Sunday, January 1, 2012
Finally. UConn put together an all around solid performance. Sure it was against a short handed, young, and so far underachieving St. John’s team, but UConn has shown the ability to play down to their competition all year and they didn’t. They controlled their turnovers until the closing minutes of the game when they had total control, they played good perimeter defense, dominated the boards, and handled the zone with efficiency. The backcourt was fluid against the zone, penetrating and dishing to the big men who did a good job of finishing plays around the basket. The frontcourt controlled the paint, blocking numerous shots, rebounded well, and played aggressive. They also handled Harkless and held him to 5 for 11 shooting, 16 points, and 6 boards. Sure it wasn't perfect and they let St. John’s go on a late run because of some sloppy backcourt play, but with many of these games that should have been blowouts turn into nail biters, this game was in total control throughout.
Lamb was his usual self. He showed his sweet jumper knocking down 4 for 7 from deep with one at NBA depth and another turning into a four point play, but he disappeared down the stretch of the second half and that was when St. John’s made their run to cut the lead in half. He needs to know that this team needs the ball in his hands when teams make a run and the offense needs to run through him. Besides the missing 10 minutes, he was fantastic.
Napier was solid again. He made almost all his shots, going 5 of 6. He had 2 3-pointers, a nifty left handed lay-up, a line-drive jumper, and was aggressive getting to the line six times. The most impressive part was that he was doing it with limited practice because of a sprain in the top of his foot. He did struggle with the ball down the stretch and helped fuel St. John’s late run. He needs to do a better job of running this team with a lead and he tends to become passive.
Oriakhi had a great start, snagging two early boards. He is still rushing things around the basket but he did a have a nice lay-up, 17-footer, and turnaround jumper. While it isn’t a double-double, this was an effective outing and something to build on. Drummond got Uconn out of the gates in both halves with back-to-back dunks. He also had an offensive rebound & put-back, a jumper, transition lay-up, sweet assist, and made 2 of 3 from the line. He is becoming a consistent force down low for this team and is helping UConn create mini runs.
Olander had a nice first half. He had an offensive rebound & put-back, dunk, and was fouled twice, sinking 2 of 4. He did disappear in the second half and that might of had to do with the three guard line-up. Daniels more then picked up the slack. He was hustling for balls on the floor, had a big time block, had a dunk, sweet reverse, and had a steal & foul where he hit 2 of 2 from the line. Smith had an injured wrist and gutted out 4 minutes where he snagged two boards. The wing position did a really good job of creating all the little plays a team needs to pull out a Big East win.
Boatright had an interesting game. He had an early steal and slam, had a nifty pass, and pull-up before taking back-to-back bad three point shots where he got immediately benched. He then struggled through the second half, but once again when UConn’s lead was shrinking, here was “The Finisher” sinking a big time 3-pointer and sinking the hopes of a St. John’s comeback. He has become a consistent playmaker for this team. It was good to see Giffey take and make a couple of three pointers. This could be the confidence maker for the three point champ that will allow him to understand his role as the sharp shooter of the team. Enosch Wolf had a board, Benjamin Stewart had a foul, and Ethan Waite had a foul in the closing minutes of the game.
This was just what the doctor ordered. With the top of the Big East besides Syracuse in flux and each victory now will give some breathing room down the stretch, UConn can’t over look games like this and they took care of business. They’ll have to keep their offense and defense sharp because a very dangerous Seton Hall team is ready to make a statement and a win against UConn would do that. They still need to focus on turnovers while holding a lead, not becoming too passive, and find that killer instinct, but this young team is settling into a nice rotation and roles. While it isn't a finished product yet, they are on the eve of something special.