Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Making Sausage

The one thing you don’t want to do to an underdog is to give them confidence early and UConn did just that. Wagner came out firing, sinking jumper after jumper and frustrated UConn with some tough nosed defense, which caused 19 turnovers. UConn righted the rebounding department which has plagued them throughout this young season, out rebounding Wagner by 18 rebounds, but they still gave up 11 offensive rebounds. With the turnovers and offensive rebounds, UConn gave Wagner 30 extra possessions, not good. They also had trouble with ball screens and gave up some wide open looks to Wagner’s guards which they took advantage of. It was only UConn’s superior backcourt that carried the Huskies to this victory and Lamb and Napier are holding this team on their shoulders until Oriakhi, Drummond, and Smith find their roles.

One role that is clearly defined is Jeremy Lamb’s, scorer. It was a horrible shooting night for him, going 5 for 15, but the great thing to take from this game was his ability to get to the line. If he can average 6 to 10 trips a game then he and his team can weather a poor shooting night. He also rebounded much better, which this team needs at the moment while the frontcourt gets settled. He is a born scorer and it is scary to see what he can do when he is on fire because a quiet night from him so far is dropping 20.

Unlike the Columbia game in which Lamb made the plays, it was Napier that took control of this game when the momentum was tilted in Wagner’s favor. He did have a hard time with the pressure that Wagner put on him and had 6 turnovers to only one assist. He needs to do a much better job of setting up the half court offense and ball control. Right now their best offense is in transition or on second chance points. Battling a cold, Shabazz looked winded with the up-tempo play and the lack of a backup is taking its toll on him.

Oriakhi was fighting a bad back but he did a better job on the boards, snagging 3 offensive and 6 defensive boards. He played sparingly in this game but was extremely effective in his 17 minutes which is an encouraging sign. He still hasn't dominated inferior talent and needs to find the Oriakhi that averaged a double-double in the NCAA Tournament. Drummond played with more energy and had a better outing. While his numbers won’t stand out, he was crashing the offensive boards and was a force down low. He did find himself in foul trouble early in the ballgame on some tick-tacky fouls. There is so much pressure on him to produce right away that he is forcing things.

Olander had another effective all around game. He was much better on the boards, sank some free throws, and made some nifty passes. He did have 4 turnovers and needs to take better care of the basketball. Daniels continued his superb play. He rebounded, hit the outside shot, knocked down free throws, and played stellar defense. He is already whittling away at Smith’s minutes. If he can continue his stellar defense and still provide an offensive threat then he should be getting 25 or more minutes a game. Smith couldn’t play defense without fouling and found himself on the bench for much of this game. He only had 1 rebound and 1 point. He needs to come out of his shell in the halfcourt sets and crash the boards. He is at his best when he is clawing for second chance points.

Coming off a knee injury, Giffey finally played his first game but continues to not understand his role. He is determined to become a dribble drive scorer instead of a spot up shooter. Why can't he realize that he is passing up one of his strengths in three point shooting for one of his weaknesses? He did win UConn's three point shooting contest. Allen came in for 2 minutes and Calhoun seems to be willing to let Lamb run the point to spell Napier, especially in tight games.

It was another game shouldered by Lamb and Napier. This team is feeling the loss of Boatright even though he hasn’t played a single minute all season. They only have three ball handlers and are susceptible to the full court press. Daniels and Drummond are slowly coming along, but this team needs another consistent double digit scorer. They are in flux now. Once the freshmen settle into their roles and Oriakhi and Smith get back on track, then they’ll show the domination that this team is capable of. That is why they play these early games. It’s a not pretty watching the sausage get made but it sure tastes good when all the ingredients are cooked to perfection.

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