Sunday, January 10, 2010

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.

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