Sunday, March 6, 2011
It was Déjà vu. This is a copy cat league and there was UConn with all the momentum with the game well in hand and Notre Dame went zone. From there UConn’s offense gasped for breath, clanking shots and watching their lead disappear. They did a solid job of defending and credit goes to Notre Dame for hitting an insane amount of shots from deep. It put a lot of pressure on Walker to keep pace and he did for much of the game, only stuttering down the stretch. This team’s wheels are falling off, losing the double-bye, the single bye, and now has a tough road to try to get to where they want to be. It doesn't look good and with no one other then Walker able to consistently give offense, this team has a mountain to climb.
Walker played a solid game, only coming up short in the closing minutes. He got off to a quick start and carried UConn’s offense efficiently and did a good job of not turning the ball over, but it wasn’t enough. The zone once again frustrated him and took away his greatest strength of getting to the rim. It must be frustrating to him to have most of his shots go down against the man-to-man, but once the zone appears, he is short rimming everything. Most of the shots he takes are identical, they just aren't dropping.
Oriakhi looked strong early on, but couldn’t sustain it. He isn’t putting a body on a defender and blocking out. That leads to smaller players sneaking around him to get a hand on the ball. Offensively, his hook that he had been shown effective was non-existent. He is the key to the zone. He should be getting an equal amount of offensive boards because he is able to get better position but he isn't. Okwandu gave the team a lift with a nice lay-up, hook shot, and some tough rebounding. It is a shame that he couldn’t have another year under his belt because he is finally hitting his stride as a player.
Lamb had a good first half, hitting a nice jumper, three pointer, and a beautiful dunk, but was a no show in the second half. He had a sloppy pass that led to a lay-up and missed all his shots down the stretch. There is no other freshman on the team that has this much pressure to provide offense. He is the key to UConn's success in the tournaments. If he can get going then they should be able to do some damage, but that hasn't been the case lately. Coombs-McDaniel had a tough game, missing all his jumpers besides a put-back. He should be effective against the zone with his mid-ranged game and rebounding skills, but isn’t. His two monster games are a distant memory now and this team needs him.
Napier played well. He showed solid defense, didn’t turn the ball over, and only took one bad shot. He has certainly been the most consistent of the freshmen. Beverly had a nice jumper early in the game and a rebound. He did have an offensive foul in a tough spot. Giffey got the start, but didn’t do much. He is a good defender and has a nice jump shot, but isn't confident in it yet to take open shots. Smith had a nice offensive rebound and put-back and rebounded well, but did give up a free throw board because he didn’t block out. He is going to be a really good player for UConn, but just can't find his offense right now other then offensive put-backs and those are rare.
UConn isn’t going into the Big East Tournament with any semblance of confidence. They’ve been in most of the games in these losses, but aren’t able to make the plays down the stretch. The zone is a major problem which is likely to be their final downfall. It has been a tough Big East season, losing way too many at home and losing a few games on the road that they should have won. There is no other team in the Big East that is playing so many freshmen as UConn is and while it might not pay off this year, it will down the road. The only shame is that they are wasting a great season by a super star, but then again they can pull off they unbelievable and make a run here to stun everyone and bookend this season.