Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On the Brink

It was a rollercoaster of a game from what started out as a Villanova blowout, to a back and forth affair, then UConn had complete control of the game, to them blowing the lead and not sealing the game because of poor free throw shooting, and then in the closing seconds UConn did what they haven’t done all season, they made a play to win a game. Sure there were still signs that this team is far from putting their troubles behind them, from getting out rebounded again, to fouling too much on defense, to taking way too many 3-pointers, and to not making free throws, but it has been those final five minutes of ballgames that have plagued this team all season and they did what they had to do to pull out a victory.

It was Lamb’s night and he took control of this team and carried them to this victory. He started out settling for the outside shot and they weren’t falling, but then he decided to head towards the basket and his whole night turned around. He had the mid-ranged game working from the floater, to creating off the dribble, and to coming off screens. UConn fans were waiting for this performance from him and he finally took the reins of the offense. He did miss a crucial one-and-one late in the game that would’ve sealed the game but other then that he had his best game of his career. Hopefully this is the new and improved Lamb because this team can't have him revert.

Napier had a strange game. He didn’t start. They said that it was because of an injury, but with him playing 30 minutes, it seems more like a message to keep his chatter about the team in-house. He struggled from the field and had some costly turnovers for most of the night. But there he was sitting on the bench throughout most of the overtime and then he came in the closing minutes to hit an epic shot in the final seconds of the ballgame. He still needs to put together a better performance in the last five minutes of the ballgame though which was why Blaney sat him in overtime. Boatright had another poor shooting game, but contributed in key stretches. He also did a great job of taking care of the ball, only having 1 turnover, but it was his inability to play under control that got him into most of his troubles.

Oriakhi once again got into early foul trouble and found himself sitting on the bench. He struggled to rebound the basketball, only having 4 rebounds, but he found ways to get involved including a major put-back in the waning seconds of regulation. Drummond had a great rebounding performance with 11 and protected the rim with 4 blocks. He also did a good job to not foul on defense, ending the game without a foul. Olander had another rough game having only one rebound and making one shot. He also took two three pointers when he shouldn’t be shooting anything farther then 15 feet.

Smith had his best game all season. He was active throughout the night, rebounding the ball, hitting his jumpers, and playing solid defense. This is a great confidence boost for him. Daniels also did a good job, hitting a 3-pointer and playing with more conviction, but needs to contribute more in the rebounding department. It was a great sign to see the wings contribute in positive ways in this game and hopefully it continues moving forward.

While this game does little to cure all UConn’s ills, it showed a Husky team with a little heart and maybe a leader in Lamb who finally stepped up and made play after play, especially late in the ballgame. The defense needs to do a better job of not fouling, they need the front court to rebound the basketball better, and Napier needs to find a happy medium to where he gets his shot but also runs the offense through Lamb, because right now their chemistry has put this season on the brink. They need these two to figure it out because they both have the future of this team in their hands and right now it can go anywhere they decide it to.

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