Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
If you like insane outside shooting, little defense, and two teams that just couldn’t miss, then this game was right up your alley. Both teams hit 11 three-pointers each and scored at will in transition. Who knew that UConn would score 93 points with their frontcourt only going 4 for 8 from the field with 16 total points? This game was more of an anomaly for UConn then it was for a talented offensive minded Marquette team. Most of UConn’s victories have been slug it out defensive battles. Connecticut’s guards are starting to sink under the pick and roll, leaving wide open shooters, and teams are making them pay by draining shots. While the 3-ball was working in this game, ignoring the inside game played right into Marquette’s style, creating long rebounds and created transition opportunities. If it wasn’t for breakout games by Price, Robinson, and Haralson then Calhoun would’ve been stuck at win number 799.
Price was absolutely insane, hitting 8 of 13 from deep. He had his whole arsenal on display, getting into the lane, and showed a wicked crossover move and pull-up. UConn kept going to that well and Price always had more to give, making a dagger three in the closing minutes to seal Calhoun’s 800th win. He ended his night with 36 points, 6 assists to 3 turnovers, 6 boards, and a perfect 4 of 4 from the line. Austrie struggled offensively, going 0 for 2 from deep, 2 assists to 2 turnovers, 1 steal and 1 board. He is slowly losing his minutes to Walker, Robinson, and Haralson.
Robinson had a breakout game and his best of the year, far surpassing his Providence performance. He was skying for rebounds, was able to get to the rim off the dribble-drive, passed the ball well, hit the three ball, and was scrappy in the paint. He went 7 for 14, with 19 points, 10 boards, 2 assists to 3 turnovers, and went a perfect 4 for 4 from the line. This game was a big confidence booster for Sticks. Hitting that outside shot opened up everything for him. He needs to continue this stellar play into the next game.
The frontcourt were spectators on the offensive end until 11:43 to go in the second half. Thabeet was a monster on the boards all game, but had problems holding onto the ball in traffic. He ended the night with 14 points, 10 boards, 5 blocks, 1 dime to 1 turnover and hit 6 for 7 from the line. Adrien had his worst game of the year by far. He only had 2 points and had those from the line, 4 boards, 1 block, and 2 turnovers. He didn’t play with the energy and passion that UConn fans are used to seeing.
Walker was more assertive on the offensive end, getting into the lane and finishing around the basket and through contact. He ended with 9 points, 2 boards, 2 steals, and 3 assists to 1 turnover. His only knock came from the line only hitting 1 of 3. Edwards had a solid game with 5 points, 5 boards, and hit 1 of 2 from the line. How great was it to see Haralson knock down a three and then he came back and hit another. UConn missed having someone capable of hitting that corner three. He’s earned more minutes with his performance.
It wasn’t the way Calhoun drew up getting his 800th win but in the end UConn proved that they could stay toe-to-toe with one of the best backcourts in the nation. The past couple of games, where the offense stuttered through starts, left fans scratching their heads, but players like Robinson, Price, and even Haralson stepped up to the challenge. The question is if this was a breakout game for these players or was it a one time show. They’ll need to prove that they don’t have to lean heavily on the frontcourt to produce points. If Connecticut can squeeze out 70 percent of what they got from their backcourt then this team will be putting up another banner.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:18 AM
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
It was a long layoff for the Huskies and they showed some rust early on. They threw the ball down low on the first possession and the double team caused an easy turnover. After that UConn didn’t even try to throw the ball in for the next three possessions and resorted to jump shots, which were clanking. This team just can’t find the flow to their offense until five minutes have ticked off the clock. The zone, which they have played against in nearly every game, is still giving them problems. The defense carried the team while the offense sputtered and they even went into a zone themselves at times. They kept the streaky USF shooters to only 5 of 24 from beyond the arch, though there were plenty of open looks that the Bulls didn’t hit. UConn was superb on the out of bounds set plays, scoring on two and Adrien missed a bunny on another. With the regular season coming to a close, UConn needs to keep up their intensity in every game. At times they looked to be sleepwalking.
With the hype machine breaking up with Thabeet and caught making out with Blair this past week, Thabeet still came out with a solid performance. He played well with his back to the basket, scoring three times and getting fouled twice when getting a handle on the entry pass. He is beginning to use the elbow jumper more, three games in a row, ran the break like a guard, and had his hands in the passing lanes, snaring two passes. He ended with 21 points, 9 boards, 2 steals, 6 blocks, and a stout 7 for 10 from the line. Adrien had his issues on the offensive end, hitting 4 for 14 and 1 of 4 from the line, but he battled hard on the boards, ending the night with 15. He has a nice mixture to his game, being able to hit the elbow, dribble-drive, and post up for a baby hook.
