It was an utter collapse. UConn had clawed their way from down double digits and literally had the ball in their hands to seal the game in the closing seconds and gave the game away. They coughed the ball up time after time down the stretch. This felt just like the first Louisville game where they had everything in control and let Marquette steal it. This team is nothing like what they were in the first half of the year. They get so tight down the stretch and begin turning the ball over in places that lead to easy points on the other end. It has to be frustrating for them. This isn't a good sign for there hopes in the tournaments. The freshmen continue to be inconsistent, Walker is turning the ball over too much, they are getting killed by offensive rebounds, and the zone is causing their offense to go stagnant. This once mighty team is falling like a house of cards.
Walker had a great twenty-five minutes. He was good early, knocking down jumpers, and great during most of the second half he had his game going, but his sloppy ball handling and forcing up bad off-balanced shots down the stretch cost UConn this game just as much as his great play had put them in position to win it. He is so much of a focal point of the offense down the stretch that it is almost a detriment to the team. He needs to let others handle the ball so that he can come off screens for rhythm jumpers. Teams are throwing double teams at him and instead of dishing, he is trying to split it. He knew that he cost them this game by the look on his face at the end of regulation and overtime. Hopefully he can bounce back from this one.
Oriakhi had a good game. He wasn’t much of a post presence, other then an early hook shot, but he was a force on the boards and had a bunch of second chance points and played solid defense. He did miss some important free throws down the stretch and had a bad turnover while rebounding, holding the ball too long and letting Marquette sneak behind him for the steal, but this was a great bounce back game for him. Okwandu played well also. He had a nice steal and dunk to start his night. He backed that up with rebounds and some blocks. He was limited in his minutes due to foul trouble, but he made a positive impact out there.
Lamb had a slow start and missed his first four shots before hitting a floater. His jumper is still not there, but he was everywhere on the boards. He had the play of the game for UConn, tipping in a missed shot with his off hand while gliding under the hoop. This team desperately needs him to find his confidence in his outside shot again. Smith did hit a 3-ball from the wing, but couldn’t hit another jumper after that. He did an adequate job on the boards, but didn’t do much down the stretch to help the team. With his excellent free throw percentage which shows that he can hit jumpers and his driving skills, he should be deadly from the soft parts of the zone, but he isn't getting it done.
Giffey came out in the second half and had an early offensive rebound and lay-up and continued to instill energy from there. He hit a three pointer and a jumper, played solid defense and crashed the glass. He did have a sloppy pass and missed from point blank range, but for him, this game is a giant step in the right direction. He needs to back it up with another solid performance. Coombs-McDaniel hit an early three pointer but struggled to find his offense that he demonstrated in previous games. He sat out most of the second half for Giffey and only had a rebound and a missed three pointer in the second half.
Napier struggled mightily. He missed all his jumpers in the first half and had a horrible turnover and a poor decision to intentionally foul to boot, his second of the year. He sat out the rest of the way. Beverly had a good night and was steady in place of Napier's absence. He didn't have those forced plays or costly turnovers but he also didn't make many plays either. Olander was getting killed on the boards and had a horrible pass and played limited minutes.
The double-bye is a distant memory. So is a top notch seed in the NCAA tournament, but these next games are still vital. This team needs momentum and finish strong. They are so young and need to rebuild some of the confidence that they had in the beginning of this season. They are falling apart down the stretch of ballgames and are having sloppy turnovers and giving up way too many second chance points. They need to find ways to limit offensive rebounds and start sinking jumpers again. This was a tough game to swallow and like the first Louisville game, they had it won and gave the game to Marquette. If they don't straighten out the mess, then it doesn't look good for their prospects in the tournaments.
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