Saturday, March 14, 2009

Horseshoes and Handgrenades

Free Throws. That’s what it boiled down to. They left 18 points on the floor and had multiple attempts to slam the door shut in 5 of the 6 overtimes, but they couldn’t do it. This team can’t seem to find a way to win a tournament game. You can’t knock their heart, tenacity, effort, or will, but they just can’t find the dagger in the closing minutes of games and Syracuse took advantage of every opportunity. No one had an answer for Flynn, who was allowed to attack the rim and get to the line. The zone frustrated UConn and forced them to shoot an uncharacteristic 35 times from three and they had a hard time holding onto the ball, coughing it up 27 times. But with all that, they still showed incredible fortitude and fought back to tie the game and control all but the last overtime. They just couldn’t seal the deal.

Price was amazing. He had his whole arsenal on display, hitting the midrange jumper, deep ball, and floater in the lane. He was solid from the line, except when he could’ve sealed the game, ending the night 10 of 12 from the stripe. He did have a team high six turnovers and had trouble dribble penetrating the zone. He ended the night with 33 points, 10 assists to 6 turnovers, 1 steal, and 3 boards. Walker had his first start and struggled offensively, shooting 4 of 18 from the field, 0 for 7 from deep, and 0 for 2 from the line. He more than made up for it on the defensive end. He was the only defender able to contain Flynn. He also came up with a hustle put back that tied the game in regulation.

Thabeet was the anchor. He controlled the paint and played aggressive without fouling. He ended his night with 19 points, 14 boards, 6 blocks, 1 steal, and 5 turnovers. He had a hard time finding space to maneuver in the zone, was out of control with the ball in traffic, called for several travels, and was standing around at times on offense. But his ability to change the game just by being in the game kept Connecticut within arms reach. Adrien struggled through most of this game and ended with 12 points, 14 boards, 1 steal, 3 blocks, and 3 turnovers. He was able to hit the elbow jumper, but couldn’t use his dribble drive to the rim without getting stripped.

Robinson was a monster on the floor. He flashed some great shooting that UConn saw last year and he was aggressive on the boards all game. He was rewarded with several loud dunks and a spectacular windmill jam. He finished with 28 points, 14 boards, 3 steals, 1 block, and 2 assists to 3 turnovers. If he can keep up this type of outside shooting performance, then this team will not miss Dyson as much offensively.

Austrie had a night to forget, other then the two threes he finally was able to drain. His shot is atrocious and it has affected his whole game. Of his 13 total shots, 10 were three pointers. He needs to get into the lane more and use his floater. He had trouble keeping Flynn in front of him and let him get to the rim over and over. Gavin had a solid game. He pulled down 10 boards, 5 blocks, 2 assists, and 1 steal in his 25 minutes of play. Haralson showed that he isn’t all three pointers, hitting a jumper in the middle of the zone. He is showing a soft stroke that is reminiscent of Rashad Anderson. Beverly found his way into the game and had a board, but was ineffective.

If there is anything positive to take away from this epic game, it is that this team has incredible heart and toughness. They could’ve easily mailed it in, but they fought hard to tie the game up. But there is also a troubling revelation. This team can’t find a way to seal the deal from the line. We’ve seen great teams lose championships because of the charity stripe. With all the complicated defenses and zone busting offensive sets, it comes down to simply hitting shots from the line. If you can’t do that then you are leaving yourself open to teams shooting their way to victories. There are no more lessons to learn, studying is over for this senior laden team. They better have their number two pencils sharpened, because it is final exam time.

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