Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Looking into the rosters there are four distinct aspects that jump out. Michigan State has four legitimate 3-point threats, they are a terrible rebounding team(As some of the MSU forumites have suggested this could be a cause of a slower tempo), they are a great free throw shooting team, and they only have three players averaging double-digits per game. On paper it boils down to UConn stopping the perimeter, staying out of the bonus early and pounding the glass. Twos can hurt, but Threes can kill. They’ll need to play their best perimeter defense of their careers against this team and be content with the dribble drive.
The Main Players:
It is fairly obvious that Kalin Lucas is the centerpiece to what Michigan State wants to accomplish. He averages 14.6 points, hits .388 from behind the arch, dishes out 4.6 assists a game, and hits .814 from the line. He has a 2 assists to 1 turnover ratio. Walker has the best chance of defending him.
Goran Suton needs to be contained and is their most effective offensive player hitting an outstanding .516 from the field, .848 from the line, and .419 from deep, though he has only made 18 of them. He is the only legit rebounder and only averages 8.4 a game. He could cause trouble for the Huskies. He plays out of Adrien’s comfort range and can extend Thabeet.
Raymar Morgan is a high flyer and athletic player. He isn’t a deep threat only making 5 all season, but he is .525 from the field, so his mid-range game and ability to get to the rim is deadly. He isn’t great from the line, hitting .654 from there. He is second on the team in rebounding at an unimpressive 5.3 a game. This will most likely be Robinson’s man. He needs to bottle up Morgan’s game like he did with Hummel.
The Role Players:
Chris Allen is one of their many outside threats, taking a team high 158 attempts and hitting .329 of them.
Durrell Summers is also a deep threat, hitting .396 from behind the arch, but he doesn’t take as many shots from deep as does Allen, around 50 less attempts. They whole team needs to keep Summers in check and let him be a mid-range shooter.
Delvon Roe is a threat in the paint but only hits .459 from the line. He is third on the team in rebounding at 5 a game. He leads the team with .7 blocks a game.
Travis Walton has attempted a handful of threes but isn’t a threat, and does most of his damage inside. He leads the team in steals a game at 1.5.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:13 AM
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.
Posted by David Gillett at 9:41 AM
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
The recipe for the upset was there, outside distractions, Adrien’s elbow wasn’t dropping, Thabeet couldn’t find the handle on the basketball, Price clanked shots from deep, the referees were letting physical play go and the they couldn’t hit free throws. But in the end, UConn leaned on their most reliable aspect of their game, defense. They locked down on they streaky Purdue shooters, holding them to only 36.4% from the floor. Robinson did a fantastic job on shadowing Hummel in the second half and forced the Boilermakers to search for other scorers. When they needed points everyone chipped in, with five players scoring 8 or more points. They remained focused on funneling the ball into the paint and only took eight 3-point shots. They remained cool under pressure, only turning the ball over 13 times, and didn’t force up horrible shots. Credit goes to Purdue’s fortitude and clawing back time after time, but UConn was able to counter every run with one of their own and stayed at arms length of an upset.
Austrie had a breakout game, hitting 3 of 3 from the outside and 6 of 6 from the line. He was the only Connecticut player able to stretch the defense. It was good to see him play well in his senior year in the Tournament. He had a team high 17 points, 2 boards, 4 assist to 2 turnovers. It would be nice to see him continue to hit from the outside. Price’s insane shooting had to cool down eventually and it did, hitting just 5 of 15 from the field, with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists to 2 turnovers, and 5 of 9 from the free throw line. Even with his lack of offense, he played under control and looked to find the open shooter.
Thabeet was a beast and stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 15 boards, 4 blocks, 1 steal, 4 turnovers, and shot 3 of 6 from the charity stripe. While he struggled posting up, he found his way to the basket when the smaller Purdue front line fronted him. His intimidation on defense made the Boilermakers into an outside shooting team, which isn’t their strength. Adrien couldn’t find the basket, hitting just 3 of 13 from the field. He missed wide open lay ups, and bricked his elbow jumpers and free throws. He finished with 8 points, 6 boards, 2 assists to 3 turnovers, and 1 block.
