Sunday, March 22, 2009
Few expected this. A UConn team firing on all cylinders, stifling opponents with a swarming defense and scoring easily on offense. It doesn’t hurt that teams haven’t used the zone and are playing at UConn’s pace, but the emergence of Robinson’s offense, Price’s range, Adrien’s elbow jumper, and excellent free throw shooting have made this team not only dangerous but a force of nature. They haven’t played the elite teams yet, but their counterparts have struggled against similar talent, and UConn is playing about as good of a team game as they have all year. This team has had the same identity for the last three years, attacking the rim through their dominant post players and with dribble penetration. With that style they are going to get to the line a lot, and they need to make them pay by hitting their free throws. They did that this game, hitting a fantastic 21 out of 27. With the outside shooting, the cherry topping, this team is steam rolling into the Sweet Sixteen.
Price was simply fantastic. He made four out of UConn’s five 3-pointers, attacked the rim with aggression, and ran a flawless offense. He ended his night with 27 points, 5 boards, 8 assists to 2 turnovers, and hit 7 out of 9 from the free throw line. He has been steadily improving from the charity stripe. The key to his success is on limiting his turnovers which have plagued him this month until this game. Austrie’s work doesn’t show up in the stat sheets. He is playing great defense in these past two games and has not allowed his defender to slip into the lane. He wasn’t jacking up threes, even if he was open, and only took 2 shots, but made his first which is a great sign. He needs a confidence booster game like this. He also had 4 assists to no turnovers, which is more Austrie-like.
Adrien was money from the elbow, draining shot after shot, but when he got to the line, he went 1 of 4. Maybe he should take jump shots at the free throw line. He was a monster in the paint with 23 points, 8 boards, 1 block, and 1 assist to 3 turnovers. His ability to play the high-low position has made Thabeet the player he is today. Thabeet was in foul trouble throughout the game, only playing 20 minutes. While his stats weren’t anything to write about, his impact on the game was immediate once he entered the game. The driving lanes started leading to dead ends, and made Texas A&M jump shooters. The big man ended his night with a paltry 6 points, 4 boards, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, and a perfect 4 of 4 from the line.
Robinson is a new player since the Marquette game. His outside shots have started to drop and he is able to get the ball under the basket and finish plays off. He has always been a great rebounder and put-back man, but his new found ability to score in different ways have added a much needed fourth scorer. He had 12 points, 5 boards, 1 assist to 2 turnovers, 1 steal, and a perfect 2 of 2 from the line.
Walker had his most well rounded game for the month, hitting from the outside, getting to the rim, and running the offense to perfection. He had 8 points, 2 boards, 4 assists to no turnovers, and played outstanding defense. Edwards seems to play his best when he gets more then 15 minutes of floor time. He made every hustle play around the ball, and went a perfect 6 of 6 from the line. He finished with 10 points, 6 boards, 1 block, and 2 assists in his 22 minutes of action. What a luxury it is to have a player that can play both power forward and center positions.
Beverly got into the game and flashed some speed in getting to the rim, scoring 2 points. Bird was able to get a shot off but missed. Haralson amazingly didn’t shoot the ball in his 2 minutes of action and there was a Mandeldove sighting. Jim Veronick was a man possessed on the court, getting 1 rebound and 2 points in his 1 minute of action! Linder also found his way into the game.
This team is playing with the swagger that it had going into the first Pittsburgh match-up. They are playing as a cohesive unit, each knowing their respected roles, and all are being effective when on the floor. There are only a handful of teams in the field that are playing as well as UConn is right now, and the pundits are scrambling to get on that fast moving bandwagon. While the competition will only increase as they move on, they are playing their best ball at the right time, something that this squad hasn’t been able to do in the last 4 years. Now they need to sustain it.