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.

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