Robinson is that final piece to the puzzle. He is flourishing on the offensive end, hitting the jumper and attacking the rim. He finished with 10 points, 11 boards, and 2 assists to 1 turnover. It was at the defensive end of the floor, holding Hummel to 2 points in the second half, that won this game.
Walker played a well rounded game, scoring 5 points, 2 steals, 4 assists to no turnovers, 3 boards, and shot 3 of 4 from the line. Edwards didn’t have the game he hoped for in his return home. He hit an early jumper, but disappeared after that. Beverly entered the game really early and had 1 rebound. Haralson got into the game and made Calhoun extremely angry at taking a shot in the waning seconds. Jim Veronick became a blocking machine, having 1 block in 1 minute!
With the swirling controversy over the program, this team deserves a round of applause. They remained focused, remained aggressive and played hard. When Adrien and Price struggled, Austrie and Robinson stepped up. That’s a great sign. The deeper that this team gets into the tournament, the harder it will be to score points and it will be an entire team effort to chip in. This team, unlike those in the past few years, is playing their best ball of the season at the right time. With no time to rest, they must hold on to that swagger and confidence it has gained in these past three games. They’ll need every ounce of energy against Missouri.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:22 AM
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Travis from Hammer and Rails took the time out to answer a few questions.
Q:Who is your most productive bench player?
A: In terms of points it would have to be Keaton Grant. He is a streaky 3-point shooter that can drop 15 points on any given night if he is hot. He is better when he steps into his threes off the pass rather than off the dribble. Marcus Green is a guy that doesn't exactly fill the box score, but he does a lot of little things like rebound, defend, and get easy put backs that end up making a huge difference. Nemanja Calasan is a valuable backup for JaJuan Johnson with 3-point range and the ability to score in the low post too. All three have been starters at one point in their careers. Finally, we have Bobby Riddell. We call him Bobby Buckets because he is a fifth year former walk-on townie from West Lafayette. He was forced to play a ton as a freshman, then had his role scaled back until this year. He may see a few spot minutes and is a dangerous 3-point shooter who is above 50% from long range. Just ask Penn State. he burned them for 13 points in a game this year. He won't shoot unless he's wide open, but if he is wide open chances are he will make it.
Q: Who is your best perimeter player and best post player?
A: It may be the same player for both. Robbie Hummel can both shoot the three nad has been our most tenacious rebounder in the postseason. His offense hasn't totally been there in the last three games, but that could just mean he is due for an explosion. Obviously JaJuan Johnson is a load int he paint, but he has range from 18 feet as well. I think that will be a huge factor because he can draw Thabeet away fromt eh basket and open things up for Hummel. E'Twaun Moore is probably our most dangerous true scorer. He is one of our few guys that can create his own shot off the dribble. Don't be surprised if our 5'9" freshman point guard Lewis Jackson goes straight at Thabeet. He is fearless.
Q: Who is the player that needs to have a good game for you to win?
A: Honestly, Purdue is at its best when we are functioning as a single unit. Hummel needs to do his thing with rebounding and scoring. Moore needs to consistently knock down shots. Johnson needs to defend the glass and swat everything within five feet of the basket. Chris Kramer needs to to play lock down defense on the other team's top scorer. Lewis Jacks (a.k.a. LewJack) needs to run the show and force the tempo while playing within himself. Calasan and Green need to do the little things off the bench, and Grant needs to shoot effectively. Everyone plays off of each other in that way. When we do that we can beat anyone in the country.
Q: What is the worst scenario for Purdue and what is the best?
A: The worst case is that we come out and we're not rebounding well. It's been an issue for most of the season, but since the Big Ten Tournament started we have worked the glass like our lives depended on it. Our best case scenario is to come out and make sure we hold UConn to one shot per possession. In our final two regular season games agaisnt Northwestern and Michigan State we got killed on the offensive glass. Northwestern was the worst rebounding team in the Big Ten as well. They had a critical possession late in that game where they didn't score, but they got three offensive rebounds and ran almost two minutes off the clock before we got the ball back. If we allow that against UConn we have no chance.
Q: What style of play gives Purdue the most problems?
