Saturday, November 12, 2011

Stepping Up

It wasn’t pretty. UConn wasn’t fluid in the half court offense, taking quick shots, clanking free throw shots, and letting a smaller front court keep up with them in the rebounding department. It was sheer better talent that brought UConn this win. Against better talent, UConn would’ve been blown out. It wasn’t that unexpected though. With most of the offense leaving with Walker, Napier and Lamb shouldered the load. The freshmen and some role players that needed to contribute had a hard time of finding points. With so much talent spread among every position, this performance is more of an anomaly rather then a forecast of what to come.

With much of the team lost in the offense, Lamb stepped up. He took hold of this team and carried them when Columbia was dropping threes. He was an effective 11 for 17 with some well timed three pointers, a highlight monster dunk & 1, and used his length to get into the passing lanes for steals. He still needs to get to the line more and not settle for jumpers as much as he has, but when you are dropping thirty points in the first game of the year it is hard to nit-pick.

Napier had a back and forth game. He demonstrated the ability of hitting the three pointer in transition when dribbling against a back peddling defender, sinking three this way. A major concern was his free throw shooting, making only half of his shots. With Boatright ineligible to play, Napier had to keep himself in the game and it might of limited his aggressiveness. The walk-on Allen played within himself and looked more concerned with not making a mistake rather than making a play. He only was on the court for four minutes.

Oriakhi is in a slump. This is the second game in which he struggled to make any impact in the game. He was rushing his hook shot and looks to be releasing his shots at a low release point rather then using his height and length to shoot over his defender. He missed all his free throw shots and only had five rebounds. This team desperately needs him to be consistent and he hasn’t, especially against inferior talent. Drummond also struggled but it is more forgivable since it was his first game of the season and he only played 12 minutes. It is still unbelievable that with Oriakhi and Drummond both struggling that Wolf only played one minute. He has shown some energy and spark in his limited minutes that warranted more of a look, but Calhoun is either sending him a message about practice or he just doesn’t trust him yet. Bailey also got into the game in the closing minutes.

Olander again showed that he is UConn’s best front court player so far this year. He is playing with more confidence, taking the 15-footer, had a big time put-back slam, ran hard and was rewarded with a lay-up, and showed some better rebounding and shot blocking. He disappeared down the stretch of the ball game but his overall body of work is encouraging. Smith looked like the Smith of old. He played great defense, rebounded well, and had a transition dunk, but he isn’t effective in the half court sets and is afraid to use his jumper. Like his fellow freshman Drummond, Daniels struggled to find his offense. His jumpers weren’t dropping and he had a couple of sloppy passes. He still showed the ability to hustle back for a block which he has done in every game this year.

Sure it wasn’t a blowout. In fact there were times when this game teetered on the brink of being uncomfortably close, even late in the game, but for a teaching moment, a game like this does more for finding out more about your team than any blow out could possibly do. With the talent that Drummond, Daniels, and Oriakhi possess, they will rarely have the games that they had today, especially all at once. The thing to take from this game is that Lamb made plays to seize momentum when it had turned, something a leader must do and that is a great sign. This team needed a leader and he stepped onto that podium and took the torch from Walker.

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