Sunday, January 22, 2012
It doesn’t look good. The offense is relying on two players, Napier and Lamb, to get everything done and without anyone to back them up because of scholarship losses and Boatright’s ongoing NCAA investigation, they are getting fatigued and settling for some poor percentage plays for a majority of their attempts. The lack of frontcourt play was evident again and unless they are getting plays off of offensive rebounds or in transition, they are just screen setters. It all adds up to an other abysmal performance and must have Calhoun shaking his head because he has the talent on this team to make it to another Final Four, but they just aren’t producing.
Lamb had a slow start, missing on two jumpers before getting a dunk. Other than a 3-pointer and two free throws, he struggled to find any offense in the first half. He came alive in the second half, mostly because he was forced to due to no other person besides Napier willing to take shots. He had a floater, a runner, a jumper, got to the line, had a lay-up and nailed a 3-pointer. He had a hard time getting free again on screens but found a way to use isolation plays to take his man off the dribble. It was good that he broke out of his slump and found some much needed offense to make this came at least competitive.
Napier once again had the pressure of the entire offense on his shoulders for much of this game and he still produced. He did a much better job of looking down court when he got the ball and found two easy lay-ups that way. While at times you shake your head at some of those three pointers he takes early in the shot clock, but there aren’t any better shots, because of lack of any offense from anyone else. And like the end of the Cincinnati game, Napier almost brought UConn back and steal a game they had no right to be in. Another good sign was his ability to handle the ball better, but it wasn’t enough.
There is no one answer to why Oriakhi is having the season that he is. He barely catches the ball cleanly either on rebounds or in the post and several times had a rebound to only have it bounce in his hands to get swiped at. His only positive plays were getting to the line and a turnaround jumper. It got so bad for him that he even gave up a free throw rebound and fouled out. Drummond wasn’t much better. He had a nice lay-up and offensive rebound and dunk, but was a major non-factor down the stretch other than a put-back. Olander had a nice pass in the first half and that was about it. It has been quite awhile since he has had a major impact in a game. The lack of any consistency from these two players are putting this team in precarious situations that they just don’t have the fire power to get out of.
Giffey got the start. He played solid defensively, made some hustle plays, and hit a transition 3-pointer. He has become the most reliable player on the wing position. Smith missed a easy lay-up and gave up a free throw rebound. Daniels had an offensive rebound and was tied up. That was about it from this group and that isn’t enough. They need to help out more by either working hard on the boards, working harder on the mid-ranged jumpers, or pick and rolls. Whatever they are doing now isn’t working.
This team is at a crossroads. They can’t rely on Lamb and Napier to be the only offense. That isn’t going to work and hasn’t. They have only a couple of signature wins and now are mired in the middle of the pack in the Big East with a brutal stretch ahead of them. They dug themselves a hole and need to steal a few road wins just to remain viable for a good seed and unfortunately missing the tournament isn’t out of the question if they continue this play. The past few losses could be tossed up to be downed by hot shooting from outside, but not in this game. They were just outplayed and that shouldn’t have happened. It doesn’t look good, but then again it didn’t last year around this time of year.