Price played a controlled game. He didn’t hijack the offense with taking 16 or more shots and his three point attempts were in rhythm. He ended the game with 11 points, 2 boards, 4 assists to 1 turnover, and was a perfect 2 of 2 from the line. He is beginning to get more comfortable with his mid-ranged game. Austrie had a solid night, hitting 3 of 6 from the floor with 7 points, 1 board, and 4 assists to 1 turnover. There are rumblings that Walker should be starting, but Craig deserves the spot. He is a senior and he has put in the sacrifice to start. It doesn't effect the outcome of games that much, because Walker is getting the same minutes as Austrie.
Robinson was outstanding. He had three put back shots that fueled his game. He was flying around and sticking his nose into the paint and getting rewarded. He showed a nice pull-up jumper, and had a great dunk attempt that was thwarted on a non-call. He needs to keep this intensity and energy going.
Walker also had a great outing. He finished plays of around the rim and on the break, showing a nasty cross over. He also took a charge and must be leading the team in that this year. He was a little hesitant to take the three, even if he was open, ending the night with 4 points, 5 boards, 1 block, and 2 assists to 1 turnover. Gavin only played 4 minutes and had 2 boards and took 3 shots. Haralson made an early appearance and took the shot when he had it. It looked true but was a little long. He might be taking Beverly’s role off the bench.
This squad needs to keep up its solid play now that they are ending the regular season. It was at this time last year that they faded and made two early exits out of both tournaments. Other than an apocalyptic collapse, this team is going to get a number one seed. All the individual accolades need to be left in the locker room. It doesn’t matter at this point. What does matter is finishing out season strong and carrying momentum into the Big Dance. And if they come out flat, like they did today, against an elite team, they’ll dig themselves a hole too big to claw out of. Because in a one and done situation, that hole could be your grave.
Posted by David Gillett at 8:23 AM
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This was a clash of the Titans in the Big East and a physical game, as two of college’s best frontcourts went at each other. Thabeet nearly had his arm broken and Blair took an elbow to the grill, as they battled down low. But in the end UConn didn’t have an answer for Young and Blair. Young was simply fantastic, hitting 4 of 6 from deep, 8 of 13 from the field, and 4 of 6 from the line. They couldn’t contain him. Blair had his way inside, using his body to create space and he has the strongest hands in the conference. If he gets two hands on the rock, it is his. The referees were inconsistent all night with their calls, letting major bumping go on in the paint and then call simple touch fouls. They never solidified a flow to the game. But the major undoing for UConn was their defense. They couldn’t stop set plays, the guards sank under screens, the big men couldn’t hold their ground, and they lost the rebound battle by 13.
Price shouldered most of the offensive for UConn, shooting 6 of 16 and 4 of 9 from deep. He had his best point guard day with 8 dimes to 1 turnover. But this team missed Dyson, who had the knack for getting inside and getting to the rim. The guards just couldn’t find their way to the basket and became jump shooters, which isn’t their strength. Austrie didn’t have a good game. He ended his night with 5 points, 1 board, 1 assist to 1 turnover, and didn’t get to the line. He has to realize that he is deadly from the line and needs to attack the rim and get to the charity stripe for his points.
Adrien had trouble all night covering Young. But in the end, he nearly had a double-double with 13 points, 9 boards, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 1 steal, and 1 block. He has a hard time playing against opponents that can hit the perimeter shot and move well around screens. Thabeet had a horrible game with most of it not of his doing. The referees made some terrible calls and had the big man on the bench for half the game. Blair was able to lower his shoulder and drive Thabeet backwards. Hasheem ended the game with 5 points, 4 boards, 3 turnovers, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
Robinson played aggressive and had his best game since Providence. He had 8 points, 10 boards, 1 dime, 1 steal, 1 turnover, and 3 blocks. He still is having problems with his jump shot, but he is beginning to roam the paint more and help out on the rebounding end. He did miss some clutch free throws in the waning minutes of the ballgame.
Kemba was the only guard to be able to find his way to the rim and finish. He had 13 points, on 5 of 10 shooting, 3 of 4 from the line, 1 board, 1 dime, and 2 steals. He is coming out of his freshman shell and helping more on the offensive end now that Dyson is out. He also played the best defense on the team. Gavin had plenty of minutes with Thabeet in foul trouble and had 6 points, 3 boards, 1 dime, and 2 blocks. He was outmatched guarding Blair and struggled containing him. Beverly came in for a minute of play but didn’t put up a stat.
Pittsburgh deserved this game. They were in control throughout with Blair and Young dominating with an inside-out game. Connecticut showed heart and battled back, taking control of the game late in the second half, but the Panthers were relentless and found easy baskets to tie it up, then Levance Fields made two huge threes that pulled them away for good. It was the first time in forever that a team has shot more free throws then the Huskies, 20 to 17, though UConn was fouling towards the end of the game. This does little to hurt UConn in the long run. They still hold on to that number one seed, though they will lose the number one mantel. They will get another shot to knock off this team and they’ll be ready for revenge.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
It didn’t matter that Dyson was out, not in this game, because UConn kept throwing the ball into the paint and there was nothing the Pirates could do. John Garcia and Robert Mitchell were outmatched and couldn’t contain Connecticut’s experience and muscle, losing the rebounding margin by 11. Teams that primarily use the man-to-man defense against the Huskies have been torn apart. The only way to beat this team is to stay in the zone and hope they send you to the line, have a poor shooting night, and clank a lot of free throws. While UConn did have a terrible free throw shooting night, 15 of 27, they still shot the ball well from deep, 3 of 8, and they decimated the interior of the man-to-man.
