Friday, December 23, 2011

Fair Fight

Here we go again. UConn once again came out of the gates strong this time on the backs of Napier and Drummond. The Huskies scorched Fairfield with 22 fast break points and walked off the court at halftime with a 20 point lead. But it didn’t last long. With that lead, UConn didn’t push the tempo but settled for half court sets that played into Fairfield’s strength. The offense struggled to get points. The frontcourt which dominated in the first half became a non-factor in the second. The backcourt couldn't contain Fairfield’s perimeter offense, a problem this team has had all year. They were often caught behind screens when the ball switched sides. A hat tip must go out to Fairfield. The three pointer is the great equalizer and allows smaller and less athletic teams the chance to pull off these victories. Ask Kansas this when they lost to VCU. The only redeeming quality about this game though was that when all the momentum was in Fairfield’s direction, Lamb, Napier and Boatright took over and pulled out the victory.

Lamb had another slow start and found himself on the bench early on because of some poor defense. Calm and steady, he didn’t get into the scoring column until late in the first half on back-to-back 3-pointers. In the second half Lamb had a sweet turnaround fade, a 3-pointer, a baseline dunk, and a game sealing slam. His major problem is that when this team was struggling for consistency in the offensive sets, he doesn't demand the ball and take it to the basket. He only had 2 free throw attempts.

Napier was a man possessed and has taken his game to another level. He was on fire early, hitting a 3-pointer, a jumper, fouled on a 3-point attempt, had a fade away, a nice fake and lay-up, and a finger roll. The problem was that was all in the first half. He struggled to find his first half mojo and that coincided with Fairfield’s 3-point barrage. This team is so dependent on him to perform that when he doesn't have the offense flow through him, the team gets stagnant.

Oriakhi’s struggles continued. He played 21 minutes but only had 2 rebounds. He clanked two 15-foot jump shots and missed both his free throw attempts. At this point it is all about confidence for him. Luckily Drummond picked up the slack. He scored the first two points of the game on a put back, had two steals and dunks at half court, and beat the buzzer on another. He also is showing more and more in each game. He showed a step back jumper and is turning into this teams best rebounder. Hopefully he can continue this caliber of play into the Big East portion of the schedule.

Boatright had a quiet night other then the tail end of the game where he once again stepped up and made the play of the game on a 3-pointer that sealed the game shut. He was also money from the line, 5 of 6, and did a good job of distributing the ball, 5 assists. It is amazing that he hasn't been on this team all year and his teammates show so much trust in him.

The Olander brother duel had an effect on Tyler. He wasn’t his reliable self. He only had 2 boards, 2 points, and 2 turnovers in 16 minutes. He was forcing the issue and that isn’t his game. Smith had an early 3-pointer and had more rebounds than Oriakhi, 4, and in less minutes. He did struggle on perimeter defense and was caught a few times behind screens. Daniels only played 6 minutes, and did get to the line and had 2 boards.

It isn’t the way that this team wanted to head into Big East play. They should be dominating on the boards, they should be using their speed to beat the defense down court before they set up, and they should be more effective in the half court sets and they aren’t. The one thing this team lacks is consistency and the ability to sustain offense when they have a lead. Their flat offense often leads to the other side of the court and that has to frustrate Calhoun. The defense, especially the perimeter, just isn’t there yet. They’ll need to figure it out, because these mistakes will be magnified against the comparable talent and hostile environments. It doesn't get easier from here.

No comments: