Sunday, February 5, 2012
This was exactly what this team needed. With Calhoun out with a major back injury, a four game losing streak, and their season teetering on the brink of an NIT abyss, UConn put together a solid, but still flawed, effort against a Seton Hall team, minus their best player and in the midst of their own losing streak. The offense still struggled for consistency and had a few draughts throughout the game, but unlike the other games, UConn didn’t rely on the three pointer to get their points and instead was aggressive and took it to the basket and was awarded with 26 trips to the line. They also got contributions from the bench in a multitude ways from rebounding, defense, to scoring. Their heads are now above water, but they still have a ton of work to get done from limiting their sloppy play, poor shooting decisions, and lack of consistent half court offense. But the one thing that no one can blame during the four game losing streak was the defense and they put together another gem.
The only thing you need to know about Jeremy Lamb’s game was that he got to the line 12 times. That shows an aggressiveness that is vital to his game. He needs to hover around that amount in every game. It takes the pressure off his jumper, stops droughts, and doesn’t allow his opponent to ride his shooting hand. He got off to fast start, knocking down a 3-pointer, had an aggressive runner, a hustle tie-up in the first half. In the second half he had a 3-pointer and a lay-up. It wasn’t a great shooting game for him but he rebounded the ball, got to the line, and played solid defense, which is some of the little things that he hasn't been doing.
Napier has been in an incredible funk as of late and finally got his first field goal in three games late in the first half on a pull-up. It was the only one that he had all game. He wasn’t forcing shots up, taking only six field goals, and he found a way to get to the line on dribble penetration. He also had one of his best rebounding games, 8. His sloppy ball handling once came into play again and needs to clear that up. He also got into a scrum with Jordan Theodore. He needs to get himself back on track, especially in the next couple of games against better talent.
Boatright had a great game. He had two steals that led to a dunk and a lay-up, he had a floater, a sweet change of direction shot in mid-air, a jumper, bank in, and a few sweet passes. The only knock on his game was his 4 turnovers, but without his offense this game would have been another frustrating loss. He has that scorers mentality and with Napier's slump, the offense needs to flow through him more.
Oriakhi had a great game and nearly got a double-double. He had a nice lay-up & 1, two spinning lay-ups, a slam, a hustle board, and a block. He still found a way to get a rebound swiped from his hands and had a horrible pass, but this was a much better Oriakhi. His problem is that he hasn't been able to string together good games. Drummond played a limited first half, getting two early fouls and he didn’t have much of an impact offensively other then a jumper and dunk & 1 which he surprisingly made the free throw, but it was his 7 blocks that had a Hasheem Thabeet like impact in the paint. Olander continues to search for that spark that he had earlier in this season. He did have 6 points, a block, a steal, went 2-2 from the line, and had three boards. But it is obvious that he isn't the same player out there.
Smith also had a good game and had back-to-back jumpers, a steal, and a deflection. He has become more and more reliable off the bench and is doing the little things that this team needs. Daniels played only three minutes but rebounded the ball better in that time which is a good sign. Giffey also played a limited role playing only 7 minutes and missed all his three point attempts. Enosch Wolf and Brendan Allen both got into the game but didn’t get into the stat book.
A win is a win and UConn desperately needed one, but they still need to clean some things up and need a much better showing against a potent Louisville team. The Cardinals will feed off those UConn turnovers and UConn’s offense isn’t potent enough right now to find themselves down by double digits. They’ll need to win the rebounding battle, continue their stellar defense, remain aggressive and hope that Napier and Lamb’s jumpers comes around. They desperately need some momentum heading into the final stretch of the regular season. But for the time being, smile kids.