Friday, January 6, 2012
With finals and the holiday break, the December schedule only had five games with only three of those non-conference games before heading into Big East play. UConn started out the month playing Arkansas in the Big East/SEC challenge in which it looked to be Boatright’s coming out party. They then took on a Harvard team that had just cracked the top 25 and looked primed for the challenge but UConn dismantled them with big performances by Lamb and Drummond. They took that momentum into the Holy Cross game where they trounced them by 37 points behind Drummond’s 24 points. Looking like they had turned the corner and where going to be that dominant team everyone had imagined, they played a Fairfield team, pitting Olander brothers against one another. UConn once again let the lead slip away on poor perimeter defense, a theme all season, and barely hung on behind Napier’s 24 points and a Boatright three pointer. UConn then went on their first true road game down in Florida, leaving Calhoun in New England to serve out his three game suspension. It was a back and forth battle all game with UConn making the plays late and putting together their best defensive effort of the year. They finished off the month against the young St. John’s team pitting assistant coaches against one another. UConn proved to be a more polished team and offensively overpowered St. John’s to finish the month undefeated.
Jeremy Lamb remained his reliable self. He proved to be a dynamic jump shooter and reliable ball handler, but hasn’t taken the mantle of super star yet. While his cool and easy demeanor reminds one of Jerome Dyson, this team needs him to be more aggressive and a bit more feisty. He tends to settle too much for the outside shot. He still finds ways to score and has at times carried the team.
If anything December has proven that this team will go as far as Napier will take them. When he doubles his assists to turnovers, UConn is in total control of the game, but if he is erratic with this passes, teams find themselves crawling back into the game. Napier finished the month out strong and hopefully it carries over into the rest of Big East play.
The mystery of Oriakhi’s season continues. He lost his starting job to Drummond and is lacking confidence in every aspect of his game. There are flashes in games where it looks like he is back, but he still looks uncomfortable and uncertain when his back is to the basket. The most troubling is that he isn’t rebounding the ball and waits for it to come to him instead of going to it.
Drummond emerged in the month of December. He and Napier have started to build a rapport, scoring on numerous dunks. He has also become a shot blocker and helping out on those dribble drives into the lane. He still needs to show more on the post and continue to work on his free throws, which have steadily improved. He has by far been the most improved player this month.
Boatright continues to find his role and has put his stamp in each game, sometimes shutting the door on leads that looked to be squandered. His addition to the three guard lineup has added a dimension to this team that will create mismatches. His extended minutes have cut the playing time of Smith and Daniels.
Daniels didn’t have the impact that he displayed in November. He is still playing hard and isn’t shy on diving to the floor for loose balls or running hard on defense to swat a shot. He just hasn’t shown the offense in his limited minutes.
Smith had a rough month. He couldn’t find any consistency, but he has done a much better job of defending without fouling that had plagued him. He just isn’t that defensive force or rebounder that he was late in UConn’s historic run last year.
Giffey battled an injury and was the odd man out of the rotation. He was a bit gun shy when he got the ball and mainly spelled Lamb and Boatright.
Who would have thought that entering that at this point in the season that Tyler Olander would be the most consistent front court player on the team. He has shown the ability to knock down the important 15-foot jumper, has rebounded much better this year, is knocking down free throws, and is playing with a ton of confidence. He had a tough game against his older brother but other than that he has been solid.
Overall December was a good month and usually is for the Huskies. They will head into Big East play with some well defined roles and a relatively healthy team. They are entering the meat of their schedule and need to limit some of their self-inflicted wounds. Overall the talent on this squad is evident and while there are still flaws, they have a chance to make a statement in January. That’s if they continue to get better.