Friday, December 9, 2011

Higher Learning

Calhoun knew that this game wasn’t going to be easy. He had a first hand view of Harvard in the Bahamas and came away impressed. So he sent a sharp message to his team to not take this team for lightly and right from the tip-off, UConn looked prepared. They finally put together a game where they kept the turnovers down and won the rebounding battle. This was by far the best game of the year for this young team and a good sign heading into the break. The front court held Keith Wright in check, using their length to bother anything near the rim and the back court played stellar perimeter defense, something that they had struggled with. It was a complete game and a great sign that this team is progressing.

Lamb was his usual smooth self. In the first half Lamb had a dunk, a deflection, and a deep 3-pointer, but wasn't forcing the issue. If he didn't have anything he passed the ball. He really heated up in the second half though, coming right out of the gates by hitting a 3-pointer, but then had two consecutive turnovers before hitting a floater, step back, and steal & 3-pointer. The impressive thing about Lamb's night was his ability to battle on the boards for some strong rebounds. The only knock was that he only got to the line 4 times and settled for jumpers instead of attacking the rim.

It wasn’t the greatest shooting night for Napier, but he seemed to make plays when his team needed them the most. He also wasn’t three happy and did a fantastic job of using the ball screens to get into the lane to make plays. He also had 7 assists to only 2 turnovers. That’s back-to-back games where he has doubled up the assists to turnovers, which is a great sign. He did take a few bad shots that Harvard quickly turned around for easy baskets. Overall it was a great game for him heading into the break. He is getting used to be more of a facilitator and that is making the halfcourt sets run more smoothly.

It was a tale of two halves for Oriakhi. In the first half he took weak shots and didn’t rebound with authority. Hopefully this turns his game around because this team needs his play badly. But in the second half, he came out with a strong dunk and was fouled on another. He also had a great put-back and followed that up with some tough rebounds. Drummond exerted himself throughout this game and put on a dunk-fest. He had four dunks, a hook shot, a put-back, and was a defensive force down low. He is slowly coming along and did a great job on Harvard’s best player, Keith Wright.

It seemed like Boatright was forcing things, but his aggressive play and energy gave UConn a spark that they desperately needed. He was effective off the dribble drive, hitting several jumpers. He also played great defense and made several hustle plays. Giffey only played 5 minutes but did have a rebound and took a jumper without hesitation, all good signs.

Olander continued his productive season and has turned into a reliable role player. He had several nice passes, a 3-pointer, a hook shot, and an elbow jumper, but the best part was his contributions on the boards. If he can be competitive on the glass then he'll remain at 20 to 25 minutes a game. Daniels played in the first half and did hit a 3-pointer from the corner, but with the three guard lineup, his minutes have diminished. Calhoun wanted to give Smith more playing time. He played well, but wasn’t scoring. He did play better defense without fouling, had a block and rebounded much better. All small victories for his confidence going forward.

It was good to see this team clean up the turnovers and use their length and strength to protect the glass against a solid Harvard team. UConn is still learning to play together, especially in the three guard lineup and each and every game they are looking smoother in the half court sets. They head into the final’s break with a bit of tailwind in their sails, putting together a solid performance in every aspect of the game and Calhoun has this team moving in the right direction. Sometimes it is hard to take a step back and see that this team is still very young and needs time to grow, but like all Calhoun teams it is the end product that truly matters.


Matias Nino said...

While there were some needless errors and causes for concern in the first half it was the retention of the second half lead through some great defense and careful+calculated offense that was the major accomplishment this game.

Harvard's defense deserves a lot of credit, and they were left scrambling from the depth of UConn's offensive arsenal. The sheer variety of in-rhythm 3 point options is a tremendous weapon. And Olander's jumper continues to be a confidence buster for opponents.

Great to see Oriakhi turn it around in the second half and utilize his signature putback. He's going to be critical late in big games when Drummond gets in foul trouble.

The only sad thing about this game is that we have to wait 9 days for the next one.

David Gillett said...

I agree. It wasn't flawless, but it was the best effort on the things that they were doing wrong, mainly turnovers and rebounds. Points won't be a problem for them, but it will be all the intangibles that they were doing great last year that they need to continue this year.