Sunday, February 8, 2009
No Beauty Contest
We’ve seen UConn teams in the past struggle in these types of games, where a player has a career game against them. Stu Douglass was out of this world, hitting 7 of 10 shots and 6 of 8 from deep. He single handedly kept his undersized team in striking distance. Connecticut’s guards nearly cost them the game with their careless style of play, having 8 of UConn’s 17 turnovers. They were forcing passes into the zone and were off target with most of their dishes. They continue to get flustered by the simple 2-3 zone and end up passing the ball around the horn until there are 10 seconds to go in the shot clock and end up taking a bad three. Again it wasn’t until midway through the second half that they started finding creases in the lane to draw in the defense and find open shooters.
Thabeet has been a different animal in the past month. He has turned into a great rebounder and finisher around the rim. No longer are the days of his fading away from the rim and laying the ball off the glass. Each shot is a thunderous rim-rattling dunk. He had the line of the night with a monster double-double of 17 points, 12 boards, 6 blocks, 1 dime, and a stellar 7 of 8 from the line. Adrien had a frustrating first half and wasn’t able to force his will on the block. Even with that, he was able to put up 9 points and 14 boards.
Dyson had an incredible game. He is by far the toughest player to ever wear the UConn uniform. Be it getting his teeth knocked out, getting kneed in the groin, spraining his ankle, or getting a 7-foot-3 man’s boot in your grill while you got knocked to the ground, Jerome is a warrior. The difference he has shown this year has been the consistency of his intensity. Last season it looked like he would take plays off, but this year he is attacking at full speed at all times. He had a team high 19 points, 4 boards, 1 steal, 4 dimes to 3 turnovers, made 3 of 4 from deep, and went 4 of 5 from the line.
Price had trouble figuring out the zone and wasn’t crisp on the break. He ended his off night with 11 points on 2 for 10 shooting, 1 of 5 from deep, 5 boards, and 7 dimes but had 5 turnovers. The best part of his evening was his 6 of 6 from the line. Hopefully his woeful free throw shooting is behind him. Austrie wasn’t himself either against the zone, having a turnover himself. He did hit the dagger shot down the stretch and was active with the mid-ranged rebounds, pulling down 5. Kemba was the best point guard on the floor and had 3 dimes to no turnovers, having the best assist to turnover ratio on the team.
In every game, Stanley comes flying out of the gates and looks extremely active, but by the end of the game his line looks bulimic. He ended with 6 points, 2 boards, and 2 assists to 1 turnover. Calhoun is waiting on him to rip the lid off the basket and drain a few jumpers. Even his free throws look way off the mark and it is all above the shoulders. He has about as low in confidence with his jumper as Dyson was last year. Gavin wasn’t as effective as he has been in the past few games and ended with 2 boards, 1 block, 2 fouls, and 1 turnover in his 7 minutes.
It is the same problems that have plagued the huskies all year long. The backcourt has trouble getting passes into the lane and can’t find creases to collapse the zone. Teams end up negating UConn’s strength of their powerful frontcourt and make them a jump shooting team, which isn’t a strength if Price isn’t hitting. We’ve seen teams like George Mason, San Diego, Providence, Syracuse, and Georgetown come out of the gates sinking difficult shots and Connecticut couldn’t respond and lose those games, but this team is different. They are relentless on the boards, forcing teams to be physical and get rewarded by getting to the line and then they convert from there. There are no easy games at home or on the road, just ask Notre Dame, Marquette, or Syracuse. It is the consistency of UConn’s style that has carried them to the top spot in the nation and atop the standings in the Big East.