Thabeet has turned his game into stratospheric proportions. He is sealing his man and catching lobs to the rim, rebounding with authority, hitting insane 15-footers, and making plays with his back to the basket. What can you say about his line of 25 points, 20 boards, 9 blocks, and 1 dime? He has been so dominate on both ends of the floor that it has single handedly carried this team through some horrible backcourt play.
With Thabeet’s massive double-double, it is easy to overlook Adrien. He again posted a double-double of 14 points and 15 boards. He had a hard time finishing plays around the rim, ending the night shooting 5 of 15, but his ability to work the middle of the zone and relieve pressure off of Thabeet has allowed the big man to flourish.
The backcourt play was atrocious again. They combined to go 6 for 25 with 10 assists to 8 turnovers. Price had 6 points, 5 assists to 3 turnovers, 2 boards, but shot only 1 of 3 from the charity stripe. He has to make better decisions, especially on the break and during the first 5 minutes of the ballgame. With the loss of Dyson, Austrie and Kemba looked to take on a bigger role in the offense. Craig did shoot the ball 10 times, above his average, but overall he shot 2 of 10 from the floor. The amazing thing is that he shot 2 of 3 from deep, a great sign, but his floaters and shots in the lane weren’t sinking. He has also played some uncharacteristic sloppy ball, turning the rock over 3 times. He is usually a dependable ball handler.
Robinson also looked to help shoulder the offensive load with Jerome’s departure but he only shot the ball 4 times. He needs to at least double that. After his solid shooting a few games ago, he is still shying away from the jumper. He did pull down 5 boards and was looking around for scraps which the big men left little. It will be important for the point guards to focus on getting Robinson more involved early in both halves of ballgames.
Kemba was solid off the bench and played 32 minutes. He had 8 points, 4 of 5 from the line, 2 boards, 2 dimes to no turnovers, and 1 block. He did pass up a wide open three to drive the ball inside. He needs to take those shots and has shown the ability to sink them. Gavin only played 4 minutes and had 2 boards and 1 point.
This was a dominate defensive performance, keeping a talented Jeremy Hazell to a 5 for 22 night. Austrie and Kemba did a great job in taking over the torch for Dyson on the perimeter defense. If the frontcourt can remain this dominate, teams are going to have to shoot their way to a victory. It is amazing to see this team play such amazing in your face defense without fouling. Up next is a hungry Pittsburgh team that is just as balanced as UConn’s. This one is going to be a heavy weight bout with a former number one team aiming to take down the current one. But if this team keeps up this type of defense intensity, it won’t be easy for the Panthers to come into this royal court and reclaim the crown.
Posted by David Gillett at 8:58 AM
Friday, February 13, 2009
With Dyson likely out for the season, UConn has encountered their first major hurdle. They lose their zone-buster and his ability to attack the lane to collapse the defense. While UConn will lose his 14 points a game, they are such a balanced squad that the points won’t be as hard to fill as will be his defensive ability. Dyson was also UConn’s best transition finisher and his ability to finish off the break will be missed.
Husky fans are going to see a whole lot of Walker for the rest of the season. The freshman has shown the ability to be a reliable contributor on the court. But without Dyson, they are going to have to look for him to penetrate more and shoot the outside shot which he has shown to possess.
Austrie will most likely slide into Dyson’s starting spot and will need to be more consistent from deep and in the man-to-man defense. He will also need to get into the lane more and use the floater. Beverly should get more playing time as well, especially if there is any foul trouble with the backcourt.
Dyson’s loss will be felt but it isn’t as catastrophic as if Thabeet or Adrien went down. The deep backcourt that Calhoun has assembled and the emergence of Walker as a legitimate player will help stem the loss. It is a shame though. Jerome was playing his best ball of his career and after his horrible season of a year ago, to have it end like this on such a senior laden team, doesn’t seem right. Luckily he is only a junior and will have another chance, but he deserved to be on the court during this magical ride.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:15 AM
Thursday, February 12, 2009
UConn knew that this game was going to be won on the defensive end. They needed to slow down the streaky and athletic Syracuse tandem of Flynn, Harris and Devendorf and keep them out of transition. While early on the huskies played into the Orange’s hands by forcing bad passes into the zone and playing sloppily in transition that led to easy points. UConn has coughed up 37 turnovers in the last two games and needs to settle down and not try not to pass over the zone but instead drive into it. While they weren’t fluid on the offensive end early on, the defense was stout. They walled off the rim in the half court sets and made the Orange shoot difficult jumpers. Like in the past several games the pace of the game slowed down in the second half and became more physical which played right into UConn’s hands.