A: I don't know if there is a particular style that gives us problems. What I love about our team is that we are so versatile. If teams want to run we can run with them. Lewis Jackson at the point is a major upgrade for us this year and that allows us to push the tempo if we feel like it. Obviously we favor a half court grind it out style, but if teams think we can't run we will surprise them. Running allowed us to build an 11 point halftime lead against UConn and last year we blew out an even more run-oriented team in baylor during the first round of the tourney. UConn's key is to own the glass. Good offensive rebounding teams can give us fits, but as Northwestern showed they don't even have to be good offensive rebounding teams to beat us. Conversely, Michigan State is one of the top rebounding teams in the country and we blew them out at Mackey Arena about a month ago. It just depends on how much work we put in on the glass. I just don't see Purdue winning unless we can keep the rebounding battle relatively even.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:16 AM
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Few expected this. A UConn team firing on all cylinders, stifling opponents with a swarming defense and scoring easily on offense. It doesn’t hurt that teams haven’t used the zone and are playing at UConn’s pace, but the emergence of Robinson’s offense, Price’s range, Adrien’s elbow jumper, and excellent free throw shooting have made this team not only dangerous but a force of nature. They haven’t played the elite teams yet, but their counterparts have struggled against similar talent, and UConn is playing about as good of a team game as they have all year. This team has had the same identity for the last three years, attacking the rim through their dominant post players and with dribble penetration. With that style they are going to get to the line a lot, and they need to make them pay by hitting their free throws. They did that this game, hitting a fantastic 21 out of 27. With the outside shooting, the cherry topping, this team is steam rolling into the Sweet Sixteen.
Price was simply fantastic. He made four out of UConn’s five 3-pointers, attacked the rim with aggression, and ran a flawless offense. He ended his night with 27 points, 5 boards, 8 assists to 2 turnovers, and hit 7 out of 9 from the free throw line. He has been steadily improving from the charity stripe. The key to his success is on limiting his turnovers which have plagued him this month until this game. Austrie’s work doesn’t show up in the stat sheets. He is playing great defense in these past two games and has not allowed his defender to slip into the lane. He wasn’t jacking up threes, even if he was open, and only took 2 shots, but made his first which is a great sign. He needs a confidence booster game like this. He also had 4 assists to no turnovers, which is more Austrie-like.
Adrien was money from the elbow, draining shot after shot, but when he got to the line, he went 1 of 4. Maybe he should take jump shots at the free throw line. He was a monster in the paint with 23 points, 8 boards, 1 block, and 1 assist to 3 turnovers. His ability to play the high-low position has made Thabeet the player he is today. Thabeet was in foul trouble throughout the game, only playing 20 minutes. While his stats weren’t anything to write about, his impact on the game was immediate once he entered the game. The driving lanes started leading to dead ends, and made Texas A&M jump shooters. The big man ended his night with a paltry 6 points, 4 boards, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, and a perfect 4 of 4 from the line.
Robinson is a new player since the Marquette game. His outside shots have started to drop and he is able to get the ball under the basket and finish plays off. He has always been a great rebounder and put-back man, but his new found ability to score in different ways have added a much needed fourth scorer. He had 12 points, 5 boards, 1 assist to 2 turnovers, 1 steal, and a perfect 2 of 2 from the line.
Walker had his most well rounded game for the month, hitting from the outside, getting to the rim, and running the offense to perfection. He had 8 points, 2 boards, 4 assists to no turnovers, and played outstanding defense. Edwards seems to play his best when he gets more then 15 minutes of floor time. He made every hustle play around the ball, and went a perfect 6 of 6 from the line. He finished with 10 points, 6 boards, 1 block, and 2 assists in his 22 minutes of action. What a luxury it is to have a player that can play both power forward and center positions.
Beverly got into the game and flashed some speed in getting to the rim, scoring 2 points. Bird was able to get a shot off but missed. Haralson amazingly didn’t shoot the ball in his 2 minutes of action and there was a Mandeldove sighting. Jim Veronick was a man possessed on the court, getting 1 rebound and 2 points in his 1 minute of action! Linder also found his way into the game.
This team is playing with the swagger that it had going into the first Pittsburgh match-up. They are playing as a cohesive unit, each knowing their respected roles, and all are being effective when on the floor. There are only a handful of teams in the field that are playing as well as UConn is right now, and the pundits are scrambling to get on that fast moving bandwagon. While the competition will only increase as they move on, they are playing their best ball at the right time, something that this squad hasn’t been able to do in the last 4 years. Now they need to sustain it.
