Sunday, January 31, 2010

UConn versus Marquette Press Conference


Keeping the Faith

This one was a tough loss. UConn played a pretty good game, other then the turnovers. The big three in Jerome, Walker, and Dyson all played effectively on offense, the outside shot was dropping, they stopped the dribble penetration, and the rebounding was solid, but they still lost. They just can’t make the positive plays down the stretch, they make defensive lapses that hand the game over, and teams are coming up clutch against them. It is such a shame to see the season slide downhill the way it has. There is a lot of talent and heart on this senior laden team, and to have them lose these games to bury their chance to enjoy the NCAA tournament is unfair but justified. They just haven’t played good basketball all season.

Dyson was aggressive and played solid basketball for thirty-nine minutes. For one horrible decision to foul a jump shooter down the stretch to mar his day isn’t right. He has carried this team on numerous occasions but he just hasn’t been able to sustain it through the finish line this year.

Walker had back-to-back good games. He is still taking too much time in getting into the offense, but he is much more aggressive in these past two ballgames. There was a time in the second half that he took over the game with steals, fast break buckets and jumpers. He needs to take that five minutes of basketball and stretch it throughout the entire game.

Robinson was much better in the rebounding department and had his usual high flying dunks. He is rushing his shots in the mid-ranged game and needs to be more effective in the final five minutes of the game. He has come leaps and bounds from last year, but with his limitless potential, this team needs more positive plays from him to help pull away from teams late.

Gavin had a solid game, rebounding much better and hustling for loose balls and rebounds. He didn’t contribute much in the post, but he does a lot of dirty work for this team that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet. Oriakhi was invisible for major stretches of this game and other then rebounding, he wasn’t much of a factor.

Majok was at times the best player on the floor, which is exciting to see. He is really settling into his role. Being extremely active, he blocked shots, had offensive boards, played better help defense, showed a soft touch from the line, and made a variety of positive plays. He is still fouling to much and taking ill advised shots, but he is playing much better. Okwandu made and appearance but wasn’t effective, getting pushed around and had a turnover.

Coombs-McDaniel played solid defense but didn't add much to the offense and missed another free throw. For someone who made over one hundred straight in practice, he misses a ton in games. Blaney uses Beverly more then Calhoun does. He has been playing well with the extended minutes and had a nice hustle steal, but hasn’t been able to assert himself on the offensive end in the half court sets. Smith also made an appearance. He definitely needs to bulk up, but looks like a very speedy guard. He has done much better on defense, but had an unforced travel call.

It’s tough to say that the post season is lost, especially since teams are beating up on each other so much in this league and there is always the outside shot of catching lightning in a bottle in the conference tournament, but this team isn’t putting things together and making plays down the stretch of games and it doesn’t look like they will. They’ll need to go on a major winning streak and keep themselves above .500 in the standings for a outside shot, but it’s awfully hard keeping the faith.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

UConn loses to Providence

Chopping Block

Ugly. Absolutely atrocious. This team had all the momentum on their side coming into this game and they come out with a game like that. This team just can’t play with any control and discipline with the ball. They throw the ball away time after time, they can’t secure rebounds, and the dribble penetration has not been solved all year. The zone gave UConn all types of problems and the guards didn’t bother to dribble penetrate and settled for jumpers which isn’t their strength. With each brick, Providence had easy run outs and transition points. This team is what it is, a middle of the pack Big East team and with the hole that they have dug themselves, it is going to be awfully hard for them to claw back up the standings to secure an at-large berth. They needed this game and they didn’t show up, plain and simple.

Dyson, the offensive leader of this team, showed up early, but was no where to be seen after that. He couldn’t find his way through the zone and he wasn’t aggressive. He needed to be the one who took charge of this game, heading to the rim in his bull-like fashion and he didn’t. The offense stuttered and stalled without his help and Providence ran away with the game.

Walker had a good game. He wasn’t to blame for this loss. He helped out in the rebounding department, had a bunch of steals, and pushed the tempo without his usual turnovers. His jumpers weren’t falling, but he wasn’t alone in that department. He is having problems keeping his player in front of him and the dribble penetration was putting undo stress on the frontcourt, giving up tons of offensive boards. He is also having problems figuring out the zone in the half court sets. He needs to use his speed to break up the zone. But overall it wasn't a bad game on his part.

