It was such a horrible first half that Jim Calhoun didn’t even bother to watch the last play, walking towards the locker room as his team had their final possession. They couldn’t figure out Maine’s zone defense, turned the ball over in bunches, couldn’t secure rebounds, and were out worked on both ends of the court in the first half. The second half started off just as bad as the first with Jeremy lamb out of position and Calhoun called one of the quickest timeouts in the history of UConn basketball, 5 seconds into the second half. To UConn’s credit, they righted the ship and dominated the foul plagued Maine’s front court. The bigs came alive and just in time with a depleted UConn backcourt that did little to thwart the 1-2-2 zone.
Jeremy Lamb had an off night. He was missing the entire rim on jumpers that normally would sink in. To his benefit, Calhoun had him playing out of position, often running point and not to his strength of coming off the screens. The good thing is that even with having a bad shooting game, he still dropped 16 points, which is the sign of a great scorer and he did it with only with 16 attempts, which shows that he isn't forcing things. Defensively, Lamb was able to use his length to get into the passing lanes and get some easy scores. The good sign was that he was active and not frustrated with being pulled, yelled at, and not having a normal Lamb performance.
Napier also had a tough night. He was put under at the dentist and then gutted out a rough performance in which he tweaked his knee. When he was playing, he struggled against the zone. He’s going to see a lot of it this year and he’ll need to be more effective in getting into the teeth of the zone and dish to the bigs. Hopefully his knee is okay. While Allen started out the year playing a good chunk of minutes, he was relegated to only two in this game. Calhoun felt more comfortable in playing with no point guards rather than putting Allen in, which doesn’t bode well for him.
Oriakhi had his best game of the season and did most of his damage in the second half. He was much better on the boards, and got much of his points around the basket instead of settling for 15-footers. He needs to build on his solid play and be more consistent which is the one major knock on his game. Drummond was a beast. He dominated the paint area, blocking shots into the second row and getting a majority of his points on put-backs, snagging 11 offensive boards. It isn’t a mystery that he struggles at the line but 1 for 8 isn’t going to cut it. Wolf once again got into the game in garbage time, but did get a rebound and a block in that short amount of time. He's made plays in the limited time he gets. It must be what happens in practice that has relegated him to this role.
Other then Napier and Lamb, DeAndre Daniels has been the most consistent player for UConn and his hard work was rewarded with a start. While he didn’t have a great shooting performance, he did have 15 points and 7 boards. He needs to diversify his offense though, because he took way too many threes, 8. But without Daniels, this team would be stuttering offensively. Roscoe Smith is in a rut. He can’t defend without fouling, only played 12 minutes, and is thinking way too much when the ball is in his hands. He needs to concentrate on the small things, rebound, defend, and be aggressive without fouling, something easier said then done. Giffey got a bit more playing time, but still wound up dribbling into a walk and was benched right away. He did settle down and hit a three pointer, which is a great sign. He needs to be this team’s Rashad Anderson. Benjamin Stewart and Kyle Bailey also got into the game in the closing minutes.
Hopefully the UConn team that came out in the second half is the one that will stick around, but with the point guard position in flux and players playing out of position, it is work in progress. The half court offense is still stagnant and the turnovers are concerning, but the freshmen are gaining confidence and effectiveness and the rebounding is becoming a strength. They have a tough stretch coming up with five games in ten days and need to make sure that they don’t wear themselves down. There are still some major concerns, turnovers and lack of backcourt depth, but they are improving each game and that is what is a great sign.