Wednesday, January 26, 2011
It was supposed to be a battle of style. Could UConn’s big men hold their own against a smaller Marquette team? But UConn showed that it was just as versatile and out played Marquette at their own game with their trio of guards out dueling Marquette's. Both halves played out the exactly the same. Marquette jumped out early, knocking down jumpers, but UConn kept within reach and when Marquette’s shots dried up, UConn took over and never looked back. This is the second game in a row that UConn won on the backs of their freshmen. No one would've thought it possible for them to win a league game on the road with Walker and Oriakhi having poor games, but they keep proving everyone wrong.
It was another off night for Walker. He missed his first five shots before sinking a jumper. Though his shots were clanking, he was still drawing defenders and making the right passes. He also played solid defense and helped out on the boards in a game that needed the guards to chip in. Kemba might be a little too jump shot happy and needs to get to the line and early to see and feel the ball drop in the basket early on. Once that happens, he seems to find his game.
Oriakhi struggled against a smaller and quicker Marquette front court and was uncomfortable guarding outside the paint. He had two nice dunks but also had a horrible pass that gave up the last play of the first half and several defensive lapses. This is one of those games that he needs to put behind him. He was asked to defend players that he isn’t normally used to and was in foul trouble for most of the night.
It was the Jeremy Lamb show. This is the fourth game in a row now that he has made a major impact on the game and none more so then this one. He showed an above the rim game and had the highlight of the night with a high flying one handed dunk. He also had his outside shot going, sinking three 3-pointers, but it was his deadly mid-ranged game that was so heralded when he was coming into this season that has made his game so well rounded. He had a curl play where he sank a jumper that was reminiscent of Rip Hamilton. He is showing a variety of ways to score and has become a much better ball handler.
Napier had a nice game. His court vision is getting better, hitting several bombs down court for easy buckets and he made some clutch shots down the stretch in the second half. He also stepped up and sealed the game from the line, which is great to see from such a young player. There were times where he could've attacked the paint but pulled it back. He needs to get to the line more. Beverly hit an outside shot but struggled after that with some poor defense and dribbling into trouble. He looks to be stuck in second gear out there.
Smith wasn't as effective offensively as his last game, but he still had a solid night. He was attacking the boards and blocking shots all over the place. He also had a pretty up and under lay-up which displayed his athleticism. While he isn’t as athletic as Stanley Robinson, he already has a more fluid offensive game. Coombs-McDaniel had trouble defending without fouling, but did hit an 3-ball and made his free throws. It is small steps for him at this point and he contributed in a variety of ways, especially when defending the four position. Giffey came in for a couple of minutes but passed up an open look at the basket. It seems like the shrinking rotation has squeezed him out of crucial minutes.
Okwandu outplayed Oriakhi which is a first of the year. He was snagging boards and blocking shots, which is what this team needs from him. His improved play has allowed much needed depth and allowed Calhoun room to let Olander grow. Olander played some solid defense but had a horrible pass and didn’t play much after that. He needs small doses of minutes to get used to the rigors of Big East play.
This team is beginning to mature and Smith, Napier, and Lamb all contributing and getting better in each game. That allows Walker to focus on making others better, which is what he is best at. He is more comfortable as a point guard and this team is playing much better with him distributing the ball. He has shaved off ten field goals attempts and given them to Lamb, Smith, and Napier. And the freshmen have responded with energized play and an unfreshmenlike consistency down the stretch to win big time games. The best thing about this team though is that they still have tremendous upside and if they reach it this year, then the sky is the limit.