Robinson didn’t have his outside shot working but had plenty of dunks and transition points. He was having problems battling on the boards and Providence’s frontcourt dominated UConn. Robinson needed to counteract that and didn’t. He wasn't skying for boards like we are used to seeing and the extra possessions for Providence killed UConn.

Edwards was solid and was the only post player to have a good game. He scored in a variety of ways around the basket and rebounded well. He did have a couple of horrible passes and needs to be patient with the ball, but he made his free throws and rebounded well. Oriakhi had a tough game. He couldn’t hold onto the ball when rebounding and kept getting stripped for offensive boards. He missed some point-blank shots around the rim and wasn’t a threat with the ball in his hands. He did have a nice block, but needed to have a better outing.

Majok was coming off his best performance against Texas to then take a step back. He had a block but also had a few turnovers and defensive lapses. Beverly had plenty of minutes but didn’t do much with it. He looked a bit out of control at times and missed some free throws. He needs to add a little to the offense. Coombs-McDaniel had an okay game with a three ball, but didn’t do much other then that.

It was the same old story. Sloppy play, dribble penetration, and offensive rebounds. Just when it looked like they had solved these issues, they pop up again. With the road losing streak now looming like storm clouds over this team, they will have a tough stretch ahead. They've played three solid games all year and it is a bit frustrating to see so much talent not translate onto the court. Teams are going to throw the zone at this team from here on out and UConn is going to need to execute or get executed because these next four games are their season and their heads are squarely on the chopping block.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Storm the Court

With Calhoun out for the second straight game and UConn’s season teetering on the edge of a postseason cliff, Dyson and company stepped up and took control of their own fate, defeating the Texas Longhorns in a crucial game for both teams. It didn’t look like UConn was up to the challenge early on with sloppy pass after sloppy pass and Texas draining threes with regularity, but UConn soon cleaned up their game and seized control of the tempo through their tough nosed defense that fueled transition baskets at the other end. Gampel went crazy and Texas looked a bit rattled. There is a huge difference between the XL center and Gampel. The crowd was amazing and was a major factor toward UConn pulling off the upset. There will be some who will say that UConn is better off because Calhoun is not there, but that is just nonsense. Calhoun is the sole reason why the talent is playing in a UConn jersey. This team is playing together because Calhoun is not there and not because Calhoun was holding them back.

Dyson had a career night and had everything working. If he is hitting his outside shot, then there is no stopping him. Displaying all his moves, Dyson showed the floater, catch and shoot, monster transition dunk, elbow jumper, three ball, and finished some amazing drives around the basket. He is still struggling from the line though and he needs to find the confidence there. Even though he is having a solid season in the assist department, he is turning the ball over way to much with sloppy passes. But with every negative play he has, he doubles that with positive plays.

Walker had twenty minutes of forgettable ball and twenty minutes of spectacular ball. He was struggling with dribbling and passing the ball. He committed turnover after turnover and Texas took advantage. In the second half, Kemba was on a mission. He attacked the basket more and finished around the rim, took a charge, had a sweet reverse lay-up, and hit an amazing deep three as the shot clock buzzer sounded. He has also shown the ability to drain the free throws at the end of the game to seal the deal. He just needs to play forty full minutes.

Robinson had a solid night and it started in the rebounding department. He stuck his nose into the paint, helping out in the much needed frontcourt. He had his Sports Center dunks, but it was his two turnaround shots and dunks in the post that were more amazing.

Edwards is just not playing up to his potential in the last several games. He was running hard and was rewarded but he is not making the positive plays that he was in December. Oriakhi battled hard for rebounds and made his free throws, but he is getting sealed off too close to the basket. He hasn’t been called on to play a major role on the offensive end and doesn’t set the greatest screens, but he is settling into his role and what they expect of him.

Majok had his best game of his career. He was active, diving on the floor for loose balls and blocking shots. He was a bit erratic from the line, but has a nice stroke that shows what the scouts have said about his outside shot. Beverly is another player that has played fantastic in the last two games. He hustles and had another energetic dunk. Coombs-McDaniel and Okwandu didn’t have a major impact on the game.

