Wednesday, March 9, 2011
It was a good bounce back performance for UConn even though it was against the worst team in the Big East. They rebounded well, the freshmen all contributed, Walker was efficient, they got into transition, and made their free throws. There were still some troubling signs. They were horrendous against the full court pressure and the passing wasn’t crisp, allowing easy traps and turnovers. This has been as much of a weakness for this team as the zone this season. It caused way too many turnovers and kept DePaul in this game instead of having a twenty point lead or more and resting Walker. But at this point UConn will take this victory and the positives that go with it, because they have been few and far between.
Walker was effective and got the calls, sinking eight free throws. He also sank three jumpers, which is an encouraging sign. He played solid defense, tying the ball up once, getting a charge, and getting a steal. He did have a sloppy stretch in the second half where he caused an offensive foul and followed that up with a travel, but overall, he played a consistent game. This back-to-back stretch is going to be a challenge for him and he needs to conserve his energy.
Oriakhi certainly responded from being benched with a monster game. Sure it was against a smaller and less skilled team, but his energy was evident on the court. One of his problems is that he is getting to the spot under the basket but isn’t backing up and moving his man backwards. He did that today and the ball found him. Offensively, he had a nice tip-in, an offensive board and dunk, and three lay ups. One of his flaws is his passing, having a sloppy pass while in-bounding the ball. Other then that his day was encouraging, but needs to keep the momentum going against comparable talent.
Lamb was going into this game with a gimpy knee, but didn’t show signs that it was slowing him down. He made the play of the game with a one-handed tip in on a bad pass from Napier. It is on those types of plays that give glimpses of what type of player he can become. Most of his damage was in the first half where he had a three pointer, a jumper, his one-handed tip-in, a dunk, and a lay-up. He struggled against the pressure in the second half and had some sloppy plays that led to turnovers, but it was a good sign for this team to have him contribute more offensively.
Napier had a low key first half with a steal and a nice assist as his only contributions. In the second half, he struggled to figure out the pressure and had three costly turnovers. He needs to do a better job of handling the basketball and he picks his dribble up too much. He did show his speed and got some easy lay-ups in transition and he didn’t take any crazy three pointers that he used to take. Beverly didn’t contribute much other then a steal in the second half and help deal with the pressure as another ball handler.
Smith did a much better job of rebounding the basketball, pulling down six boards and playing solid defense. He did have an offensive foul, cause two turnovers, and have a lane violation. He has been a mystery all year. He has a great combination of size and athleticism, has a nice dribble and sweet stroke, but can’t do it in game time situations. Coombs-McDaniel had an early turnover but followed that up with two lay-ups and two boards. In the second half, he had a steal, a jumper, a lay-up, and a three pointer. Other than a turnover in the second half, he had a great game.
Okwandu started out strong with a lay-up & 1, played good defense, and had a block before turning the ball over twice to end the half. He only had a 15-footer and a lay-up as his only contributions in the second half. He needs to help out rebounding department more then what he is. Giffey once again dribbled into a trouble, traveling, but did make both his free throws in garbage time. He hasn’t found out that his role is a spot up shooter and it is hurting his playing time. Plus, he isn’t giving this team anything in the rebounding department.
For a one-sided victory like this one, it doesn’t leave most UConn fans feeling like the team is back to form. They continued their sloppy play against the full court pressure and wasn’t effective in hitting threes, but at least they dominated the paint. They have a great opportunity against a beat up Georgetown team to put themselves in contention for a Big East title and fixing up their NCAA seeding that had gathered some rust down the stretch of the regular season. This could be a team that thrives in the tournament setting or it could just be a one-game anomaly. The good thing is that we won’t have to wait long to find out.