Sunday, January 30, 2011
Dead to Rights
UConn had Louisville right where they wanted them. Up four with only minutes to go, they only had to make their free throws and defend, but they did what they haven’t done all season, let a game they had won slip right through their grasp. Give the Cardinals credit for sinking jumper after jumper from the wings and making the plays that they had to make to steal this game. Their tough zone defense stuttered UConn’s half court offense and UConn couldn’t get anything going inside the perimeter. They wound up taking poor outside shots that weren’t in rhythm and it opened the door for Louisville to get back in the game and they did. It was a tough lose and one they'll regret lossing.
It was another tough game for Walker. He just couldn’t get his jumper to drop and wasn’t getting to the line. His last good shooting game was against DePaul and that was a long time ago. Even though his shots aren’t dropping, he is drawing the defense and allowing others to get wide open looks. For some reason the basket is shrinking on him in the first half of ballgames and he is settling for jumpers. But he is still clutch and nearly had his heave go in in the closing seconds.
Oriakhi has been invisible in the past two games. He found it hard to get anything going against the zone because it takes him to long to create a shot and gets surrounded and stripped. He needs to find a quick turn around shot. The most frustrating thing is that he isn’t getting the boards, especially in crunch time.
Napier was lights out and out shined Walker. He was money from deep, hitting several clutch jumpers. He also took the ball into the lane more and actually drew contact and got to the line. He did miss some crucial free throws late but without his superior play, this game wouldn’t have made it into overtime. He is also doing a great job of defending without fouling and caused havoc in the half court sets.
Lamb had a fast start but struggled late. He was silenced in the second half by Louisville's good zone defense that took away his deadly mid-ranged game. He couldn't find ways to penetrate and use that floater and settled for outside shots or deferring. He did come through in the second overtime with a sweet runner and three pointer but it was to little to late.
Smith had a good night on the boards but continues to struggle for consistency in his offensive game. He still plays excellent defense and isn’t afraid to crash the boards. He just needs to find ways to get the ball on the wing more for open looks and knock them down, which is easier said then done. Coombs-McDaniel is trying to find his role but isn’t getting much done late in the game other then a board. Giffey got on the floor but didn’t do much. Beverly came in and helped add another ball handler to Louisville’s press. He is one of those players that do the little things that don’t show up in the stat books but every team needs a Beverly on their team.
Olander got some early minutes but was nowhere to be found late. Calhoun seems to be giving him valuable experience for next season. Okwandu did a better job of defending without fouling, but he is back to not rebounding again. These two players are enigmas to this team. They should be effective against a zone but weren't. Okwandu has had a few solid performances, but with Oriakhi struggling there is just no consistency behind him.
With the early success that UConn has had, it has shifted everyone’s expectations, but it has also allowed them some much needed breathing room. This is a great learning experiences for this team. They’ll see plenty of zone in the upcoming games and need to respond with a better performances. They are still very much in the running for the division and a much needed double-bye in the Big East Tournament, but they need to hold serve at home and can’t let teams back into ballgames that they had dead to rights.