UConn needed this game and with the confidence they garnered through the St. John’s victory, they seized control of the tempo and finally put a good team away and kept them there. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. They are going to need to string together several winning streaks to rise up the Big East standings. To feel comfortably locked into the NCAA tournament, they want to be around sixth in the standings. While one game doesn’t make a season, to be able to control the boards, knock down the free throws, and hit some outside shots against an elite squad is a great sign. They just need to maintain this effort and efficiency and that has been the problem.

UConn defeats Texas




Thursday, January 21, 2010

UConn beats St. John's

One for the Gipper

It was the perfect time for UConn to put together their most complete game of the season. Their backs were against the wall, dropping the last four out of five games, and having their leader in Calhoun leave the team suddenly. This was a moment in a season that brings a team together and they responded. The outside shot was dropping finally, they held their own on the glass, and they were able to sink their free throws. It all added up to huge win and hopefully a confidence booster in time for the all important Texas game. What an asset it is to have such a competent coach in Blaney on the bench. He is a steady and reliable person that has a settling effect on the whole team. They trust in him and play hard for him. The only disconcerting aspect of the game was the guard's inability to stop the dribble penetration. It has cost them several games and needs to be fixed for them to completely turn the ship around.

Dyson wasn’t as aggressive early on, so not to draw fouls, which he had in his previous games. It is important for him to remain on the court in the first half so that the offense doesn’t go on long droughts. He was also getting fouled more when driving to the rim, which he hadn’t during the losing streak. His whole game was on display, showing the pick and roll jumper, the three ball, floater, offensive boards, and block shots. The only negative would be some sloppy passes late in the ball game.

Walker had a slow start, hitting a jumper as the shot clock buzzer sounded fifteen minutes into the ballgame, but after that his game exploded. He finished around the rim, hit from deep, had several steals and layups, and had a pretty baseline move and score. His defense was alright with deflections, charges, and steals that fueled easy buckets on the other end but he continues to let his man get a first step on him. The major issue for Kemba would be his slow starts. During the second half it only took him two minutes to take a shot, but during the first half of games, he is taking more then ten minutes to get involved in the offense.

Robinson had a solid night also. He was active with offensive boards and blocked shots. He was effective with the bank shots, transition dunks and deep threes. He had a few bad passes late in the game but he was much better in the second half. It is important for him to be around the rim to help out rebounding and he did. During the losing streak, he was running down court when a shot was in the air.

Edwards struggled mightily. Rushing his first couple of shots, he never looked settled. He didn’t play with a lot of energy, having a lazy attempt at a rebound to only have his man out hustle him to the board. He did show up late in the game with some tough rebounding and an elbow jumper but he needs to play better ball. Oriakhi rebounded well, had a steal, and blocked a shot, but he wasn’t much of a factor on offense.

Majok missed an early jumper and a horrible pass, but also had an offensive board and ran hard and was rewarded with a dunk. He is slowly making strides but Okwandu has gobbled up most of his minutes. The big man was active on the floor, blocking shots, had a dunk, and showed some good footwork and finish.

Coombs-McDaniel had a good game. He had a great pump fake and jumper and was aggressive, taking the ball to the rim. He is still inconsistent from the line and needs to sink them. Beverly did a great job too. He ran the point, had a fantastic steal and thunderous dunk, and made his free throws. Who knew he had that type of explosive leaping ability?

UConn couldn’t have had a better game at the right time. While it doesn’t dig themselves out of the hole they sit in, it does stem the bleeding and give them the confidence in some areas that they were severely lacking. The outside shot was dropping, the rebounding was stout, and the defense was solid in stretches. It is a vast improvement over the past five games and a perfect lead in to an all important Texas game at home. It is one of their best opportunities to right the season and get that all important resume building win. If they play with the heart and efficiency that they displayed in this game then they’ll have a great shot. But the only thing consistent about this team though is their inconsistency.