Posted by David Gillett at 11:02 AM
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
With George Mason and San Diego still lingering on everyone’s minds, UConn didn’t take any chances and kept the foot on the Mocs and didn’t let up. Early on Connecticut settled for the outside shot, ignoring the bigs down low, and while the shots clanked, Chattanooga began hitting buckets. It wasn’t until the Huskies started moving the basketball towards the basket that they started to pull away. The big men did a great job of handling the double and triple teams and dished the ball out. Thabeet, Adrien, and Edwards combined for only 3 turnovers. The man-to-man defense was aggressive and caused 19 turnovers, 12 steals, and frustrated the undersized Mocs. If there was a knock against the Huskies, it would be at the free throw line. They made 23 out of 39 from the stripe and in a tight ball game, it could send them home early. But in the end, UConn didn’t need the 16 points, because they dominated the boards and held Chattanooga to 25.8% shooting.
Robinson was amazing and his rejuvenated play could propel this team to Detroit. He was aggressive early with his offense and took a team high 17 shots. He was flying around the rim for rebounds, dunks, and blocks. He ended his night with a game high 24 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks, and a perfect 2 of 2 from the line.
Thabeet dominated the paint, snaring 13 boards, rejecting 2 shots, and converting from the floor. He was solid from the line, hitting 8 of 12. He also did a great job when the double team came. Adrien played with fire and recorded a double-double with 13 points and 16 boards. What was amazing about his night was his 4 assists to 1 turnover. His only mar was his horrible free throw shooting where he hit just 5 of 13.
Price had a good shooting night, but he is not holding onto the ball, having 3 assists to a team high 5 turnovers. He is settling for the three ball early in the shot clock and not funneling the ball into the paint. He ended his night with 20 points, 6 boards, 3 steals, and 1 of 2 from the line. Austrie is struggling with his shot, going 0 of 8 from the floor with 6 of those shots from three. He needs to keep shooting, but he has to find ways of getting into the lane more. Even though he was shooting blanks, he found ways to make plays, and had a game high 7 assists and 4 steals.
Walker was looking for his shot in this game and it was dropping, hitting 4 of 7 from the floor. He finished with 10 points, 6 dimes to 1 turnover, 3 boards, and went a perfect 2 of 2 from the line. Gavin did well in his 17 minutes and ended with 5 points, 4 boards, 1 dime to 1 turnover, 1 steal, 1 block, and went 1 of 2 from the line. Scottie Haralson shot the ball twice in his 6 minutes and missed both. He still had 2 boards, 2 dimes, and 1 steal.
There was a Mandeldove sighting and he pulled down a rebound in his 3 minutes. Beverly was 3 of 4 from the field, had 7 points, 1 rebound, 5 assists, and 1 steal in just 8 minutes of play. Veronick and Linder each pulled down a rebound! Bird also got into the game but didn’t put up a stat.
With Calhoun watching the game from the hospital, UConn put on a dominating performance and let all the pundits know that they are still a team to reckon with. Now that they have that monkey off their back and have won their first tournament game, they should play more loose. It was good to see them smiling, having fun, and enjoying the experience. This team needed a good dose of confidence and this type of win will help instill that. But there is no rest for the weary. Celebrate tonight and get ready for Texas A&M tomorrow.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:28 AM
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Jeff Adrien. He needs to be able to hit the elbow jumper with consistency and attack the zone with the dribble drive without losing the ball. He needs to knock down free throws.
Craig Austrie. The backcourt needs a second scorer and Austrie needs to be able to hit a couple of 3-pointers without jacking up 10 and he needs to be able to mix up his game more and use the floater. Also on defense, he needs to be able to keep his defender in front of him and not let him get to the rim so easily.
Hasheem Thabeet. He needs to be able to make plays with his back to the basket. He also needs to be able to control the ball in traffic, attack the offensive glass and knock down free throws.
A.J. Price. Turnovers have plagued him this year and he needs to take better care of the basketball. On offense he needs to not rely on the three pointer so much. He is the best shooter on the team but he settles for jump shots early in the shot clock and forgets to dump the ball to the bigs and doesn’t attack the zone with dribble penetration.
