Wednesday, January 12, 2011
It looked like UConn was going to be bogged down in a half court game where they would settle for jumpers and rely on Walker to take over, but that all changed in the second half. The Huskies were able to get into the fast break and found easy points on account of players like Coombs-McDaniel, Beverly, and Smith who were able to rediscover their offense and Oriakhi and Walker who continued their Texas magic. But this game was won really won on the defensive end. They wore down the undermanned Rutgers squad to contested jumpers and didn’t allow easy lay-ups. While it was far from perfect, they were able to get some players valuable minutes and get themselves on track in the Big East.
Walker played a much more controlled game. He was able to get some points early and didn’t take a ton of shots to get his points and instead let the game come to him. This team plays much better when Walker is playing the two guard spot where he can come off multiple screens to get the ball. He is also doing a much better job of helping out on the glass. He had multiple offensive boards which gave him easy buckets. While his point total took a dip, the offense played more fluid which is a trade off Calhoun can live with.
It was great to see Oriakhi carry over his superb play in Texas to a Big East game. He started off slow, missing his first two shots and not get a rebound, but he then came back with three nice post moves, showing a consistent baby hook. He is a totally different player when he is getting boards though. In the second half he started out with three defensive boards, two blocks, an offensive board and lay-up, and then a monster dunk. That was when UConn pulled away for good. Alex was having problems with undersized teams like Rutgers and it was good to see him dominate.
Napier had another solid game. He only had one freshman play, where he fouled his defender again with seconds to go in the half, but he has limited his forced shots and poor decisions. The offense is totally different when he is on the floor. Teams can’t sag off of him like Beverly or Lamb, and that creates lanes for Walker and Oriakhi to go to work. He just needs to do a better job of knowing when to be aggressive and when to remain more in control.
Lamb seems to be in Calhoun’s doghouse since the Texas game. He didn’t start and struggled with his jumper and defense in the first half. He did have a jumper in the closing minutes, but he needs to find his mid-ranged game again and the best way to do that is get to the line, which he hasn’t been able to. Beverly had a good second half and finally found his jumper, hitting a 3-ball and a jumper. It is important to get him some confidence because that allows Napier some rest and still keep Walker as the two guard.
Smith had a tough first half, missing all his jumpers, had a poor pass, and when he did make a shot, he rolled his ankle. But he toughed it out and came back in the second half to have an And-1 lay-up and a 3-ball. If he can find a way to become a ten point scorer, then this team can compete with anyone. Coombs-McDaniel had a solid game. He found his outside shot early and his confidence only grew from there. He still needs to help out more on the boards and find ways to get to the line then make free throws when there. Giffey finally got some minutes and had a couple of boards, a nice save, and a late jumper. Hopefully he can get more minutes and find his range again, because he can be a important sharp shooter off the bench.
Olander struggled and wasn’t effective on the boards. He is also stiff defensively and is letting his defender get into his body for easy trips to the line. Okwandu was effective defensively and had a couple of blocks but he just isn’t rebounding and this team needs him to help Oriakhi out. This team really needs these two to do more on the boards.
This was a great confidence booster for players like Coombs-McDaniel, Beverly, and Smith and hopefully they can take their good performances and build on it, because this team needs them to contribute and not let Walker take twenty or more attempts a game and rely on Oriakhi to get fifteen boards a night. It was also good to see a team not shoot lights out on them, like in the past four games. They played solid defense for most of the game and it allowed the minutes to be spread about more judiciously. It was an overall solid performance against a team that could have sneaked up and stolen a game. These are the type of games they need to win and they did it in convincing fashion, something this team hasn't done in awhile.