Sunday, January 9, 2011
Out of this League
Wow. Is it the hot weather that is able to unfreeze what has been a lethargic frontcourt? They were dominate in the paint and the defense was much better. Even though they gave up a ton of points, they didn’t allow anything five feet and in. The referees let the two teams play physical but at times it seemed a bit lopsided on the touch fouls. This team was resilient and played through Kemba’s offensive drought, tough calls, and Texas making jumpers and continued to play hard. They clawed their way to the lead late, hung on, and had a bit of Walker magic to pull off the victory.
Kemba tends to take a step or two more then what he needs to and he struggled early, missing his first five shots before sinking a lay-up. He battled hard on the boards and looked to distribute early, which seems to be the game plan. The Big East referees didn’t want to send Walker to the line to make them seem like homers and let Texas body him on every drive. He was getting frustrated but didn’t let it effect his aggressiveness and continued to probe the defense. The legend of Kemba Walker continues to grow as his late game heroics with an amazing on handed three point shot in the closing seconds that brings back memories of Taliek Brown’s deep three.
Oriakhi reemerged as a monster in the paint. He was effective in the post hitting two shots early but they didn’t go back to him there again until late in the ballgame. This is the type of game that he should be getting on a daily basis. It is amazing that he plays so well out of conference and then he is a different player at home or on the road in conference. Hopefully this is a confidence builder for him and he can carry this momentum into the next game.
Napier had another fantastic game. He isn’t shy about shooting the rock and this team needs someone to take pressure off of Walker. He hasn’t found a way to curb his aggressiveness and it has hurt this team at times. He had a horrible foul with only seconds left in the first half, gifting Texas two points, and then he had back-to-back ugly passes which sent him to the bench. These are all things that Calhoun can live with when he is banking in threes and being disruptive on the defensive end.
Smith had a play that will live in YouTube infamy, throwing up a three quarter court shot with ten seconds left and nearly cost UConn the game. It will overshadow his otherwise good game. He blocked shots, battled on the boards, had a nice dunk, and found his outside shot again, which he hadn’t hit since the Harvard game. Coombs-McDaniel didn’t have the impact that he had in the previous games other then two early free throws. Giffey barely played and wasn’t a factor. He just isn’t getting the minutes in the rotation anymore.
Olander missed every jumper he threw up there and had a bad pass but he battled on the boards and had a lay-up. He plays with energy and goes after the ball, but needs a bit more size to compete on the boards more. Okwandu showed some consistency with his post moves, sinking in a couple of hook shots and made his free throw on an and-one. He is still having problems defending and not fouling but he is giving this team what they need, presence in the paint and on the block.
Beverly had nice game, getting to the line, snagging boards, and distributing the ball. This was his best game of the year so far and found a way to put his stamp on the game without forcing the issue. Lamb struggled mightily and had a turnover, horrible miss and clanked a three-ball then didn’t do a thing after that.
It is amazing how UConn is a totally different team when they play out of their league. The frontcourt is dominate, the freshmen find ways to contribute, and Kemba carries this team on his back over the hump and to a victory. This could be a turning point in their season if they can carry this effort into the next performance. This victory has given them a little leeway in terms of building a solid resume. Losses at Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are not glaring but the way they are playing is. They were in the same boat as the last couple of games, trailing for most of the game, giving up seventy or more points, and Walker forcing shots. They just found some magic toward the end of the game and luckily stole it, but there is still work to do. Too bad they don't play out of their league more.