Wednesday, December 23, 2009
UConn once again got off to a slow start, caused by sloppy passes into traffic or miscommunication. They couldn’t sniff a fast break bucket and when they did, they forced things and came away empty. It wasn’t until the second half that the blocked shots and rebounds started leading to transition points on the other end and turned the game around. This was UConn’s best rebounding performance of the year. They crashed the boards hard and held onto the ball. Maine did hang around the perimeter but UConn had been struggling against these types of teams. Robinson, Walker, and Dyson all had early shots, even though they clanked, but it is important because it gets them into the flow of the game. Connecticut shot the ball well from deep for the second straight game, which is an excellent sign, especially with no legitimate post threat. While it wasn't a solid forty minutes, it was a drastic improvement.
Dyson took a little while to get going, having trouble finding the rim and was sloppy with his passes, but once he started sinking his jumpers, his all-around game emerged. He had a rim rattling dunk, sank an elbow jumper, and drained three after three. He is using so much energy on the offensive end that he can’t be the dominant defensive player of a year ago. There needs to be some more scoring off the bench to spell him.
Walker had another bad outing, but it hasn’t deterred him from being aggressive. He attacked the rim in transition and split the defense to gash the zone, but the ball wasn’t dropping for him. His passing is also off. He just isn’t delivering the ball to players where they can shoot it. The ball is either too high or being deflected. He is also missing his free throws. If he wants to attack the rim as much as he does, then he needs to sink those free throws. He also needs to mix up his offense a little more. He didn’t take a jumper until fourteen minutes had passed in the first half. Kemba needs to realize that there is a time to be blazing fast and a time to slow down.
Robinson had a great all-around game and it started with rebounding. After a horrible elbow jumper, he started knocking down threes, which is exciting. If he can be consistent from there then this team will be dangerous. He will always give you the exciting transition dunk and the hard nosed play in the paint, but for this team to take the next step, he’ll need to add the jumper to his arsenal. But it was good to see him aggressive with his offense.
Edwards came in and gave the energy off the bench. He blocked shots, made his free throws, and rebounded well. He needs to be able to add a post game so that the guards can play the inside-outside game that is lacking in the half court. Oriakhi had his best game. He was excellent on the boards, had some athletic put-backs, was very active, and most amazingly showed a baseline jumper. He needs to carry over the momentum in this game into the next. Majok looked much better, protecting the rim and grabbing some offensive boards. He doesn’t need to do everything right away and just needs to focus on rebounding and defense. He learned quickly and didn't take any off-balanced jumpers that yanked him from the last game.
Beverly did a great job off the bench. He was reliable with the ball in his hand and attacked the zone. He is turning into an Austrie type of player. Coombs-McDaniel had a breakout game. He hit the three ball and also had a great rebound and put-back. Like Oriakhi, hopefully he can build on this performance. Okwandu, Smith, and Trice all got in the game in the closing credits.
UConn has yet to solve the first half. They need to have their defense fuel their offense and it just isn’t happening until the second half. It doesn’t matter what caliber of team they are playing, Duke, Kentucky, or Maine, UConn is having problems finding their offense early on with balls rolling off the rim and jumpers missing horribly. It is when they get stops and blocks on the defensive end and get to their offense before the defense settles that they seem to stem the tide. There seems to be a weight on this team until it makes its first jumper. They need to settle down, take care of the ball, get good looks at the basket, and most of all have fun.