Sunday, February 6, 2011
Everything was going Seton Hall’s way. They were hitting wide open jumpers, getting into transition and their zone was frustrating UConn’s half court sets, but then everything fell apart. UConn stopped tinkering with the zone, which lead to two 3-pointers, and started playing solid man-to-man and while no one was looking, someone put a lid on the rim for Seton Hall. It allowed UConn to crawl back into the game and steal one on the road to keep pace in a very colluded Big East. This game isn't going to instill much confidence for the Huskies especially against the zone, but winning a road game and getting back on track is a start to finding the magic that they had during their winning streak last month.
Once again Walker game out and sank an opening 3-pointer and looked to be getting out of his slump but then he struggled to find the basket, front rimming numerous attempts. His slump culminated in missing three straight free throws. But there he was in crunch time knocking down an important three pointer and attacking the glass for important defensive boards. Unlike other games, he was getting calls he wasn’t in previous games and if he sank his free throws then it would’ve been the old Kemba again. He is getting the same looks that he was in the past, but they just aren't falling.
Oriakhi did a little of everything in this game. He wasn’t dominating on the boards, but he did do a good job on defense and frustrated Pope throughout the night. He hit an early 15-footer against the zone, blocked numerous attempts, and had a monster dunk. The zone has taken away much of his post plays and puts him in uncomfortable offensive positions. The zone should allow him to get into rebounding position and be able to get double digits in rebounds but he is often out of position.
Lamb had everything going except his outside shot. He hit his floater, a couple of jumpers, and helped out on the boards, but it was his incredible defense on Hazell on the fast break in the closing minutes that saved this game. He is having more impact on the game in less plays then Walker and has emerged as a legitimate Freshman of the Year candidate.
Napier played out of his mind in this game. He started out with several beautiful passes, a jumper, steal and rebound and that was just in the first half. He continued his solid play into the second half, causing havoc on defense which culminated in a steal and lay-up which helped pull UConn away late in the game. He is driving more to the basket and it has opened up his offense more and he is looking up the court more for easy looks in transition.
Smith lost his starting job and didn’t respond well to it, having an offensive foul, rebound, bad pass and a miss in the first half. He came out in the second half strong with a lay-up and had several boards, a block, and two very clutch free throws which put UConn ahead by three. The wing position is one of the toughest to learn and he has been thrown into the fire and needs a little more time to adjust.
Giffey got the start but didn’t take advantage of it, having a bad pass as his only impact on the game. Again he passed up an open look for a dribble drive that got him into trouble. Coombs-McDaniel had a lay-up and a turnover to his outing. He is a player that has had fluctuating minutes and it is effecting his consistency. Beverly played good defense and got to the line, sinking one of two shots. He also had an offensive foul. He did a good job of not doing too much and played within himself.
Okwandu had a solid night, blocking shots, hitting a fifteen footer, sank a nice lay-up with some fancy footwork, grabbed some boards, and hit two out of two from the line. He has certainly been a pleasant surprise as of late and has added some much needed depth to a very thin front court. Olander lost his starting gig and played sparingly in the second half without having an impact on the game. He plays with energy and is fearless but needs more strength to put those attributes to work.
This team seems to live and die with the close games and barely came out on top in this one. There was no one reason why they won this game. It was a little of Seton Hall’s inability to knock down open shots, some solid UConn defense, and some clutch shooting by Walker, Napier, and Lamb. Even though they came away with the victory, they can’t be happy. They still struggled against the zone, Walker can’t find his offense, and they are still unable to win the rebounding battle and give up too many second chance opportunities. They were lucky in this one. If they don’t find the right formula against the zone, then they’re going to be in these tight ballgames. Luckily they had a bit of thievery tonight or it would've been a tough ride home.