Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eyes on the Prize

UConn’s second loss to Pittsburgh boiled down to not being able to contain Sam Young. The dynamic forward scored in a variety of ways and feasted on the Huskies sloppy transition defense, getting to the rim with ease time after time. UConn didn’t help themselves, shooting 10 for 19 from the line and having their big three shoot 16 for 40 from the field. The silver lining was in UConn’s ability to quiet the other seven Panthers, putting only two players other than Young into double figures. But it was almost a mirror image of the game in Hartford, where Pittsburgh was dominate throughout, holding onto double figure leads and answering every Husky run with one of their own. UConn showed toughness, fought back and got close to only have Young slip several daggers into their hearts and sink this ship from first to third in the league.

Price has shouldered most of the backcourt scoring since Dyson went down and has been the only deep threat on the team, hitting 4 of 8. He shot the ball well, hitting off-balance shots, but the Panthers did a great job of shadowing him and keeping the ball out of his hands. He finished with 19 points, 1 board, 4 assists to 2 turnovers, 2 steals, and 5 of 7 from the line. Austrie’s minutes have plummeted with his offensive ineptitude. He only played 15 minutes and is starting only because he is a senior. They needed him to step up but he was held scoreless and only took 2 shots all game. He did play good defense and had 3 assists to no turnovers, but his confidence is at an all-time low and this team needs his shooting.

Robinson was active all game on the boards. He is getting comfortable with his role and is battling hard on the boards and sometimes against his own teammates. He pulled down 12 boards with 4 of those offensive. He finished with 6 points, 2 assists to no turnovers, and shot an awful 2 of 6 from the line. He has all the ability to be a Sam Young, but lacks the outside shot this season. Last year he had the most consistent shot from deep and now he can’t even hit from the line. For Robinson, it is all upstairs. He has shown the ability but just can’t translate it to games this season.

Thabeet took care of business on his end and held the dirty DeJuan Blair to the numbers Thabeet was criticized for having in the first meeting. He is also playing with fire, shown by getting into the face of Blair after the big man tried to trip him after they got tangled. That was something the nice guy Thabeet wouldn’t have done last year. He ended his night with 14 points, 13 boards, 3 turnovers, 5 blocks, and shot 2 of 3 from the line. It will be interesting to see how the college hype machine spins this performance. Adrien also played better, though he shot only 5 for 14 from the field. He finished with 11 points, 1 assist to 3 turnovers, 2 blocks, 8 boards, and 1 of 2 from the line. He had a tough time matching up with Young, who took him off the dribble and to the rim. Adrien couldn’t take advantage of his size on the block.

Walker is emerging as the fourth option and ended his night with 31 minutes. He showed some toughness, getting stomped in the grill by his own teammate and getting up to play on. He also wasn’t shy about shooting the ball, which is a good sign. He came up empty though, hitting only 5 of 11 from the field, 0 for 1 from the line, and 0 for 4 from deep, but he needs to be more aggressive and look to score more to take pressure off of Price. He ended his night with 10 points, 3 boards, 2 assists to 1 turnover, and 1 steal. Gavin hasn’t played much lately and the rust is showing. He is a step late on defense and he isn’t flashing his athletic ability. He ended with 2 fouls, 2 turnovers, and 1 steal. Haralson had 5 minutes but no one looked to give him the ball until the tail end of the game in which he rushed his shot and sent up an air-ball.

It wasn’t pretty and UConn knows that they still have work to do. It isn’t always a bad thing to be humbled like this. They know that they need a better effort to get to where they want to go. But remember this, when Syracuse won their championship, UConn beat them twice that year. This team needs to keep their eyes on the prize. They need to keep working, keep getting better, because no one remembers the regular season champions. It is all about the tournaments and in an one and done situation, anything is possible.

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