Sunday, February 12, 2012
It is hard to figure out why this team collapses in the final five minutes of halves. They’ve done it all season, against all kinds of talents, at home or away, and it reared its ugly head again, marring what had been a pretty good thirty minutes of basketball. UConn’s offense was much better, they attacked the rim, settled for threes only after the ball was penetrated, and made jump shots and free throws. They played well on defense too and credit Syracuse for knocking down three pointers from five feet and beyond the arch or banking them in. This should’ve been at least a confidence booster for this squad but instead it leaves this team shaking their head, pointing fingers, and wallowing in what has to be one of UConn’s worst weeks from news of losing next season’s post season to more than likely not getting into this one.
Lamb had a much better game. He was creating more plays while heading towards the basket, sinking floaters, had a dunk, and got to the line a bunch. He also found his range again, knocking down two 3-pointers. He does need to do better on the defensive end. He's getting hung up on screens, losing his man in transition, and not getting a hand up on a shooter, but overall it was a better showing and much needed, though he disappeared down the stretches of both halves. It needs to be noted that it was after Lamb’s last dunk, where he came up limping, that Syracuse made their monster run and buried UConn.
It wasn’t perfect for Napier, but it was improved. He at least found his jumper, sinking two 3-pointers and made a variety of plays in the lane. Like Lamb, he needs to be a better defender and wasn’t stopping the ball early in transition. His job is to get back on defense and protect the back end from easy transition points and he isn't doing that. Boatright had a great game and carried the offense early with three 3-pointers in the first half, but he also gave up some easy baskets on the other end to let Syracuse create runs. But without his performance, the game would’ve been over ten minutes in. While the three guard line-up is UConn's best, it hasn't gelled yet and time is running out.
Drummond was a beast and while it took him awhile to get going, once he did he was a force in the paint, outplaying Melo. He had three dunks, a jumper, a spinning lay-up, and multiple offensive rebounds. But once he twisted his ankle and was out for a bit so were UConn’s chances at winning this game, because it was obvious that he wasn’t the same when he came back and that momentum that they had quickly disappeared. Oriakhi had two early fouls and didn’t do much in the first half except a dunk. He couldn’t get anything going in the second either and had trouble blocking out and he rushed plays when he had the ball, creating sloppy low percentage shots at the rim. This team needed him badly with Drummond injured and he just couldn't make plays.
Olander looked much improved and had an off-balanced lay-up & 1, and had a sweet flying dunk & 1. He moved much better and rebounded the ball with some nice position block outs. He still needs to find that 15-footer, especially against the zone. Smith had a bad game. He did have a reverse, but then had two horrible passes, a travel and fouled a jump shooter on a pump fake. Giffey had a block but is missing his three pointers.
There seems to be a black cloud over this team. Where do you go from here? They played better, but it still led to a blowout. They certainly had a shot at this game, but unlike other games where it was UConn's self-inflicted wounds that caused the loss, credit goes to Syracuse for knocking down shot after shot. Sometimes it just isn’t your season. Teams that aren’t good three point shooting teams knock down sixty percent on them, big men who never had a jumper knock down four or five, and teams that aren’t known for rebounding crash the boards for second and third chance opportunities. It is frustrating and you have to feel bad for these kids, because they are playing hard and it just isn’t going their way. Hopefully some of these clouds part and a bit of sunshine can come out, because right now it just isn't looking good.