Sunday, January 15, 2012
It was a total team effort. With a shortened bench, due to Boatright’s sudden suspension and Olander’s injuries, UConn leaned heavily on Giffey, Smith, and Daniels and they all chipped in, especially on the defensive end. They withstood an early and familiar charge from deep which kept Notre Dame in the game, but once that dried up in the second half, UConn’s front court dominance sealed the lanes and rejected shot after shot. UConn used a crisp offense that only had 10 turnovers and out rebounded Notre Dame by 12 to pull ahead and seize control of the game.
Lamb had a quiet morning. He missed all of his three pointers with some of them deeper then the NBA line and at the tail end of the shot clock. He did make a couple of deep jumpers, and had a steal then lay-up in the second half. He did a good job of cleaning up the glass on the weak side and played much better defense on the perimeter. It was good to see this team not suffer with a bad shooting game from Lamb.
Napier has become more of a vocal leader on the court and could be heard over the commenter to give him back the ball and reset the offense, which is a great sign. In the first half Napier had two back-to-back steals, two jumpers, and a lay-up in transition. He carried that over into the second half with an early 3-ball, a few nice assists, deflections, a lay-up, and continued to knock down free throws. It was an impressive performance considering that he had no one to back him up and went the whole way.
Oriakhi has finally arrived, carrying over his solid finish in the West Virginia game into this one. UConn made an effort to give him touches on the post and he produced with a turnaround fade shot, a 15-foot jumper, and made 5 of 8 from the line, but it was the activity in the rebounding department that was most impressive, snagging 7. This could be the turning point of his season. While Drummond didn’t have a rim shattering dunk, he had his fingerprints all over this game. He had several blocks that would have been easy lay-ups and was a man on the boards. His jumper was off this game but he had a sweet finger roll, a lucky turnaround jumper that banked in, a lay-up, an offensive rebound then jumper, and then had a dunk. Battling the heal contusion, Olander was visibly limping out there but gutted it out. He had a nice put-back dunk and made some free throws. It was the best overall showing from the frontcourt and hopefully it remains as impact-full moving forward.
The wings had a huge impact on this game and it started with Roscoe Smith who had three offensive rebounds in the second half that helped propel UConn’s run to take the lead for good. He also had an elbow jumper. Giffey had an offensive rebound & put back, a jumper off the curl, played some stellar defense, and knocked down an open three. He has been a reliable piece off the bench all year. Daniels made an athletic basket, shooting the ball while falling down, but still hasn't been able to get that magic he had during the beginning of the season.
It isn't molecular science. If they take care of the ball, out rebound their opponent, and play great defense, they are going to win. And finally it was all clicking and looked like a well oiled machine rather then some one learning how to drive a stick shift for the first time. They’ll now head back home with a lot of confidence and take on an improved Cincinnati team. Hopefully they can carry the momentum from this game into the comfy confines of Gampel, because the schedule down the stretch looks brutal.