Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, Old Team

UConn got off to a fast start in the first half, jumping to an eight to nothing lead on the back of a force fed post game, but that soon evaporated with a sputtering offense. Other then Walker and Oriakhi, this team is too dependant on jumpers and they are just not falling in their two Big East games. USF was knocking down some off-balanced jumpers and deep threes early, but the offense sputtered to keep up, which was reminiscent of the Pittsburgh game. In the second half, Calhoun relented and went zone, which helped combat the easy plays Gilchrist was getting around the rim, but it effected their rebounding, giving multiple opportunities at scoring. Luckily Walker took over down the stretch and stole a victory which against any other opponent would have been a defeat.

It took Walker a bit to get going, taking and hitting his first field goal ten minutes into the ballgame. He was determined to get others involved and passed the ball into the post on most sets. His jumper wasn’t falling, but he didn’t rely on it and took it to the rim on most occasions, getting fouled eight times. He did force things too much and wound up taking more difficult shots or turning the ball over, but without his determined effort, the offense would be the definition of stagnant.

Oriakhi had a much better outing. He wasn’t the beast on the boards like he was in Maui but showed some skilled post moves with a nice step through and soft hook. He should be able to make those type of shots in every game with the attention paid on Walker. He had a tough time blocking out while in the zone, but they aren’t comfortable in that style. He also has been shooting the ball much better at the line and should be a seventy percent shooter from there by the end of the season. If he can carve up more space in position rebounding then he should become the double-double machine that everyone expects him to be.

Napier continues to have his see-saw year. He started out with a bad pass, turnover, and was beat backdoor, then sank his free throws, stole the ball and hit a three. When he makes plays, this team is dangerous, but if he struggles it puts too much pressure on Walker to do everything. No one can blame Lamb for being passive. He was all over the court, but he can’t find his stroke. He did a good job of helping out in rebounding and was aggressive with the ball. He is still struggling defensively, biting on pump fakes and trailing his defender.

Smith is in some kind of offensive rut. He did hit a pretty reverse but his outside shot is dismal and he isn’t getting to the line other then once in overtime. Calhoun scolded him for not getting back in transition and he didn’t rebound a lick. He needs to find his rhythm and soon. Coombs-McDaniel was hesitant in the first half and deferred an open shot which he rarely does, but in the closing minutes there he was sinking two very important free throws. Then in overtime, he had a great put-back and rebound which sent him to the line where he sank both. This could be the turnaround performance that he needed.

Okwandu had a nice turnaround shot in the post but didn’t play much after that. Olander showed some range but again didn’t block out on a free throw rebound and is getting bodied pretty good underneath the basket. He plays with a ton of effort but he tends to be overly aggressive defending and isn’t strong enough yet to body his man.

This outcome was disconcerting. They played exactly the same as they did against Pittsburgh and luckily USF isn’t of the same caliber. Without jumpers falling for the freshmen, the offense struggled to keep up. Defensively USF hit jumpers galore and won the battle in the paint. Luckily the zone worked and kept USF from getting easy baskets, but against a team with a legit point guard, UConn would be down two games in the Big East. This team is still a work in progress and needs to find people who can hit jumpers. While Walker is carrying this team, without help it won’t be to elite status but to mediocrity and a bubble team. It might be a new year but it is the same team so far.


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