Friday, February 11, 2011
This was an identical performance that UConn displayed in their dismal outing in the Big East tournament last year. Sloppy ball handling, terrible transition defense, inability to knock down shots, and St. John’s caught fire and UConn couldn't put it out. They were able to get anything that they wanted offensively and Calhoun’s experimental zone defense was getting decimated with open jumpers and was getting gashed with easy interior passing. UConn was struggling against the zone in previous games and now they can’t handle extended pressure and the turnovers are leading to easy buckets. The offense has been a mess for weeks and now the defense has followed suit. It all adds up to a major blowout and has Calhoun scratching his head and wondering where his great team has gone to.
It has been well over a month now that Walker has been shooting poorly. He is hitting a good percentage from outside because he is able to set his feet but when he drives, he is off-balance and those shots that were falling months ago are rolling off the rim. His confidence is shaken and it is reflected in his slumping free throw shooting. He has done a great job of helping out on the boards but was a non-factor in the second half, missing his first five shots before hitting a three pointer. With his offensive woes, the pressure has been put on the defensive to keep them in ballgames and it wasn't up to the task.
It was sad to see Oriakhi’s good performance go to waste. He attacked the boards getting multiple offensive rebounds in the first half and found ways to score around the basket, but he disappeared during St. John’s major run in the second half and had a hard time finding rebounds late in the ballgame. This loss can not be put on his shoulders though.
It is hard to blame Lamb from having a bad game since he was on a pretty good stretch of great offensive performances. He struggled to find his shot early on going 1-for-7 in the first half and was caught lagging behind several times on defense, giving up easy transition baskets. He did heat up a bit in the second half hitting some floaters and a couple of three pointers, but it was way too late.
Napier should have been able to dissect the pressure defense with his dribbling but he had trouble even getting the ball across the timeline. He did hit a couple of three pointers in the second half, but he was held in check for the most part. This would've been the game where he made tons of plays by beating the pressure and finding the frontcourt for easy buckets.
If there is anything to take from this game it is that Smith has bounced back. He was rebounding much better, pulling down numerous boards early on. He also was able to hit the outside shot that was eluding him for the past several weeks. He played with an energy that hasn't been seen in some time, but it didn't have any impact on the overall flow of the game. Giffey had some extended minutes and was able to hit a three pointer and jumper which is good to see, but he got caught playing sloppy defense. Coombs-McDaniel also hit an outside shot and a couple of boards.
Okwandu played some solid defense early on and was also the recipient of some fouls caused by sloppy defense from the guards. He needs to rebound better and be stronger with the ball in his hands. He had some sloppy turnovers during St. John's extended run. Olander had an early rebound, played some sloppy defense, and didn’t block out at times. He is a work in progress.
It was a horrible game and tough to watch. Nothing was falling for UConn and St. John’s was banking in half court shots. They need to figure out how to find fluidity in their offense. They are forcing things from attacking the zone to beating the press. It was the turnovers and long rebounds that lead to a ton of transition points and lost this game for UConn. Now they’re mired in the middle of the Big East now and only have a few more weeks left to figure this out. If Walker continues to struggle, they stick with the zone, turn the ball over, and not get back on defense, then it will be a terrible ending to an otherwise nice season.