Sunday, December 4, 2011

Righting the Boat

Coming off a long lay-off with a disappointed performance in the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas, UConn looked to bounce back with a better performance. They got off to a sluggish start and let a solid Razorback team jump on them 8 to 1. But then Calhoun put in Boatright, who righted the ship and put on a display. The three guard line-up handled the full court press and ignited the offense with an aggressive transition game. If it wasn’t for the ten first half turnovers, UConn would’ve blown the doors open, but Arkansas battled back and closed the gap heading into halftime when Jeremy Lamb sat on the bench in foul trouble. The Huskies cleaned up their act with turnovers in the second half, but was thoroughly dominated on the boards, especially offensively 4 to 23. That’s giving your opponent 23 more looks at the basket. That’s a recipe for defeat, but this team kept the foot on the offensive pedal and powered their way to a victory on the backs of their talented back court.

Jeremy Lamb battled foul trouble for much of this game and didn’t have his usual impact. Calhoun also kept him on the bench longer than normal to send a message to his elite shooting guard. He only took 9 shots in his 26 minutes, but still made an impact, hitting two 3-pointers, three floaters, and a massive dunk. He also had 6 boards, which is a great sign. While the offense stuttered with him not in the game, it was a good test for this team to force the offense through someone else.

Napier had a superb overall performance. He was aggressive with the ball, took some nice open shots, found his teammates in transition, used the step back jumper, a pull-up off a ball fake, and most importantly took care of the ball. It’s been awhile since the assists doubled up the turnovers and when that is happening then this team is playing at a high level. He is also benifiting from Boatright handling the basketball and isn't seeing the double teams he has been.

Boatright put on a show. He was simply amazing. He had a steal-lay-up & 1, an ankle breaker that sent him to the foul line, hustle boards, a 3-pointer, coast-to-coast lay-up & 1, steal & foul, and a floater. Not too bad. He certainly causes mismatches and moves Napier to the two spot and Lamb to the three. That is a tough match-up for anyone, but puts a ton of pressure on frontcourt to rebound and they didn’t do that. Has there been another freshman that has had this type of impact on an already star laden team?

Oriakhi got the playing time, 28 minutes, but didn’t have the impact. He did have a lay-up & 1, played good help defense, a transition dunk, and a lay-up, but also didn’t go up strong with the ball, was rebounding with one hand, gave up a free throw rebound, had a goal tend, gave up a jump ball on a drive and a rebound, and didn’t have good position rebounding. Calhoun has to be happy with his attitude. He looked to have a chip on his shoulder. Drummond again had trouble staying out of foul trouble and played sporadically. He did have some monster blocks in the second half. It takes awhile for big men to find their way in the college game.

Olander pulled himself out of the rut he has been in with a stout performance. He had five jumpers, six rebounds and an offensive board & put back. He certainly expands the floor when he is out there. He is the only frontcourt player knocking down that fifteen-footer with consistency and that shot is the zone buster. With the three guard line-up, the wing position is taking the hit minutes wise. Smith played 6 and struggled to find a role with only a turnover on a sloppy drive and a bad pass as his only contributions. Daniels also had six minutes but took three shots in that time, getting a lay-up and a steal in that time. Giffey had a good outing. He had an aggressive lay-up, got to the line, and a hustle steal. It would be nice to see UConn’s three point champion take atleast one in a game though.

It is like playing whack-a-mole with this team. They figure out a way to stop the turnovers but give up a ton of offensive boards. They have yet to play that 40 minutes of stellar ball yet, but there are plenty of good things to take from this game. Boatright is legit and a credible third scorer this team desperately needs to take the pressure off Lamb and Napier to produce every game. Once they figure out how to get Oriakhi and Drummond on track then this team will be playing at the level everyone expected them to be playing at. But with the backcourt that this team has, this boat is steering in the right direction.


Matias Nino said...

Good recap. Each one of Olander's jumpers were daggers in this game.

David Gillett said...

He's been the pleasant surprise of the season. That fifteen footer is a dangerous weapon and can be a real zone buster. Hopefully he continues his play all year.