Sunday, February 15, 2009
It didn’t matter that Dyson was out, not in this game, because UConn kept throwing the ball into the paint and there was nothing the Pirates could do. John Garcia and Robert Mitchell were outmatched and couldn’t contain Connecticut’s experience and muscle, losing the rebounding margin by 11. Teams that primarily use the man-to-man defense against the Huskies have been torn apart. The only way to beat this team is to stay in the zone and hope they send you to the line, have a poor shooting night, and clank a lot of free throws. While UConn did have a terrible free throw shooting night, 15 of 27, they still shot the ball well from deep, 3 of 8, and they decimated the interior of the man-to-man.
Thabeet has turned his game into stratospheric proportions. He is sealing his man and catching lobs to the rim, rebounding with authority, hitting insane 15-footers, and making plays with his back to the basket. What can you say about his line of 25 points, 20 boards, 9 blocks, and 1 dime? He has been so dominate on both ends of the floor that it has single handedly carried this team through some horrible backcourt play.
With Thabeet’s massive double-double, it is easy to overlook Adrien. He again posted a double-double of 14 points and 15 boards. He had a hard time finishing plays around the rim, ending the night shooting 5 of 15, but his ability to work the middle of the zone and relieve pressure off of Thabeet has allowed the big man to flourish.
The backcourt play was atrocious again. They combined to go 6 for 25 with 10 assists to 8 turnovers. Price had 6 points, 5 assists to 3 turnovers, 2 boards, but shot only 1 of 3 from the charity stripe. He has to make better decisions, especially on the break and during the first 5 minutes of the ballgame. With the loss of Dyson, Austrie and Kemba looked to take on a bigger role in the offense. Craig did shoot the ball 10 times, above his average, but overall he shot 2 of 10 from the floor. The amazing thing is that he shot 2 of 3 from deep, a great sign, but his floaters and shots in the lane weren’t sinking. He has also played some uncharacteristic sloppy ball, turning the rock over 3 times. He is usually a dependable ball handler.
Robinson also looked to help shoulder the offensive load with Jerome’s departure but he only shot the ball 4 times. He needs to at least double that. After his solid shooting a few games ago, he is still shying away from the jumper. He did pull down 5 boards and was looking around for scraps which the big men left little. It will be important for the point guards to focus on getting Robinson more involved early in both halves of ballgames.
Kemba was solid off the bench and played 32 minutes. He had 8 points, 4 of 5 from the line, 2 boards, 2 dimes to no turnovers, and 1 block. He did pass up a wide open three to drive the ball inside. He needs to take those shots and has shown the ability to sink them. Gavin only played 4 minutes and had 2 boards and 1 point.
This was a dominate defensive performance, keeping a talented Jeremy Hazell to a 5 for 22 night. Austrie and Kemba did a great job in taking over the torch for Dyson on the perimeter defense. If the frontcourt can remain this dominate, teams are going to have to shoot their way to a victory. It is amazing to see this team play such amazing in your face defense without fouling. Up next is a hungry Pittsburgh team that is just as balanced as UConn’s. This one is going to be a heavy weight bout with a former number one team aiming to take down the current one. But if this team keeps up this type of defense intensity, it won’t be easy for the Panthers to come into this royal court and reclaim the crown.