Monday, November 21, 2011
For some odd reason it takes a whole half of a ball game for this team to get going. In the first fifteen minutes, the half court sets were stagnant, they weren’t closing out on the Coppin State's hot three point shooters, they were being out rebounded by another smaller squad, and they were being out worked for loose balls. It all added up to Coppin State jumping to a surprising 12 point lead. UConn kept up their aggressive play though and got into the bonus early, keeping them in the game until Coppin State’s shooters came back down to earth.. The Huskies came out in the second half and dominated, shooting 74 percent with most of those points coming from the paint. They finally controlled the boards and did a much better job with turnovers only having 9. But the story of this early season has been the backcourt combination of Napier and Lamb, with this game going down as one for the record books for a young and upcoming star.
For someone coming into the game that Calhoun didn’t even expect would play because of a sprained ankle, Jeremy Lamb put on a show. Most of his jumpers in the first half were short which was expected with a sore ankle. But later in the first half shots started to fall. He sank an eighteen footer, a 3-ball, and an off balance fade away jumper at the buzzer. He was more effective in the second half with two 3-balls, a lay-up, and a jumper. It was a typical Lamb night. He lets the game come to him and looks effortless in doing so. This type of performance under the circumstances that he played under shows a quiet leadership that his teammates can respect.
What more can you say about Napier’s day? He did a lot of everything from being aggressive with driving the ball into lanes, hitting three 3-balls, knocking down free throws, hustling for loose balls, snagging those pesky long rebounds among the trees and making nifty passes for easy points for his teammates. He was much better with ball security, having only 1 turnover to his 13 assists. Everyone thought that Napier would be ready to take over the point, but no one could’ve expected the high level of play he has shown so far, especially without a capable backup. This triple-double performance put him in elite company among UConn lore and he still has so much more potential which is scary.
Oriakhi was coming into this game with a solid performance in his rearview mirror, but he couldn’t get himself on track. He was practically a no show through the first half, throwing up a wild shot as his only offense. He finally hit a floater for his first points in the second half, but he needs to be much better. With his struggles it has added more pressure on the other frontcourt players. Oriakhi wasn’t the only one to struggle, Drummond can’t seem to get out of foul problems, picking up a quick two and found himself riding the pine for much of the first half. He did contribute on the offensive glass and made 2 out of 4 from the line. He needs to defend better without fouling though.
Olander continues to impress. It took him awhile to get going with a bad turnover, was hesitant to shoot the ball, and had a very serious chewing out by Calhoun for not rebounding well, but once the second half started, he was a beast. He had a lay-up, a 17-footer, and two slam dunks. The most impressive part of his game is in the rebounding department where he had 10. He is by far the best surprise of this young season. Giffey had a rough day. He went 1 for 5 from the line, only had 1 board, but he did have a dunk which is un-Giffey like.
The stats won’t show it but Daniels had a solid game. He had a big time slam in transition, hustled for a couple of steals, and continued to show his range. He has a great combination of defensive and offensive skills that this team hasn’t had in the wing position in a long time. It was good to see Roscoe Smith bounce back with a great performance. He started out slow, missing most of his early shots, but he then found his offense by attacking the glass. He had three lay-ups, two reverses, and a slam. Hopefully this will get him back on track and a bit more confidence in his play.
It was another slow start where they struggled to find their groove early on. Again the backcourt carried this team behind the sensational play of Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb who combined went for 18 for 31 for 47 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists, 4 blocks, and 4 steals. Not bad. They’re going to need more from the front court though and Drummond and Oriakhi need to be more effective and they weren’t. But with all the upsets going on in college basketball, this team is taking some pretty good punches and not backing down. These games which aren't pretty at times are exactly what these young players need and with the improved play of the wing position, this team is starting to gel. It always helps when you have a couple of Superstars on your team too.