Monday, February 14, 2011

The Payoff

It was as close to a must win for UConn. They certainly didn’t want to fall to .500 in the Big East with the cluster of teams ahead of them in the standings. It didn’t look good early on for them. Nothing was dropping and they couldn’t stop Brooks without fouling. But Providence did UConn a favor and didn’t play zone or pressure defense and all of a sudden they found their offense again. Calhoun also threw away the zone, which was ineffective, and played man-to-man for nearly the entire game. The rebounding is still spotty and they are giving up too many second chance points and are turning the ball over too much, but they righted the ship with this victory and hopefully can build on the momentum.

Boy it was good to see Walker have an efficient game. He still isn’t getting the calls and was stopped for chatting after his second make, but he made the most out of his possessions. He stopped shooting off balanced shots and used his jumpers more, hitting a couple from the baseline and from deep. He also was knocking down his free throws again, only missing one. His whole game was on display and showed his rebounding, defense, and passing more. Hopefully this is the game that sets him up for a strong finish down the stretch and into the tournaments.

Oriakhi just couldn’t get his night going. He had a nice hook shot and lay-up in the first half but it was also marred with a travel, going 0 for 2 from the line and getting out worked in the paint. He road the pine for much of the second half and had an earful from Calhoun. He has had a roller coaster of a season, having a solid game then a sub-par one. This team desperately needs consistency from him.

Napier had a slow start, missing his first two shots and having an intentional foul, but came out strong in the second half with two big-time three pointers which was the catalyst for extending the lead for good. He still has a problem of letting his opponent get by him too easily and tries to bat at the ball from behind. Lamb had a tough first half missing his first two shots and then had a dunk before sitting the rest of the half with two fouls. He then had a quiet second half with only a lay-up and three pointer as his only effect on the game. It is his second quiet game in a row and needs a solid outing to get his confidence back.

Coombs-McDaniel played out of his mind. He was all over the boards and got behind the defense and settled right at rim for lay-up after lay-up. He also hit a three pointer too. It was the type of performance that could spark something consistent. He has learned to not settle around the perimeter and is flashing to the rim without the ball and is being rewarded. What also goes unmentioned is his defense. He has been able to keep Brooks out of the lane and not foul which is just as important as his scoring.

Okwandu played fantastic. He had several blocks, a 15-footer, two hustle tie-ups, hook shot, and several boards. It was the second time this season that he has outplayed Oriakhi and was just as responsible for this victory as Walker and Coombs-McDaniel. Smith had a tough game missing all of his outside shots and only had a lay-up. He also was a no show on the boards and needs to contribute more there. Giffey had some early minutes and didn’t take advantage of it, missing a few shots and having an awful turnover. Beverly had a good game with two nice passes, a board, and a steal in the first half. Other then a sloppy pass, he did a much better job with the ball.

For some odd reason Providence didn’t play zone or pressure defense which had given UConn trouble all season. Those questions still haven’t been answered and they’ll need to, but this win puts them in position to make a run down the stretch for that coveted bye in the Big East Tournament. They have such an inconsistent team now and haven’t been able to have Oriakhi, Walker, and Lamb play well all at the same time. Hopefully this game gives them a fourth option in Coombs-McDaniel and a second big man in Okwandu. With the finish line within sight, they need to put it all together and finish strong, because they don't want all their hard work to not pay off in the end.


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