Thabeet is continuing his fantastic play and had the line of the night, ending the game with 8 points, 16 boards, 7 blocks, and 3 assists. His ability to help out on the defensive end sealed the dribble penetration and stifled Syracuse’s offensive rhythm. He is also getting better at posting in the zone and was able to kick the ball out to wide open shooters. Adrien put on the hardhat, punched the clock, and battled in the paint. While his rebounding total wasn’t up to his standard, just 5, he did most of his damage at the elbow and was able to hit some jumpers. His biggest improvement this season has been at the free throw line where he hit 4 of 6.
With Dyson out on a freakish play with a bruised knee, Price shouldered the offensive load. He was able to hit from deep, 4 of 7, and found his way into the lane for the rest of his 17 points. While his shot is falling more often, he has put together several very sloppy point guard performances which is a direct result to UConn’s horrid starts. He ended the game with 3 assists to 6 turnovers. Austrie also picked his offensive game up a notch and took 10 shots, making 2 threes. He also had a hard time handling the rock early on but became a steady force during the stretch that pulled the huskies ahead for good. He ended with 10 points, 5 boards, 3 dimes to 2 turnovers, 1 block and 1 steal.
Robinson looked to have his shooting woes behind him as he hit two smooth jumpers early on and sank two free throws, but he wasn’t able to keep it going through the rest of the game, disappearing for the other 35 minutes. He was active on the defensive end and recorded 2 blocks and 4 boards.
How much of a luxury is it is to have Kemba on the team? With the lack of Dyson, Walker took on more minutes and produced. He had 7 points, 6 boards, 2 dimes to 2 turnovers, and 2 steals. He also played solid defense and was rewarded with offensive fouls. Gavin only played 5 minutes but filled the stat sheet with 3 points, 3 boards, 1 block and shot 3 of 4 from the line. Beverly came in for 2 minutes and had 1 turnover.
While defense isn’t the sexiest way to win ballgames, it is the most reliable. To hold the 2nd ranked Big East offense to only 49 points on 31.7% shooting shows how good this team is playing on the defensive end. If they can stop the carelessness they have had with the ball and not turn it over 17 or more times a game, they would blow out teams. But that’s the scary part. This team has so much more to improve on. Not bad for a team ranked number one in the country and sitting on top of the hardest conference in the history of the Big East.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:36 AM
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
1. UConn. The Huskies are the most balanced team in the Big East coming in at 5th in offense and 3rd in defense. They also lead the conference in field goal percentage at .379 a game. Their weakness is in their lack of an outside shot, though they make them when they take them. They just don’t shot the three, attempting only 28, which is dead last in the league. They rank 2nd in rebounding margin and 1st in block shots a game at a staggering 7.3. The emergence of Thabeet as a scorer, 13 points a game and rebounder 10.1, has caused Adrien to have a stellar season.
2. Louisville. They have been on a steady incline up the rankings since the start of conference play. They have done so on the back of their defense which ranks 2nd in the league. They are 2nd in block shots a game and 1st in steals. They also can hit the outside shot, making 7.7 a game. Terrence Williams has put himself in contention for Player of the Year in the conference since his slow start to the season. Jerry Smith has shown a nice touch from deep and Earl Clark is playing well.
3. Marquette. They have the best backcourt in the Big East and are so fluid offensively, leading the conference in points at 81.6 a game. They make their free throws, hit the three, don’t turn the ball over and play unselfishly. Their only weakness is in their defense which ranks 11th and rebounding, 12th in the league. Jerel McNeal, Wesley Mathews, and Lazar Hayward are all in the top 12 in scoring and Dominic James is 4th in assists a game.
4. Pittsburgh. The Panthers have a balanced team. They are ranked 3rd in the conference in offense and 5th in defense, holding teams to .395 from the floor. They lead the league in rebounding margin at +9.5 and are 2nd in assists a game. Sam Young has emerged as an elite player and is averaging 18.1 points and DeJuan Blair is 2nd in the Big East in rebounding at 12.7 a game. But the difference maker on the team is Levance Fields. He has emerged as the best point guard in the league and has stabilized their offense. Ashton Gibbs has also displayed a nice touch from outside as a freshman and is leading the league in 3-point percentage.
5. Villanova. The scrappiest team in the league come in at 8th in offense and 4th in defense. They will kill you from the charity stripe, ranking 1st in free throw percentage at .745 and they are deadly from deep, ranking 4th in 3-point shooting. Without a big frontcourt, they still manage to rank 5th in rebounding margin at +4.6. Dante Cunningham is playing fantastic ball and ranks 11th in scoring and 14th in rebounding. Scottie Reynolds ranks 21st in scoring and 10th in assists. Corey Stokes is a sharp shooter and ranks 5th in 3-point percentage.