Kemba Walker. The super-freshman needs to be able to knock down jumpers and free throws. He is talented around the basket but doesn’t seek out contact like Johnny Flynn does. While his defense is fantastic, he hasn’t found his role in the offense yet.
Stanley Robinson. He needs to be able to hit open jumpers and free throws, especially early in games. He shouldn't get discouraged when his first couple of shots clank and needs to remain aggressive. His rebounding has been great in games that he scores well in, so he needs to keep his nose in the paint and battle for loose change.
Gavin Edwards. He needs to keep his defender in front of him and not play on his opponent's hip. He also needs to block out. His minutes have dried up, but he could play a major role in games in which the referees call games tight, sending the big men into foul trouble.
Scottie Haralson. He needs to hit the open shot and show that he can dribble the basketball. With the bench likely to shrink, his time on the court might be slim.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
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.
Posted by David Gillett at 10:25 AM
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Posted by David Gillett at 10:19 PM
5. Last twelve games. Louisville went 10 and 2 in their last twelve games with losses to UConn and Notre Dame. UConn went 10 and 2 with both their losses to Pittsburgh.
4. The big road wins. Louisville won at Villanova, Syracuse, Georgetown, and West Virginia. UConn won at West Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville, Gonzaga and Marquette.
3. Their losses. Louisville lost to Western Kentucky, Minnesota, UNLV, Connecticut, and Notre Dame. UConn lost to Pittsburgh twice and Georgetown.
2. Uneven scheduling. While Louisville won the Big East regular season outright, it is due to the fact that there is an uneven schedule. The Big East needs to look into breaking the conference into two subdivisions. It is unfair for everyone to have only a handful of home and away games versus one team in a season, especially in a league this deep and talented. Louisville played West Virginia, USF, and Notre Dame twice, while Connecticut had Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Seton Hall twice.
1. Head to head meeting. Connecticut beat Louisville at Louisville.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
UConn’s second loss to Pittsburgh boiled down to not being able to contain Sam Young. The dynamic forward scored in a variety of ways and feasted on the Huskies sloppy transition defense, getting to the rim with ease time after time. UConn didn’t help themselves, shooting 10 for 19 from the line and having their big three shoot 16 for 40 from the field. The silver lining was in UConn’s ability to quiet the other seven Panthers, putting only two players other than Young into double figures. But it was almost a mirror image of the game in Hartford, where Pittsburgh was dominate throughout, holding onto double figure leads and answering every Husky run with one of their own. UConn showed toughness, fought back and got close to only have Young slip several daggers into their hearts and sink this ship from first to third in the league.
Price has shouldered most of the backcourt scoring since Dyson went down and has been the only deep threat on the team, hitting 4 of 8. He shot the ball well, hitting off-balance shots, but the Panthers did a great job of shadowing him and keeping the ball out of his hands. He finished with 19 points, 1 board, 4 assists to 2 turnovers, 2 steals, and 5 of 7 from the line. Austrie’s minutes have plummeted with his offensive ineptitude. He only played 15 minutes and is starting only because he is a senior. They needed him to step up but he was held scoreless and only took 2 shots all game. He did play good defense and had 3 assists to no turnovers, but his confidence is at an all-time low and this team needs his shooting.
Robinson was active all game on the boards. He is getting comfortable with his role and is battling hard on the boards and sometimes against his own teammates. He pulled down 12 boards with 4 of those offensive. He finished with 6 points, 2 assists to no turnovers, and shot an awful 2 of 6 from the line. He has all the ability to be a Sam Young, but lacks the outside shot this season. Last year he had the most consistent shot from deep and now he can’t even hit from the line. For Robinson, it is all upstairs. He has shown the ability but just can’t translate it to games this season.
Thabeet took care of business on his end and held the dirty DeJuan Blair to the numbers Thabeet was criticized for having in the first meeting. He is also playing with fire, shown by getting into the face of Blair after the big man tried to trip him after they got tangled. That was something the nice guy Thabeet wouldn’t have done last year. He ended his night with 14 points, 13 boards, 3 turnovers, 5 blocks, and shot 2 of 3 from the line. It will be interesting to see how the college hype machine spins this performance. Adrien also played better, though he shot only 5 for 14 from the field. He finished with 11 points, 1 assist to 3 turnovers, 2 blocks, 8 boards, and 1 of 2 from the line. He had a tough time matching up with Young, who took him off the dribble and to the rim. Adrien couldn’t take advantage of his size on the block.