Monday, January 18, 2010

UConn versus Michigan Recap

Self-Inflicted Wounds

It’s been the same story for UConn all season. They are losing the battle on the boards ten feet and out, clanking free throw after free throw in clutch situations, the outside shot is a non-entity, Dyson is sitting on the bench in huge chunks of the first half, Walker is having problems dribbling the ball, Robinson is finding a hard time in half court sets, and the bench is not helping out. These self-inflicted wounds are slowly killing them and with each loss, they create a deeper hole to climb out of. It didn’t help that Michigan shot lights out from deep and the referees were inconsistent with their calls. It seems like that’s how the season has been for the Huskies. They seem to bring out the opponents A-game. Their name is showing up on other people's resumes and they don’t have a single one on their own. They’ll have their shot, but if they continue to play this way, a win against an elite team or two might not help their cause.

Dyson has been having a hard time of staying out of foul trouble in the past few games and it has hurt UConn in the first half of those games. The energy level drops significantly when he isn’t out there and teams are going on substantial runs. He is amazing when the ball is in his hands and he is going to make a lot of money in the NBA. He did show the outside shot but his inability to hit from the free throw line cost UConn this game.

Walker again started the ballgame out slowly and when Dyson went out of the game in foul trouble, Kemba waited fifteen minutes to take a shot. He needs to be aggressive early on. While he had trouble with his dribble, he was solid from the line and has taken the mantel from Edwards as UConn’s best free throw shooter. He is using his jumper more and was fouled twice shooting, which is a good sign, but he needs to take better care of the ball in the closing minutes, his turnovers in crucial spots are comeback killers.

Robinson did show a nice jumper off glass in the post and had hustle plays around the rim, but he needs to help out on the glass in that ten feet and out area. Teams are killing them there. He is also rushing his shots when he doesn’t need to. He didn’t have the impact on this game that the team needed him to have, especially since Dyson was on the bench for nearly the whole first half.

Edwards was solid from everywhere except the free throw line, which he has been shaky from lately. He has shown some good post moves and a soft touch, attacked the boards hard, and made hustle plays to continue possessions. Oriakhi rebounded well, but had trouble with the ball in the post. There are times where he is the best rebounder on the floor and then there are times when he gives up position on a free throw for an offensive board.

Okwandu started the ballgame but had a quick foul and exit for Majok. Ater did well, showed his length that bothered a few shots, rebounded better, and showed some of his athleticism around the rim. He just hasn't shown the ability to make positive plays on a consistent basis to warrant extended minutes.

Coombs-McDaniel did well. He took his shots when they were there, though they didn’t drop, and he was aggressive and attacked the rim. He didn’t get the calls when there was contact, but that will come with time. As long as he is aggressive and not settling then he is going to get minutes. Beverly did a good job of running the point to free up Kemba offensively, though Walker didn’t make use of it. Donnell did get on Calhoun’s bad side when he let his man get to the rim for an easy put back, but he didn’t make sloppy passes in the half court and didn’t take ill-advised shots.

Each self-inflicted wound is slowly bleeding the life out of UConn’s season. It is tough enough at this level to win against good teams, but to also fight yourself is a battle this team can’t overcome. They have a lot of work to do to patch up these gaping wounds in their game. The season isn’t shot yet. They still have a chance to beat Texas and plenty of ranked teams in their conference, but time is running out. If they don’t stop shooting themselves in the foot, then this season will soon go spiraling out of their control.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

UConn's Reaction to Loss to Pittsburgh

Taking On Water

UConn’s ship is springing leaks and their season is struggling for survival. They can’t stop the dribble penetration and with no legitimate shot blocker to erase those mistakes, it is costing them on the boards and with easy buckets. The offense is vanilla with Dyson attacking the rim off the dribble as their only option. The outside shot is nonexistent other than the rare Robinson three. The free throws are atrocious and they continue to turn the ball over in bunches. It isn’t pretty and while the season is far from over, they have hit a very low point. They need to turn things around and quick because their tournament chances are sinking and fast, because they need to be around the top six in the Big East to remain in the conversation of a tournament seed.

Dyson was the offense. He was great at splitting the double team and scoring. He didn’t show much of a jumper but he didn’t need to because Pittsburgh wasn’t stopping the ball. The first half of these past few games tends to be a bit sloppy for Dyson, stepping out of bounds a couple of times and getting into foul trouble. He is struggling at the line and needs to step up there. Dyson is carrying this team and it is still not enough. Someone needs to step up.