6. West Virginia. They rank 10th in offence but hold the top spot on the defensive end, though they only rank 8th in field goal defense. They are a terror on the perimeter defensively and hold the top spot by a wide margin, having opponents hit only .272 from deep. They are a great group rebounding team, ranking 3rd in rebounding margin at +6.2 a game and they don’t turn the ball over, holding the top spot in the turnover margin at +4.95. De’Sean Butler has emerged as West Virginia’s go to scorer at 17.6 a game and an outside threat. Alex Ruoff is chipping in with 16.2 points a game and is 4th in steals.
7. Syracuse. The Orange are 2nd in offense and 13th in defense in the conference. They try to outscore their opponents, which isn’t easy to do on the road. They come in 4th in blocks a game and 3rd in assists. Jonny Flynn is an exciting player to watch and is 10th in scoring and 2nd in assists. Arinze Onuaku and Paul Harris combine for 16 rebounds a game. If they can’t find any consistency then they’ll be a borderline tournament team again this year.
8. Providence. They’ve done a great job of bailing out the sinking ship and have righted what looked to be a horrible season. They have an excellent offense, ranking 3rd in the conference, but they are dead last in defense. They are 6th in the league in assists and 5th in 3-pointers made. They don’t have a dominate scorer on offense with Weyinmi Efejuku leading the team in scoring with 13 points a game. Geoff McDermott is their primary rebounder with 8.6 a game. Sharaud Curry is ranked 6th in assists a game and Marshon Brooks is their best outside threat, hitting .371 from deep.
9. Cincinnati. They are 12th in offense, 6th in defense, and are rebounding well, ranking 4th in the conference in rebounding margin at +5.9. They crash the glass and rank 4th in offensive rebounds and hit the three, making 7.2 a game. Deonta Vaughn is leading the way with 15.3 points a game, and 4.6 assists. They’ve beaten two sinking ships in Georgetown and Notre Dame. They need to knock off a upper echelon team to make the next leap.
10. Notre Dame. The sinking Irish are 4th in offense and an ugly 14th in defense. They hold the top spot from deep, hitting .403 from there and are 1st in assists a game. But even with Harangody, this team is only ranked 12th in rebounding margin. Notre Dame’s big man is having a fantastic season with a league best in both 25.1 points a game and 13.2 rebounds a game. Tory Jackson is dishing the ball well, ranking 3rd in the league in assists. Kyle McAlarney is still a deadly shooter, ranking 3rd in 3-point percentage. It stinks that Harangody and McAlarney won’t be able to end his career in the Big Dance. They just can’t play defense.
11. Georgetown. The Hoyas are 11th in offense and 7th in defense. They are getting killed on the boards, ranking 14th in the league in rebounding margin at -.5. DaJuan Summers is their leading scorer with 15.1 points a game. Greg Monroe is in contention for Freshman of the Year and is scoring 13.1 a game, 1.7 steals, 1.7 blocks and 6.4 rebounds a game. Chris Wright is their best distributor with 3.6 assists a game.
12. Seton Hall. The Pirates come in at 7th in the league in offense and 15th in defense. They are having a hard time at the rebounding end, ranking 15th in rebounding margin at -3.7 a game. Jeremy Hazell has become a big time player, averaging 23.4 points a game. Robert Mitchell has stepped up, chipping in 15.7 points and 8.2 boards. Eugene Harvey ranks 5th in assists a game. There hectic pace resembles Villanova. They just need to figure out how to stop teams.
13. St. John’s. They are 13th in offense and 9th in defense. They are dead last in perimeter defense, in last place in three pointers made, 13th in assists a game, and 15th in assists to turnovers. Paris Horne is their leading scorer at 14.4 points a game and 1.7 steals. D.J. Kennedy and Sean Evans are their major rebounder combining for 13.3 a game. They just don’t have the pieces to compete with the elite teams.
14. USF. They rank dead last on offense but 8th on defense. They are also dead last in free throw percentage at a horrible .587, steals at 5.5 a game and at field goal percentage at .409. Jesus Verdejo has put together a solid season in his senior year, averaging 13.6 points. Chris Howard runs the show and is averaging 3.6 assists a game. Dominique Jones hasn’t had a consistent season. This young team has shown some heart in the past few games and is just starting their program.
15. Rutgers. They are 15th in offense and 9th on defense. They are 3rd in free throw percentage, 3rd in block shots a game and 3rd in perimeter defense. But they are dead last in assists a game and turnover margin. Mike Rosario is going to become a big time player and is averaging 17.6 points a game and leading the Big East in free throw percentage. Gregory Echenique and Hamady Ndiaye are combining for 14.5 rebounds a game. They are struggling to find some type of consistency.