Walker is emerging as the fourth option and ended his night with 31 minutes. He showed some toughness, getting stomped in the grill by his own teammate and getting up to play on. He also wasn’t shy about shooting the ball, which is a good sign. He came up empty though, hitting only 5 of 11 from the field, 0 for 1 from the line, and 0 for 4 from deep, but he needs to be more aggressive and look to score more to take pressure off of Price. He ended his night with 10 points, 3 boards, 2 assists to 1 turnover, and 1 steal. Gavin hasn’t played much lately and the rust is showing. He is a step late on defense and he isn’t flashing his athletic ability. He ended with 2 fouls, 2 turnovers, and 1 steal. Haralson had 5 minutes but no one looked to give him the ball until the tail end of the game in which he rushed his shot and sent up an air-ball.
It wasn’t pretty and UConn knows that they still have work to do. It isn’t always a bad thing to be humbled like this. They know that they need a better effort to get to where they want to go. But remember this, when Syracuse won their championship, UConn beat them twice that year. This team needs to keep their eyes on the prize. They need to keep working, keep getting better, because no one remembers the regular season champions. It is all about the tournaments and in an one and done situation, anything is possible.
Posted by David Gillett at 9:52 AM
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Posted by David Gillett at 8:41 AM
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
UConn faced its toughest part of its schedule in February with the albatross of the number one ranking around its neck. They took on a tough test against Louisville on the road that opened eyes and shed many of the doubters. They relied on their defense through games against Michigan, Syracuse, and Seton Hall. Never allowing any of those teams to score more than 61 points. It was in the Syracuse game that UConn faced its first serious hurdle of the season, losing Dyson. His loss put a serious burden on Walker, Austrie, and Robinson to step up.
UConn then faced their most hyped game against Pittsburgh. They were dominated right from the tip, battling back to take a marginal lead, and then they couldn’t stop Levance Fields down the stretch. Thabeet was thoroughly dominated by Blair and only played half the game due to foul problems.
The Huskies then took out their frustrations on a young USF team, though they struggled to find their offense. It didn’t take long to find it, scoring an impressive 93 points in an offensive slugfest. They then finished off the month against Notre Dame in which Thabeet redeemed himself against Harangody, sending him home with an N.I.T. invitation.
Adrien had a solid month, only having one poor game. He is as consistent a player to ever wear a UConn jersey. Thabeet continued to dominate smaller adversaries, but lost a lot of the luster and hype in the Pittsburgh loss. He has turned into a dominate rebounder and has shown a nifty 15-foot jumper. He is demanding the ball in the post, and is playing better against players that draw him out to the perimeter.
The loss of Dyson has sent ripples down in so many areas: perimeter defense, attacking the zone, deflections, steals, running the break, knocking down threes, and making clutch plays in the final three minutes of games. Price has more than filled Dyson’s ruby sneakers. He has been deadly from deep, has limited his turnovers, found the open man, has started making free throws, getting into the lane, hitting the mid-range shot, and has been defending better.
Austrie struggled through February. His outside shot isn’t sinking, he has started to turn the ball over, and his minutes are shriveling. He has been playing outstanding defense though. Walker is turning into a serious player. He is running the point during long stretches, is finishing plays around the rim, finding the open man, and has played the best perimeter defense on the team.
Robinson has had his stretches in ballgames where he is dominant. His shot has been all over the place, but he is persistent. He is getting more rebounds and has been attacking the offensive glass for put-backs. Gavin hasn’t had the minutes during the month but has shown the ability to step in and contribute when necessary. Haralson has been the best surprise, coming in and jacking up shots as soon as the ball gets in his hands. He has a fantastic stroke and his shots are sinking.
They have finished up the regular season strong and now they enter March. They face a rematch against Pittsburgh, the Big East Tournament, and then the Big Dance. They’ve earned a number one seed and there is still a lot to play for before Selection Sunday. They have the opportunity to have the overall number one seed and Big East Championship. It is right in their grasp, all they have to do is finish strong.
Posted by David Gillett at 6:03 AM
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
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.
Posted by David Gillett at 10:56 AM