defense and explode to the rim, which plays to his strength. Price couldn’t find his usual reliable shot and was only 3 of 10 from the field. He did do a great job on weak-side rebounding, pulling down 8 boards and his free throws are beginning to sink, hitting 5 of 6.
Walker was the only guard to have more assists than turnovers in this game with 4 dimes to 3 turnovers. He was able to break Louisville’s pressure defense and attack the rim while his shots were falling, hitting 4 of 6 from the field. The most amazing aspect of his game is on the defensive end. He fights through screens, and keeps his defender between his legs. Austrie had one of his worst games in a long time, having 2 turnovers. He still was able to get to the line, hitting 3 of 4, and did a good job of playing perimeter defense.
Robinson did UConn a huge favor and had two early fouls. It gave Calhoun a quick answer to Louisville’s physical pressure with inserting the three guard lineup. It will be interesting to see if he can come back and perform like he had in the Providence game after playing only 2 minutes. Gavin also had a short night with 5 minutes, because UConn’s big men weren’t in foul trouble.
This was as big of a character builder for this team as any of the other victories. Louisville was coming into this game on a huge win streak, tied at the top of the Big East standings, and had everything to prove. UConn didn’t care. They came out and played their style of play, tough nosed defense, a relentless attacking of the basket and making their free throws. If they can do those three things, then this team can win anywhere. They’re heading into a brutal stretch of their schedule and they can’t afford a let up, not in this conference and not in the battle for that number one seed.