Sunday, March 29, 2009
It came down to composure. Missouri’s intense pressure kept getting under UConn’s skin, and with the referees letting hand checking go, the guards had a hard time breaking it and turned the ball over 17 times. The Tigers were able to neutralize the front court offensively, by baiting the Huskies to take shots before they could settle into a half court set and collapsing on defense. The backcourt shot 30 times to the frontcourt’s 19. While the turnovers piled up, so did UConn’s free throw attempts and they made the most of them, hitting 26 of 32 from the line. They also pounded the glass with a 45 to 26 advantage. Each team was able to influence their own strengths in the game, but in the end it came down to sealing the deal from the line, which was something this team couldn’t do in the Big East Tournament.
What more can you say about Walker? He’s just a freshman, but you can count on one hand the amount of freshman mistakes he has made all year. And on the biggest stage, he morphed into a true superstar. His ability to drive the lane in transition and lay the ball up at that rate of speed is phenomenal. He was also money from the charity stripe, hitting 9 of 10 and wasn’t rattled with taking them at the final minutes. His 23 points, 5 boards, 5 dimes to 2 turnovers was big time. Price wasn’t dominant but he was able to neutralize the full-court pressure when he was able to get the ball. His mid-ranged game was working, hitting several key step-through shots and floaters. He ended with 18 points, 3 boards, 3 assists to 4 turnovers, and hit 5 of 7 from the line. Austrie was quiet offensively with 7 points, 1 board, 1 steal, 1 dime to 3 turnovers, but hit 4 for 4 from the line. His major contribution came on the defensive end of the floor and it was great to see him hit another three, but he needs to mix up his offense more, all of his shots were from deep.
How far has Robinson’s game come? He has been able to control the wing and attack the rim at will. He was fantastic on the defensive end in shutting down his man and also protecting the rim in help defense. His mid-range game is also flourishing, hitting the bank shots. He ended with 13 points, 4 blocks, 6 boards, 1 turnover, and hit an amazing 5 of 6 from the line.
The frontcourt struggled offensively. Thabeet couldn’t get anything established down low and found Missouri collapsing their defense once it was funneled in, daring the backcourt to make plays. Hasheem finished with 5 points on 2 of 4 shooting, 13 monster boards, 2 assists to 2 turnovers, and 1 of 3 from the line. He didn’t have a blocked shot all game, which shows how determined Missouri was on pulling the big man away from the basket before entering their offense. Adrien was effective on offense, hitting 5 of 8, and had a double-double, but he didn’t have a great game. He made a costly error on an inbounds play late in the game, which could’ve changed the momentum of the game. He ended with 12 points, 10 boards, 4 assists to 4 turnovers, 3 blocks, 2 steals, and hit 2 of 2 from the line.
Gavin had much more of an impact on this game then in the previous one. He battled hard on the boards, grabbing 7 rebounds, had 1 block, 1 turnover, and 2 points. Beverly again saw some early minutes and hit his only shot.
Getting to the Final Four has been a total team effort. Different players have stepped up when needed. When Price cooled down, Austrie carried the torch and now it was Walker’s turn. But the constant has been their defense. They put together another solid performance and had to, because Missouri was able to get 23 more shots at the rim then the Huskies. They contested every shot and the help defense made driving lanes disappear. With four years of people telling them that they aren’t good enough, here is their chance to silence the critics. They are two wins away from the ultimate prize, the stars need to shine, step up, and seize the opportunity. Its there for the taking.