Walker again was inconsistent in his play. While he showed some inspired ball during UConn’s comeback and brief lead, but during the beginning and endings to the game, he is making more negative plays then positive ones. He was more aggressive offensively and pulled the ball out when he didn’t have numbers on the break, but he is just not dependable with the ball in his hands in the half court sets especially late in tight ballgames and it is hurting the team.

Robinson is playing great first halves of ballgames but he isn’t able to continue his play throughout a whole game. He had an early three and a bank shot in the post but in the second half, he is watching Dyson make all the plays. He needs to help out more there. He is also playing poor defense, letting his man dribble into the lane with ease or slip in for an offensive board.

Edwards did a good job. He rebounded well, blocked shots, showed a smooth hook shot, and ran hard on the break. He isn’t getting to the line though and needs create more contact to get there. He is to good of a free throw shooter to waste it. He struggled a little guarding his man off the dribble, but overall it was a solid performance. Oriakhi did well and hit the boards hard. He had a sweet put back but is not finishing off post moves. His game has come leaps and bounds. Majok showed some signs of life with a nice rebound and dunk off a missed free throw, had a lay up, a block, and a nice looking post move and score. Okwandu didn't have much of an impact on the court.

Smith, Beverly and Coombs-McDaniel didn’t do much and they need to make some positive plays to help out. They weren't a liability on defense though, which is an improvement. The bench is thin, which is a surprise. They should be contributing more, be it defensively or with jumpers. It is going to take a toll on the starters if they continue to not make an impact.

The season is on life support. The ship taking on water. Another loss will sink them out of the top 25 and near the bottom of Big East ocean. This is do or die time and it is up to the Seniors to step up and win games. Robinson, Edwards, and Dyson need to play outstanding ball. Finger pointing, excuses, or frustration mean nothing now, only wins and it starts this weekend. Time to step up or watch this boat go gurgling into the N.I.T. waters.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Highlights from UConn versus Georgetown

It was the best of halves, It was the worst of halves

Charles Dickens must be rolling over in his grave. It was definitely a tale of two halves and another heartbreaking defeat on the road. The offense in the first half was able to create easy buckets off transition baskets. The frontcourt pounded the boards and created multiple opportunities, while the outside shot was sinking, runners were dropping, and Georgetown was taking and missing jumper after jumper. Then the second half happened. UConn couldn’t sniff an easy basket and they were getting killed on the boards. The guards couldn’t contain Georgetown’s backcourt and it caused havoc in the paint. With everything slipping out of UConn’s grasp, deflections going Georgetown’s way, and Dyson on the bench in foul trouble, no one wanted to step up and take a shot. The momentum kept building with each miss and easy bucket at the other end that when Dyson did get in, it was impossible to stop them.

Dyson couldn’t find his offensive rhythm until the final strokes of the clock, but he didn’t need to early on. Things were going UConn’s way without him that he didn’t look for his shot and settled down defensively. He only was fouled once while driving to the basket, usually he has eight or more. He was a bit sloppy with his passing, but he more than made up for it with his transition buckets late in the game. He was the only player in the second half that stepped up and forced the action against the gathering momentum that looked to drown them.

Robinson had a brilliant first half but when he was needed to step up and make plays in the second half, he didn’t respond. His first shot of the game was a three ball, which is something he hadn’t done in a very long time. He had a series of highlight reel dunks and fought for rebounds. His mid-ranged shots are still off the mark and he was looking to bank everything from there. While the numbers he produced were admirable, but when he was the only scoring option on the court, with Dyson out, he couldn’t find the basket.

Walker continues to play in stretches. He’ll make a sensational drive or dish and then take on three players for an off balanced shot in transition. He missed some wide open players and instead took the ball into the teeth of the defense. He also had problems hitting his free throws, handling the ball in traffic, and making his jumpers. He was active on defense and created some turnovers, but he needed to step up and make some plays in the second half and he didn’t. Walker has all the ability in the world to be a top point guard in the country but he is taking a bit more time then expected to get there. There is no doubt that he will though.