16. DePaul. They are 14th in offense and 13th in defense, but dead last in scoring margin and 3-point percentage. They are 15th in free throw percentage, 15th in rebounding margin, 15th in assists a game and 15th in field goal percentage. Dar Tucker is an explosive player, averaging 18.5 points a game. Mac Koshwal is ranked 4th in rebounding at 10 a game. They are a young team getting their lumps in a tough and experienced conference.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:10 AM
Sunday, February 8, 2009
We’ve seen UConn teams in the past struggle in these types of games, where a player has a career game against them. Stu Douglass was out of this world, hitting 7 of 10 shots and 6 of 8 from deep. He single handedly kept his undersized team in striking distance. Connecticut’s guards nearly cost them the game with their careless style of play, having 8 of UConn’s 17 turnovers. They were forcing passes into the zone and were off target with most of their dishes. They continue to get flustered by the simple 2-3 zone and end up passing the ball around the horn until there are 10 seconds to go in the shot clock and end up taking a bad three. Again it wasn’t until midway through the second half that they started finding creases in the lane to draw in the defense and find open shooters.
Thabeet has been a different animal in the past month. He has turned into a great rebounder and finisher around the rim. No longer are the days of his fading away from the rim and laying the ball off the glass. Each shot is a thunderous rim-rattling dunk. He had the line of the night with a monster double-double of 17 points, 12 boards, 6 blocks, 1 dime, and a stellar 7 of 8 from the line. Adrien had a frustrating first half and wasn’t able to force his will on the block. Even with that, he was able to put up 9 points and 14 boards.
Dyson had an incredible game. He is by far the toughest player to ever wear the UConn uniform. Be it getting his teeth knocked out, getting kneed in the groin, spraining his ankle, or getting a 7-foot-3 man’s boot in your grill while you got knocked to the ground, Jerome is a warrior. The difference he has shown this year has been the consistency of his intensity. Last season it looked like he would take plays off, but this year he is attacking at full speed at all times. He had a team high 19 points, 4 boards, 1 steal, 4 dimes to 3 turnovers, made 3 of 4 from deep, and went 4 of 5 from the line.
Price had trouble figuring out the zone and wasn’t crisp on the break. He ended his off night with 11 points on 2 for 10 shooting, 1 of 5 from deep, 5 boards, and 7 dimes but had 5 turnovers. The best part of his evening was his 6 of 6 from the line. Hopefully his woeful free throw shooting is behind him. Austrie wasn’t himself either against the zone, having a turnover himself. He did hit the dagger shot down the stretch and was active with the mid-ranged rebounds, pulling down 5. Kemba was the best point guard on the floor and had 3 dimes to no turnovers, having the best assist to turnover ratio on the team.
In every game, Stanley comes flying out of the gates and looks extremely active, but by the end of the game his line looks bulimic. He ended with 6 points, 2 boards, and 2 assists to 1 turnover. Calhoun is waiting on him to rip the lid off the basket and drain a few jumpers. Even his free throws look way off the mark and it is all above the shoulders. He has about as low in confidence with his jumper as Dyson was last year. Gavin wasn’t as effective as he has been in the past few games and ended with 2 boards, 1 block, 2 fouls, and 1 turnover in his 7 minutes.
It is the same problems that have plagued the huskies all year long. The backcourt has trouble getting passes into the lane and can’t find creases to collapse the zone. Teams end up negating UConn’s strength of their powerful frontcourt and make them a jump shooting team, which isn’t a strength if Price isn’t hitting. We’ve seen teams like George Mason, San Diego, Providence, Syracuse, and Georgetown come out of the gates sinking difficult shots and Connecticut couldn’t respond and lose those games, but this team is different. They are relentless on the boards, forcing teams to be physical and get rewarded by getting to the line and then they convert from there. There are no easy games at home or on the road, just ask Notre Dame, Marquette, or Syracuse. It is the consistency of UConn’s style that has carried them to the top spot in the nation and atop the standings in the Big East.
Posted by David Gillett at 8:43 AM
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
1. Ray Allen. 18.1 points, 3.4 boards, 2.8 assists, and 1 steals. Ray has been shooting the ball better then ever, hitting .497 from the field. He is at times the best player on one of the best teams in the league. Since December 26th, he has scored in double figures in every game. Ray is 39th in the league in scoring and 15th in free throw percentage.
2. Ben Gordon. 20 points, 3.3 boards, 3.7 assists, .7 steals. Ben is having a great season, possibly one of his best and it comes at the right time. He’s working on a one year contract with the Bulls and with his constant spats with the coach, he looks to be out of town next year. The only knock on Gordon is that he doesn’t play solid defense. Ben is 26th in the league in scoring and 29th in turnovers a game. Gordon is above Caron because he plays on a better team.
3. Caron Butler. 20 points, 6.2 boards, 4.4 assists, and 1.6 steals. He is playing great basketball but it isn’t winning ballgames. He is on the worst team in the East and on a team that showed promise in the playoffs last season. If there is a knock to his game it is his turnovers, having 13 in his past two games. Caron is 25th in the league in scoring, 13th in steals, 5th in turnovers a game and 40th in assists per game.
4. Emeka Okafor. 14 points, 10.5 boards, 1.8 blocks, and .5 steals. Emeka is shooting a monster, hitting .583 from the floor and is the only Alumni to average a double-double. He is a workhorse and had six double-double games in January. Emeka is 9th in the league in rebounding, 13th in blocks and 20th in field goal percentage.
