Wednesday, March 2, 2011
UConn continued their inconsistency throughout February. They struggled against Syracuse’s zone, was ran out of the building against St. John’s, coughed up the ball regularly against Louisville’s pressure, and handed Marquette a victory with poor play late in the game. They did out gun Seton Hall, blew away Providence, took out a very good Georgetown team, and dismantled a red hot Cincinnati squad, but they never put together a stretch of good games. The offense struggled against all types of zones and with no consistent post plays, the offense grounded to a halt and they relied heavily on jumpers to keep the offense going which isn't their strength. The backcourt struggled to handle the full court pressure and didn’t take care of the ball, allowing easy buckets on the other end of the court. When they were able to keep the game in the half court, they played great defense. They just couldn’t consistently keep teams there. It all added up to a mediocre month and saw their once elite status fall to the wayside.
Walker continued to search for his shot, struggling in most of the games in February. This team goes with Walker. He played well in their wins and he struggled mightily in their losses. His major issue has been ball handling in the closing minutes of games. He was attacking the double team or dribbling into traffic. It cost him the Marquette game and nearly showed itself in the Cincinnati game. He has done a great job of helping out on the boards and is still UConn’s best jumper if he can set his feet. He just takes way too many off-balanced shots. But for all his negative plays, no one wants to imagine what this team would be without him.
Oriakhi has struggled to find ways to attack the zone or find ways to contribute on the boards like he did in previous months. He had a few monster games in Georgetown and Marquette but was no shows in games against Providence and St. John’s. He isn’t getting any touches in the post or showing the fifteen footer. He has done a much better job from the line and is playing really good defense without fouling. This team desperately needs some offense from the frontcourt and they aren't getting it done.
Lamb was searching desperately for his shot throughout the month. He continued to take his shots but they just weren’t falling. He struggled with turnovers too, with many coming from sloppy ball handling. Another problem was that he wasn’t getting to the line, which helps a struggling shooter find his rhythm. He did find his shot in the last game of the year against Cincinnati, hitting three 3-balls. Hopefully that game can get him back to the form he had in January.
Napier also struggled in February. He did hit a three pointer in 5 out of the 8 games in the month but he wasn’t able to take care of the ball. The pressure defense caused him to rush things and he dribbled into trouble. He needs to learn when and where to use his blazing speed. He also struggled to get back on defense and caused numerous lay-ups on missed shots with the defense getting behind him. He still one of UConn's best pieces off the bench but needs to learn when to take shots.
Smith desperately searched for his game. He couldn’t find his outside shot having only three games out of eight that he was able to hit a 3-ball. By the end of the month, Roscoe was able to get action on the boards, where this team needs him to crash the glass with effectiveness. He is still a solid defender, has the length to make a difference on the boards, and is UConn's best free throw shooter, he just has problems showing that in games.
Okwandu was one of the most consistent role players on the team. He rebounded well, showed a few post moves and blocked a ton of shots. The only problem was his inability to stay out of foul trouble and his passing, but this team is getting a solid contribution out of him.
Beverly struggled with turnovers, having five turnovers in the eight games this month. He gave the team solid defense and an extra ball handler against pressure defense but his lack of offense was a liability to the team.
Olander played sparingly throughout the month. He had a ton of turnovers on sloppy passes and was getting beat on the boards because of his size. He did have a good game against Georgetown but for the most part he plays in only a few possessions a game.
Giffey hit a three pointer in three of the eight games, but continues to search for his offense. He plays solid defense but doesn’t get rebounds, dribbles into trouble, and makes lazy passes. He needs to take open jumpers and not dribble the ball for difficult shots.
Coombs-McDaniel had a breakout game against Providence and Georgetown but couldn’t maintain it throughout the rest of the month. He was able to get to the rim for easy buckets and rebounded well. He was also able to get some elusive outside jumpers to fall too. He just couldn't sustain that type of contribution into other games.
It wasn’t the best month for UConn. They freshmen need to get going again. This team desperately needs Napier, Lamb, and Smith to find their rhythm again and this team needs to hit jumpers and take care of the ball. If they can do that, then they can compete with anyone in the country. While this month has taken them out of contention for the double-bye in the Big East, they still have a chance to finish strong and get themselves a relatively high seed in the NCAA tournament. They have a Hall of Fame coach, an NBA caliber guard, a sizeable front court, and talented freshmen. If they can put things together down the stretch, then this can be a dangerous team come tournament time.