Edwards had a solid game. He scored on the pick and roll and showed better hands in handling some tough passes. He came in rebounded, scored, and did what he could against an All-American talent in Greg Monroe. Oriakhi also had a good game. He had an early steal, put a body on his man, was a man on the boards, showed strong hands, and found points off of offensive boards. He has really turned the corner on his game. He did have some problems in the second half in finding rebounds, but it was mainly due to the guards slipping into the lane.

Majok had an early block and foul, but didn’t have much of an impact on the game. Okwandu is putting more and more pressure on Calhoun to play him more. He bodied his man out of the way for a Robinson dunk, had some offensive boards, a block, scored, and played good defense. He is making more and more positive plays in each game. Coombs-McDaniel had a good first half, hitting two threes, ran hard in transition, drove to the basket, and played good defense, but missed a free throw. After hitting a thousand in a row, he should be automatic from there. Although he had a great first half, when Uconn need him the most he disappeared in the second half.

This was a heartbreaker. When a team has such a perfect half, playing solid defense, scoring from outside, transition, and in the paint with ease and then do everything that worked so well poorly is disheartening. It only adds more and more pressure for them on the road. It becomes a confidence issue now, that inkling in the back of their heads during tough stretches in games. The only way to fix that is to fight back, scratch and claw with each possession. They haven’t done that. They’ve treated possessions on both ends of the court carelessly in bunches. This team will continue to struggle on road games until it figures this out and with each loss it makes their ultimate prize that much more difficult.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

To Be Determined

It looked like UConn was going to run away with the game. They finally had a good start, the unreliable frontcourt was scoring easy points, and things were rolling, but UConn can’t seem to get out of their own way in crucial stretches. They continue to throw the ball away on multiple trips and give up easy buckets on the other end. It is one thing to take shots and miss them, but to not even give yourself an opportunity for a shot must be giving Calhoun ulcers. When the offense got out of their own way, they were effective and the frontcourt looked to turn the corner and make plays. UConn won this game in the open court and at the line. They were able to create fast break buckets in a variety of ways. A disconcerting thing was the defense. The guards couldn’t contain their man and created breakdowns in the lane, causing a majority of the offensive boards. The bigs were getting sealed off five feet from the basket for easy lay-ups around the rim. While Seton Hall is a good up and coming team, UConn should of had a comfortable ten point cushion for most of the game, but poor rebounding and turnovers had them stumbling over their own feet.

Dyson didn’t have his best offensive performance and was kept out of the lane for most of the night and still ended with nearly a triple-double. He was able to get into the open court and make plays, especially a wild reverse off-balanced lay-up. He had a few bad passes and kept stepping out of bounds, but never got frustrated and kept attacking, taking over the game in the final stretch. He was great defensively. He is showing more emotion on the court lately which is a great sign.

Walker started out the game strong and was taking the ball to the basket more, taking more jumpers and was more assertive on the offensive end, which is what UConn needs him to do. He was solid at the line, helping nail shut the door with two clutch free throws, but he still had some crucial stretches of sloppy play that let Seton Hall back into the game. He needs to be more careful with the ball. He tends to get to lackadaisical with his passes and dribbles the ball away. He also had problems on the defensive end, letting his defender have easy lanes to the basket. But overall it was a much better outing for Walker, making more positive plays then negative.

Robinson didn’t have his jumper working, but he was still active on the break and around the rim. It is such a luxury to have his leaping ability when in the open court. Dyson was able to find him on two spectacular dunks. He also played solid defense on Hazell, a tough match-up against anyone. His mid-ranged shots still need to soften up and he is looking to bank shots in too much.

Edwards came up huge during the closing minutes to seal the game on two transition lay-ups. He ran hard and was rewarded. It was good to see his elbow jumper sink. He needs the confidence to continue to take those. He was slow a few times on the defensive rotation and gave up some offensive boards, but other than that he was solid.

