Thursday, November 18, 2010
It didn’t look good early on. Vermont was getting open shots and knocking everything down. The help defense was rotating late and giving up rebounds. The offense was stagnant, other then Walker, and there was too much dribbling and not enough sharing of the basketball. But that all changed in the second half and it started with the defense, creating multiple stops, getting to the line, pounding the glass, and causing turnovers which lead to easy points.
If there was any doubt that Kemba Walker is one of the elite point guards in the country then this game has shattered it. He was simply amazing. He has not only added a deep threat to his game, but his ability to play under control at his blazing speed is the most impressive improvement to his game. His whole arsenal was on display from the crossover to the spinning jumper. It was all clicking. He is going to have to carry the load offensively while the freshmen figure out their roles. If he can be close to as effective as he was today, then this team will be special.
Napier’s defense was what sparked UConn’s run that put them ahead for good. He was giving Vermont’s guards all types of problems. His outside shooting wasn’t there but he showed that he can affect the game in other ways. He has proven to be the second best guard on the team and is eating into Beverly’s minutes. Donnell had a good first half and did a great job in helping on the boards, but he also had a horrible behind the back pass that lead to a turnover. He needs to be that solid guard off the bench that can play defense, help on the boards and handle the rock. Smith had a nice game, hitting the outside shot with consistency which is a great sign. He needs to contribute more on the boards and close out better on defense, but overall he had a good night.
The frontcourt had a tough time defending the post without fouling. This could become a problem against bigger foes because of their lack of depth. Oriakhi had another effective game. He didn’t rebound as well as he did in the Stony Brook game and gave up some offensive boards. He blocked a ton of shots and had a bunch of put-backs, and has emerged as the second leader on the court for this team. Olander had an uneven game. He blocked shots, pulled down some boards, got put-backs, steals, deflections, and made hustle plays on the floor, but then would be out of position on rebounds, and had multiple passes go right through his hands. Okwandu is not getting the minutes he needs to get better. He wasn’t playing well, forcing a turnaround jumper and being late on defense that had him yanked from the game. Calhoun is not letting him play through his mistakes more then the other players.
The small forward position is the enigma on this team. Lamb, Giffey, and Coombs-McDaniel all had tough nights offensively. They did contribute on the boards in the second half but need to crash the boards and help out more in that department. Coombs-McDaniel has not found a way to contribute and Lamb has taken advantage, garnering more minutes. It was good to see a jumper go down for Giffey and he plays the best defense of the three, but they all need to step up more.
While it was the Kemba Walker show tonight, this game proved that he couldn’t do it alone. It wasn’t until Napier, Smith, and Oriakhi chipped in that they started to pull away from Vermont. They still don’t have a post presence, the small forward position is still in flux, and the rebounding is disconcerting, but then again they have Kemba Walker and that solves a lot of problems. Calhoun has done a great job of inching this team forward, ratcheting up the opposition’s talent game by game, building up their confidence. The next step is a road game, be it a neutral site. Let’s see if this team is ready to take that next step.