5. Rudy Gay. 18.7 points, 5.6 boards, 1.7 assists, and 1.7 steals. Rudy is playing well with O.J. Mayo and is having a great offensive season. He’s improved on just about every stat this season except in three point shooting which he is hitting a paltry .309 from deep. Rudy is 37th in the league in scoring and 24th in steals.
6. Rip Hamilton. 16.5 points, 3.2 boards, 3.3 assists, and .5 steals. Rip is struggling with a groin injury but he is playing through it. With the addition of Allen Iverson, Rip has had to adjust to coming off the bench and is playing less minutes, which has effected most of his numbers. He still has one of the most consistent jumpers in the league.
7. Charlie Villanueva. 15.1 points, 6.6 boards, 1.6 assists, and .8 blocks. Charlie has become the primary option for the Bucks and has scored 20 or more points 11 times in the month of January and also had 5 double-doubles in the month. He looks to be turning the corner to his game and becoming a legitimate starter in the future.
8. Josh Boone. 4.7 points, 4.4 boards, .7 blocks, and .4 steals. Boone is playing more of a reserve mode, only playing 20 or more minutes 3 times in January. He has shown the ability to hit from the floor but his free throw percentage of .344 is U.G.L.Y. Boone is 49th in field goal percentage in the league.
9. Hilton Armstrong. 4.5 points, 2.6 boards, .6 blocks, and .4 steals. Hilton has been getting more minutes as of late but has not had a breakout game. His rebounding is just not up to snuff and needs to show that he can be a 8 to 10 rebounder, but his highest total of boards in January is 5.
10. Donyell Marshall. 4.1 points, 1.6 boards, .5 assists, and .3 boards. With Kevin Ollie out with an injury, Donyell sneaks into the number 10 spot. He’s only played twice in January and for only 9 minutes, but in those minutes, he has been effective with 3 points, 2 boards, and 1 block. Donyell still holds onto 6th in the league in three point percentage.
Posted by David Gillett at 4:47 PM
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
This was as physical of a game that UConn had played all season. Louisville’s guards were bumping and hand-checking the smaller Connecticut backcourt early on, creating several turnovers. But once Calhoun applied the three guard lineup, they broke the pressure and were ahead of the Cardinal’s defense, setting up the big men for easy paths to the basket. They never hit a three point shot, going 0 for 8, but they didn’t need it, with Louisville rolling out the red carpet to the basket. UConn’s defense was anchored inside by the bigs that walled off the rim and the guards did an excellent job of fighting through screens and contesting shots. This team is playing great team defense and are being unselfish on the offensive end.
Thabeet has put together two games which he has been a factor for every minute that he was on the floor. He is demanding the basketball on the offensive end, clogging the lane and taking the dribble penetration away, and even displayed a fifteen foot jumper. If he can consistently hit that shot then he will have a long career at the next level. He had the line of the night with 14 points, 11 boards, 4 blocks, 2 steals, and hitting 4 of 5 from the line. Adrien was just as effective with a monster 18 points, 7 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 4 of 5 from the line. While most of his points came in the first half, his ability to work around the top of the key has opened Thabeet down low and created a driving lane to the basket.
Dyson put together a great line with 14 points, 4 boards, 1 block, 2 steals, 2 dimes, and a perfect 4 of 4 from the line. He was able to find the creases in the defense and explode to the rim, which plays to his strength. Price couldn’t find his usual reliable shot and was only 3 of 10 from the field. He did do a great job on weak-side rebounding, pulling down 8 boards and his free throws are beginning to sink, hitting 5 of 6.
Walker was the only guard to have more assists than turnovers in this game with 4 dimes to 3 turnovers. He was able to break Louisville’s pressure defense and attack the rim while his shots were falling, hitting 4 of 6 from the field. The most amazing aspect of his game is on the defensive end. He fights through screens, and keeps his defender between his legs. Austrie had one of his worst games in a long time, having 2 turnovers. He still was able to get to the line, hitting 3 of 4, and did a good job of playing perimeter defense.
Robinson did UConn a huge favor and had two early fouls. It gave Calhoun a quick answer to Louisville’s physical pressure with inserting the three guard lineup. It will be interesting to see if he can come back and perform like he had in the Providence game after playing only 2 minutes. Gavin also had a short night with 5 minutes, because UConn’s big men weren’t in foul trouble.
This was as big of a character builder for this team as any of the other victories. Louisville was coming into this game on a huge win streak, tied at the top of the Big East standings, and had everything to prove. UConn didn’t care. They came out and played their style of play, tough nosed defense, a relentless attacking of the basket and making their free throws. If they can do those three things, then this team can win anywhere. They’re heading into a brutal stretch of their schedule and they can’t afford a let up, not in this conference and not in the battle for that number one seed.