Oriakhi had his best game of his short career. He started out with a big block, had a beautiful reverse dunk, turnaround hook, strong rebounds, sank two clutch free throws, and had a hustle loose ball dunk. He needed a game like this in the worst way. This should be the confidence booster that hopefully will turn his season around. Majok was feeling the heat from Okwandu and gave UConn a jolt of energy early with two big blocks and a hook shot, but he disappeared after that. He is biting too much on pump fakes and needs to stay on the floor until his man commits. Coombs-McDaniel came in early and played solid defense but didn’t contribute much and Okwandu had some early minutes but Calhoun didn't stick with him long enough to produce.

It was a tough fought win and one they had to have. They can’t let home games against teams that they are supposed to win slip away. They need to clean up the sloppy turnovers and keep their opponents out of the lane which is causing the majority of offensive boards. It is a deadly combination that they can’t continue to exhibit. It was good to see the frontcourt make plays, especially when the backcourt is not having a good night. While it is not how they are playing in January but in late February and March, as long as they are improving and they look to be, but just how much is yet to be determined.

Calhoun Post Game Press Conference


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Calhoun Post game press conference



M.V.P.: Jerome Dyson

December was to be the final tune-up for the Huskies before they entered the meat of their schedule and games that truly mattered. They were still a team searching for some bench help, consistency from the frontcourt, and stability in the rebounding department. While they had their chance at defeating an elite team in Kentucky, they fell short with some free throw misses and lack of an outside shot. As the month wore on, they continually got better rebounding, as the rotation defense began to improve. Towards the tale end of the month the outside shot started to drop, mainly due to Dyson and Robinson. Hanging their hat on the defensive end, they were getting multiple stops and converting rebounds and blocked shots into fast break opportunities. That soon came to an end in the last game of the month as the Huskies stumbled into league play against Cincinnati on what ended up as a horribly played game and a terrible call in the final seconds.

Dyson shined in December and began to get more confident with his jumper. He was still his hard driving self, but he mixed in a pull-up jumper, three point jumper, and an elbow jumper to his game that he didn’t display as prominently in the prior months. He also was playing much better defense. While much of his energy was spent on the offense end of the court, he would tend to let his opponent drive into the lane and creat havoc. Towards the end of the month, he was his usual stalwart ball-hawking defender.

Robinson finally shook off the majority of the rust and started playing near to his seemingly limitless potential. He was being more assertive with the ball in his hands and not deferring. His post game could improve, but he has mastered the art of the bank shot. He also has found the range on his outside shot, draining the three at a consistent pace. He hasn’t let up on his rebounding prowess but it also hasn’t hindered him sprinting on the break for his athletic slams.

Walker struggled through the month of December. He had problems converting around the rim and had trouble passing the ball. He has so much ability that even a struggling Kemba is better than most point guards in the conference. But for this team to win tough ball games on the road, he needs to play better. He is also taking too long to get himself involved in the offense. With no threat in the post, he is needed to shoulder some of the offensive load and early.

Edwards emerged in December as the best post player on the team and hasn’t complained about coming off the bench which shows his team first mentality. He is also the best free throw shooter on the team and needs to get to the line more to make teams pay. He has shown a baby hook, elbow jumper, and an ability to play above the rim. He just needs a dribble drive and a few pump fakes to get to the line more.

Oriakhi has proven to be a mystery. He has the length, strength, and tenacity to be a starting Big East power forward but he tends to get pushed around for offensive boards at key times and hasn’t shown a consistent post game. He is still UConn’s best rebounder, but he could be so much better.

December brought the much anticipated arrival of Ater Majok and he looked to be the new student who takes the seat in the back of the room. He looked lost in his first game, took a bad shot, and was quickly benched, but he improved with each and every game. By the end of the month, he looked like a shot blocking force and a solid rebounder. But with Majok’s arrival came Okwandu’s benching. He was showing signs of improving when he was in the game, but Majok has the most potential. It will be interesting to see how Okwandu fits.

Beverly was solid off the bench, but his lack of an offensive game has caused Kemba to play more minutes then he should. If he could hit a jumper or two then he could be the missing third piece in the backcourt rotation. Coombs-McDaniel was hot and cold in December. He would have solid performances, getting points off the dribble drive and from deep, but then he would disappear from games. Trice and Smith both were non-existent in the month and rumors swirled of Smith’s displeasure at playing time. They need to be patient and ready if necessary. There is no telling when their time will come.

