Tuesday, December 28, 2010
UConn was walking into a buzz saw. They are loaded with young freshmen that were playing their first true road game of the year and they looked scared, differing to Walker on almost every possession. Every offensive set was around the perimeter and credit goes to the Panthers for sealing the lanes and keeping UConn from drawing the defense in. Every fifty-fifty ball went Pittsburgh’s way and they owned the painted area. Anything Pittsburgh wanted offensively they got with open jumpers on almost every trip. The lazy pressure defense on makes created little in turnovers and gave up easy baskets. With nothing but the three pointer as a weapon for UConn to use, they struggled to keep up against a superior balanced attack.
Walker was the entire offense. He struggled early on, missing nine shots in the first half, but without anyone else stepping up, he continued to look for his shot. During one stretch in the second half, he nailed a jumper, hit two three-pointers, and then sank a lay-up bringing UConn as close as they would get in the game but the defense let them down. He is amazing though, especially since everyone is gunning to stop him and he is still scoring. He just needs some help.
And it didn’t come from Oriakhi. He struggled mightily in his first real test of the year. He had a nice post move where he made the shot and was fouled, but other then that he didn’t find ways to get the ball in the post. He also struggled to block out and rebound. Pittsburgh feasted on balls five feet and in. Alex did do a good job of getting to the line and scoring, but this team needed his presence in the paint and he didn’t provide that.
The backcourt did an adequate job, though most of the offense was around the perimeter. Napier hit a few three pointers, but he needs to find ways of getting to the line more and not settle for the outside shot so much. He has Walker type of speed and needs to use it. Lamb had a good first half with a pretty steal and flush, but he struggled defensively and found himself trailing his man around Pittsburgh’s numerous motion offense and multiple picks sets. Beverly struggled and ended his night with one steal and two turnovers. He seems lost out there.
The wings looked ineffective. Smith couldn’t get anything going offensively and couldn’t defend without fouling. This team needs him to contribute. Coombs-McDaniel took a bad shot and didn’t do anything after that. Giffey also had problems. He passed an open shot and dribbled the ball, which gets him into problems. He needs to be a spot up shooter and have a quick release when the ball gets in his hands.
Okwandu didn’t have that bad of a night. He had a offensive rebound, put-backs, a hustle tie-up, block and save. Anything he gives this team offensively is a bonus. He just needs to defend the post better and not foul. Olander showed a nice jumper, but he also fouled on a three point attempt and didn’t block out on a free throw. He needs to play more in control. Wolf had an offensive rebound but didn’t play much to make a difference.
It was ugly and brings up questions that this team thought it had answered. Who is going to help Kemba offensively and can they rebound? They are a three point shooting team now and if it isn’t falling, then they are going to be in tight ballgames or get blown out of the water. It really was the defense that let them down in this one. They just couldn’t get the stops to maintain a run. That is probably what is most disappointing to Calhoun about this loss. And like the weather outside this barometer test fell well short.