Monday, February 2, 2009
January had the huskies coming off a poor performance against Georgetown in which their defense and offense stuttered early and often. They would then take on a Rutgers team and find their defensive intensity that they were able to maintain throughout the month, only letting two teams score more than 70 points or more in the month.
While Dyson struggled offensively throughout the month, Price picked up the torch and played solidly, hitting the three ball and finally finding the mid-ranged shot to his game. Austrie’s outside shots aren’t as consistent as Calhoun would like, but he is beginning to get into the lane and hit floaters. Kemba is earning valuable playing experience. While his fast break skills aren’t where they should be, he has shown the ability to hit the three in crucial spots, and doesn’t play like a freshman on defense. He rarely has defensive lapses.
Thabeet had his on and off games, but his off games still had significant impacts on the game. What more can you say about Adrien? He has played against bigger players, smaller quicker players, jump shooters, and post players and still goes out and earns double-doubles. His elbow jumper is sinking, he has the best footwork for a post player that UConn has seen since Emeka, and he has shown the senior leadership that this squad has needed. Gavin has carried his momentum in December into January. He is playing above the rim and has shown strong hands when he has the ball. He has the ability to give UConn Adrien -like numbers. His size and strength will prove invaluable when going up against deep front lines of the elite teams.
Robinson had a January to almost forget but in the last game of the month, he found some light at the end of the tunnel. He has no confidence in his outside shot, which is a shame since it was one of UConn’s best last season, but the Providence game showed that he doesn’t need it. If he remains active at attacking the rim and digging his nose into the paint for rebounds, his game blossoms.
UConn will be tested in February. They’ll face the elite teams of the Big East in Louisville, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Notre Dame. They also have an out of conference game against Michigan. They’ve proven to be one of the elite teams in the country and now that they have that number one ranking, they’re going to have to earn every bit of it.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
This had trap game written all over it. UConn had the curse of the number one ranking over it’s head, they were playing a talented and confident Providence squad that had just knocked off a ranked opponent, and the huskies were set to play a tough Louisville team after this game. And it looked like it was going to be a physical and close game. Providence was relentless and undaunted with taking the ball to the rim and the big men were waiting for them, ending the game with 17 blocks. Unlike the previous games versus the Friars, UConn’s perimeter defense kept the three ball under control and were happy to let the ball get funneled inside. In the second half, they kept the defensive pressure up, giving up 27 points and their offense exploded for 56.
Thabeet put on a show and had his best game as a husky. He had a monster triple-double with 15 points, 11 boards, 10 blocks, 1 steal, and hit 3 of 5 from the line. He was playing with controlled emotion and was active without the ball. He has improved on leaving his man at the right moment to go up to block a shot and not leave the opposition an easy pass for a lay-up. Adrien had his usual workman like 14 points, 6 boards, 2 blocks, 3 assists, and 1 steal night. His free throw shooting is much better and he went a perfect 4 of 4 from the line.
It felt good to see Sticks have a game like this. He was active throughout all 27 minutes that he played. His 18 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks, 2 steals and 4 of 6 from the line was by far his best game of the year. The thing now is to build on this game and not have another season like two years ago in which he dominated in an Indiana game and disappeared the rest of the year. He needs to know that he doesn’t have to make outside shots to make a huge impact in the game.
Price continues to shine. He scored a game high 19 points, 4 boards, 3 assists to 1 turnover, and hit 3 of 4 from behind the arch. While his assists to turnovers are down from last year, his ability to score has grown drastically and he has been the difference maker since entering league play. Dyson couldn’t find the basket and shot 2 for 11, but it never effects his overall game. He still ended the night with 8 points, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 4 assists to no turnovers, and 5 boards.
Austrie has had his playing time manipulated more than any other player on the team and it doesn’t effect him. He still comes in and plays solid perimeter defense, has 9 points, 1 dime, 1 assist, goes a perfect 4 of 4 from the line, and never turns the ball over. Kemba continues to have his freshman moments and isn’t surveying the court when pushing the ball up. He still works hard on the defensive end and pulled down 5 boards. If he slows himself down a bit, it will open up more possibilities. It isn’t all about going 100 m.p.h. down the court.
Gavin filled in nicely and has developed an athletic aspect to his game. He is attacking the rim more then ever and is a beast on the rebounding end, pulling down 9. He has developed nicely over the season. Beverly broke a sweat and played 3 minutes and had 2 fouls. Mandeldove had 2 minutes and had 1 foul. Haralson was able to get a shot up in his 2 minutes but missed.
This team doesn’t have a flashy offense nor a single superstar that will put the team on his shoulder and carry them to a victory but what it has is a solid consistent squad. All five starters shot the ball 11 or more times, every single starter had 4 or more boards, and they were all able to get to the line. Are they the best team in the country? Who knows. There is just too much parody at the top that just putting yourself in contention for that number one seed is the major priority and that means staying in the top 4 and they have done that. So far they have played the bottom and middle of the pack teams in the Big East. With a road trip to Louisville ahead, it should prove where this team is truly at.
Posted by David Gillett at 12:53 AM