UConn had some tough last second losses in December and let a key resume building win slip through their hands, but they were playing much better basketball then in the prior months. If they can figure out the slow starts, get Walker to play better, and make jumpers on the road, then this team is right where they need to be. Now that Big East play is upon them, UConn needs to solidify roles. The Big East has more parody then in last several seasons and one loss isn’t going to hamper them, but if they can’t win away from the comfy confines of Hartford and Storrs then this team is going to struggle to stay afloat in the conference.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Righting the Ship

It was too early to call this a must win game, but for the Huskies to compete for a Big East title, going down 0 and 2 in the conference would put them into a hole that would be hard to dig out of. While they had another slow start, they came out with the intensity and aggressiveness that was lacking during major stretches of Cincinnati game. The offense was helped out with fast break buckets fueled by the blocked shots, but it was the defense that won this game. With the frontcourt able to handle Harangody without double teaming, UConn was able to press the perimeter shooters, limiting Notre Dame’s major weapon, the three ball. They also had a good showing from deep, the free throw line, and rebounding, all weaknesses in prior games. Overall it was a great performance against a solid team at a critical time in their season. Something this team needed in a huge way.

It is easy to take Dyson’s effort for granted. He makes it look so effortless to drop 20 points a game. He was fouled eight times driving to the rim, showed the range with a deep ball, sank a floater, and had a beautiful hustle save. It seems like he is being held together by twine. This time he was holding his midsection throughout the game. He has no fear and he seems to be unstoppable this year. Teams haven’t been able to keep him out of the lane unless they go into zone and UConn is scoring against it more frequently.

Robinson has stepped up to the challenge of shouldering more of the offensive load and has produced. While he was hesitant during the early stretch of the game and once he settled down, he became more comfortable playing in the post. His bank shots have been off the mark in the past two games but his rebounding and blocked shots only fueled his game. He had a highlight dunk off a free throw, hit three 3-pointers, and had a sweet finger roll. It is amazing how easy his three point shots drop in but his free throws and mid-ranged shots are hitting the rim like a lead weight.

Walker had another slow start and was sloppy with the ball, had a poor inbounds and entry pass, but he turned things around in the second half. He was more than solid on defense and was aggressive in the passing lanes for steals. He is also taking the jumpers he needs to take in order to help out the offense. UConn’s chances of reaching the Big East title are in Walker’s hands and he needs to do more.

Edwards had a much better outing and put the Cincinnati game behind him. He played great in the post with three highlight reel dunks, and was fouled three other times making moves to the rim. He also played good defense on Harangody, limiting him to jumpers. He also found his stroke at the line and sank his free throws. With the frontcourt a work in progress, it is up to Edwards to solidify the position.

Oriakhi had an early touch in the post but traveled. He was active though, had a block and battled hard on the boards. He showed a nice step back shot which is something he hasn’t shown before. He also played solid defense against Harangody, causing the big man to travel. It was good to see Okwandu come in and contribute right away. He was showing improvement in each game and deserved the opportunity and didn’t let it slip away. He had two offensive boards and a soft hook, sank an elbow jumper, had an inbound score, and blocked Harangody’s shot. He deserves more minutes. Majok again had some foul problems, but showed some strong rebounding. There just isn’t enough minutes to give to both Okwandu and Majok to develop them the way they should.

After making a million free throws in a row in practice, Coombs-McDaniel had a ton of pressure to sink the two opportunities that he had and he did. He wasn’t much of a factor other than on defense. Beverly did a nice job controlling the ball and setting up the half court sets. All he needs is an outside shot to be the Austrie for this team.

This was as important of a game for UConn’s confidence as any this season. The frontcourt which was exposed came up huge and produced on both ends of the court. Edwards who had his first bad game since preseason, had a strong outing and Okwandu who was sent to the deep recesses of the bench for Majok came out with guns a blazing. It will be interesting how Calhoun handles Okwandu’s minutes. He has earned some playing time. Walker is the biggest mystery. He is having problems handling the ball and making bad passes early in games which is a major cause to these slow starts. If he can slow down and not do to much to early and let the offense come to him then these slow starts should be a thing of the past and protecting home court against a solid team is a big step to their future.