Thursday, February 12, 2009
UConn knew that this game was going to be won on the defensive end. They needed to slow down the streaky and athletic Syracuse tandem of Flynn, Harris and Devendorf and keep them out of transition. While early on the huskies played into the Orange’s hands by forcing bad passes into the zone and playing sloppily in transition that led to easy points. UConn has coughed up 37 turnovers in the last two games and needs to settle down and not try not to pass over the zone but instead drive into it. While they weren’t fluid on the offensive end early on, the defense was stout. They walled off the rim in the half court sets and made the Orange shoot difficult jumpers. Like in the past several games the pace of the game slowed down in the second half and became more physical which played right into UConn’s hands.
Thabeet is continuing his fantastic play and had the line of the night, ending the game with 8 points, 16 boards, 7 blocks, and 3 assists. His ability to help out on the defensive end sealed the dribble penetration and stifled Syracuse’s offensive rhythm. He is also getting better at posting in the zone and was able to kick the ball out to wide open shooters. Adrien put on the hardhat, punched the clock, and battled in the paint. While his rebounding total wasn’t up to his standard, just 5, he did most of his damage at the elbow and was able to hit some jumpers. His biggest improvement this season has been at the free throw line where he hit 4 of 6.
With Dyson out on a freakish play with a bruised knee, Price shouldered the offensive load. He was able to hit from deep, 4 of 7, and found his way into the lane for the rest of his 17 points. While his shot is falling more often, he has put together several very sloppy point guard performances which is a direct result to UConn’s horrid starts. He ended the game with 3 assists to 6 turnovers. Austrie also picked his offensive game up a notch and took 10 shots, making 2 threes. He also had a hard time handling the rock early on but became a steady force during the stretch that pulled the huskies ahead for good. He ended with 10 points, 5 boards, 3 dimes to 2 turnovers, 1 block and 1 steal.
Robinson looked to have his shooting woes behind him as he hit two smooth jumpers early on and sank two free throws, but he wasn’t able to keep it going through the rest of the game, disappearing for the other 35 minutes. He was active on the defensive end and recorded 2 blocks and 4 boards.
How much of a luxury is it is to have Kemba on the team? With the lack of Dyson, Walker took on more minutes and produced. He had 7 points, 6 boards, 2 dimes to 2 turnovers, and 2 steals. He also played solid defense and was rewarded with offensive fouls. Gavin only played 5 minutes but filled the stat sheet with 3 points, 3 boards, 1 block and shot 3 of 4 from the line. Beverly came in for 2 minutes and had 1 turnover.
While defense isn’t the sexiest way to win ballgames, it is the most reliable. To hold the 2nd ranked Big East offense to only 49 points on 31.7% shooting shows how good this team is playing on the defensive end. If they can stop the carelessness they have had with the ball and not turn it over 17 or more times a game, they would blow out teams. But that’s the scary part. This team has so much more to improve on. Not bad for a team ranked number one in the country and sitting on top of the hardest conference in the history of the Big East.