Sunday, March 1, 2009

Señor Perseverance

It was senior day for three of UConn’s starters, Jeff Adrien, Craig Austrie, and A.J. Price and you knew that the emotions of the day would fuel their individual games. And they were active defensively, closing out on the streaky Notre Dame shooters and holding them to only 8 for 27 from deep. What hurt UConn the most and kept the Irish in the game were the second chance points. The Irish shot the ball 72 times compared to UConn’s 54. But just like their last meeting, the Husky’s frontcourt was dominate and combined for 41 points and 18 boards, negating a sub-par Harangody performance of 14 points and 5 boards.

Jeff Adrien put behind his poor performance against Marquette and bounced back with a fantastic outing. He is a player that wears his heart on his sleeve and the emotion of playing in front of his home crowd for the last time fueled his game. He hit pull-up jumpers, ran the break, hit shots with his back to the basket, and had a thunderous dunk. He was everywhere and was able to play solid defense on the perimeter while hanging around for rebounds. He finished his night with 25 points, 9 boards, 2 assists to 1 turnover, 1 steal, and 2 blocks. His only knock came at the line, shooting 3 of 6.

Thabeet continues to impress. He has hit a mid-ranged jumper in four games in a row, was active with second chance opportunities, finished plays around the rim, made plays with his back to the basket, and thoroughly dominated Harangody. Who knows how the light switched turned on in the past two months, but he is a totally different beast then the player who struggled in the first three months. He finished his night with 16 points, 11 boards, 2 turnovers, and 8 blocks. Like Adrien, he shot poorly from the stripe, hitting only 2 of 6.

Price did a wonderful job of not taking over the offense, since he was coming into this game with a monster performance against Marquette. In fact, he didn’t even attempt a shot until 12:30 to go in the first half. He fed the big men inside, who were red hot and took his opportunities in the rhythm of the offense. He finished with 12 points, 3 boards, 4 dimes to 1 turnover, and hit 3 of 4 from the line. Austrie is struggling mightily from deep. All his shots are inches off and are rolling out. Even with his offense sputtering, he played solid defense on McAlarney and held him to 2 from 8 from deep. He also came in and sank 3 clutch free throws to win the game. He ended with 5 points, 4 boards, 3 assists to 1 turnover, 1 block, and hit 3 of 4 from the line.

Robinson continues to search for consistency to his game. He was aggressive early, taking 2 quick shots, but everything he threw up hit the front of the iron. He still continued to play his game, roaming the paint for scraps and put-backs, and having a monster slam. He finished with 3 points, 6 boards, 1 steal, 4 turnovers, and hit 1 of 2 from the line. He needs to continue to shoot the ball and attack the glass even if they are clanking.

Walker had a stellar game and has taken over Dyson’s mantle as the best on the ball defender. He has an uncanny ability to play his defender without his hands, forcing them to bump him out of the way. He also has a tremendous burst and is finishing plays around the rim. He had a great reverse lay-up and is attacking the rim on the break. He ended his night with 8 points, 6 boards, 6 dimes to no turnovers, 1 block, and 1 steal. Gavin, who had a huge impact in the last meeting, was a non-factor. He played solid defense on Harangody in his 6 minutes of play and ended the night with no points and 1 block.

Haralson is becoming a fan favorite. He doesn’t feel abashed at taking a shot and they are sinking as of late. He is so fast on the trigger that he lost control of the ball because he was into his shooting motion before he had possession. Bird had a minute of play without a stat and Seniors Veronick and Linder both found their way onto the court in the waning minutes.

This game was all about the Seniors and they all had major impacts on the game. Adrien, Price, and Austrie have been through a lot in their four years under Calhoun. They’ve been through a historic collapse, insane injuries, troubles with the law, early exits in tournaments, a season without a postseason, and here they are primed to regain the number one ranking and a solid chance to win it all. This class personifies perseverance. Everyone should feel proud that these players wear the Connecticut jersey, no matter the outcome of the season.

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