Monday, February 28, 2011

Fresh Start

UConn needed a strong performance and they got one. The defense was stellar throughout the entire game, limiting Cincinnati to jumpers and they did a good job of corralling defensive boards. The offense once again got off to a fast start and stuttered after hitting double-digits. They held on to their lead in the first half even though they struggled against the full court pressure which led to numerous careless turnovers and easy buckets for the Bearcats. But in the second half, UConn was able to deal with the pressure and the freshmen finally found their legs and began hitting jumpers again. Once again they had the game well in hand, but began getting careless with the ball down the stretch and made it more of a game then it had to be, but they were able to make the plays to put the game out of reach and get the victory that they desperately needed.

Walker had a solid game. He was deferring early on, trying to get Lamb and Smith some open looks. He got going by following up a miss with a lay-up and getting to the line on a nice pump fake. Walker picked up his third foul early in the second half, but when he got back in, he was aggressive, hitting a rhythm three pointer, stealing the ball for a lay-up, and playing stellar defense, but again he had two costly turnovers down the stretch. He needs to do a better job in ball handling in those crunch time situations.

Oriakhi had a rough first half, having only two offensive rebounds as his only impact besides good defense. In the second half, he missed two easy dunks and is taking to long to gather himself to finish strong, allowing the defender to get a step on him. He also isn’t getting much action on the pick and roll or finding shots in the post. Most of his offense is on second chance points. Okwandu didn’t get the start because Calhoun wanted him to stay out of foul trouble but it didn’t work. He picked up two early fouls anyways. He did bank in a jumper and hit a line drive hook shot, but he didn’t have a big impact on the game. Olander had a foul in his first two seconds of play and had a turnover after a rebound in the second half.

Lamb finally had a good game. He had an early sloppy pass but made up for it with a rhythm three pointer. He followed that up with a nice floater and another three pointer in the first half. He came out just as strong in the second half, hitting a wide open three pointer, knocking in another floater, and getting a couple of lay-ups. The only knock against him was his dribbling. He dribbled the ball off his foot and put himself in precarious situations with over dribbling. But overall it was a great performance for the freshman.

It was great to see Smith hit that first three pointer and he wasn’t done, knocking down two more. He also did a great job of crashing the boards. While he didn’t have a major impact down the stretch of the ballgame, his timely shooting and defensive rebounding kept Cincinnati at arms length. Hopefully this is the Smith that will show up for the rest of the season. Coombs-McDaniel hit a wide open three pointer, but wasn’t getting the rebounds or lay-ups that made him a double-digit scorer in the past. He did knock down his free throws in crunch time though. Giffey didn’t follow up his strong performance against Marquette. He over dribbled, a major issue for him, and had a horrible pass. He didn’t even take a shot.

Napier had an early turnover and was yanked. He came back and was aggressive, which is great to see, and got to the line. He followed that up with a three pointer and a steal before taking two horrible outside shots which had him back on the bench. In the second half, he took another bad three pointer before hitting one in rhythm. He is having a hard time in handling pressure late in the ball game and dribbles into trouble and then blindly passes the ball. He needs to know when and where to turn on the jets. Beverly had another turnover on a poor pass and didn’t do much after that.

At times it wasn’t pretty, but this team hung their hat on their defense and it won this game against a hot Bearcats team. The freshmen played well, Walker was efficient, and they controlled the boards. While they haven’t solved the full court pressure or the zone, they are moving in the right direction. This is a fresh start and they need to finish off these next games with solid contributions from Napier, Lamb, and Smith to let them carry over some momentum into the tournaments. From there who knows what can happen?

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