It looked like more of the same, UConn taking control of the game early with a good inside game and capitalizing off of turnovers, but Pittsburgh kept themselves within arms length by out-rebounding UConn and getting second and third looks at the basket. The Huskies got out to a good start in the second half and held a fifteen point lead before they once again reverted back to the bad team that has cost them so many games this season. They took bad shots that led to easy buckets and they had a hard time keeping the lanes clogged, letting Pittsburgh shoot an incredible percentage by giving them lay-up after lay-up. The fans in Gampel were biting their nails, having flashbacks to UConn's collapse against Providence, but this time things were different. They made plays and they were spread around. Smith, Oriakhi, and Boatright all contributed in that elusive five minutes left period of the ballgame and UConn was able to create enough of a cushion to pull off the much needed victory.
Lamb had a good game. He wasn't settling and had an aggressive mentality, getting to the free throw line six times. He started his night with a lay-up, had a sweet steal & dunk, was fouled on an offensive rebound, and hit a 3-pointer all in the first half. The second half didn't go as well for him. He had an early turnover, took a bad 3-pointer that led to a Panthers lay-up, had a lay-up, and took another bad shot that led to another Pittsburgh lay-up. If there is one aspect to his game that he needs to improve on it is his defense. He let his opponent get a first step on him numerous times and was a major cause for the Pittsburgh run in the second half.
Either it was Calhoun's return or something else, but Napier was a totally different player. He made more plays in this game then in the past two combined. He had a nice pass to Oriakhi, hit a 3-pointer off a screen, had a steal, had a turnover that led to Pittsburgh lay-up, made a sweet lay-up in transition, took a bad 3-pointer that led to a lay-up on the other end, but ended the half with a 3-pointer. He kept his foot on the gas in the second half. He had an early steal, a 3-pointer, hit a jumper, took a bad shot that led to a lay-up, hit a big time 3-pointer, gave up a horrible foul, snagged a steal & lay-up, and sank two big free throws. The best part of the game was when he dribbled the clock out and gave a geniune hug to Calhoun. That is what sports is all about. Boatright continues to find his game. He had two nice passes early, took a bad 3-pointer, had an awesome steal & dunk, a lay-up, and a sweet reverse. He played 32 minutes and didn't get to the line once though. With his ball handling and speed, he should have no problem probing the lane for contact.
Oriakhi had a quiet first half with only a lay-up and a pretty post and spin move. He made his biggest impact in the second half where he grabbed an early offensive rebound, had a nice block, another offensive rebound & put-back, and finished his half going 2 for 2 from the charity stripe. He still needs to rebound the ball better, ending with only 5, but it was a good overall performance from him. It wasn't a dunk-fest for Drummond, but he was able to effect the game in various ways. It didn't start out well getting trapped early in the post, not getting in position for a defensive board, and having a double dribble. After that he came alive. He had a nice reverse, two big time blocks, a nice slam, a slam & one which he missed, an offensive rebound where he took a terrible shot on the wing, and another offensive rebound, but it was his ability to hit 1 out of 2 from the line late that was as impressive as anything else in this game. He did have his worst rebounding game in some time, 5, and needs to do better of getting the ball high in the air.
There is no one more improved on this team right now then Smith. He has put together several stout games in a row and must be playing with a ton of confidence. In the first half, he had an offensive rebound put-back, a step back jumper on the wing (where did this come from?), and a pretty reverse. He stepped it up even more in the second half with an offensive rebound, a bad jumper that led to a Pittsburgh 3-pointer, a put-back, a dunk, another put-back, a lay-up, and a CHARGE! Amazing. I thought this team would never have a charge, but finally someone was rotating over to take that lane to the basket away that Jeff Adrien did with perfection. He also led the team in rebounds with 7. Olander only played two minutes and in that time hit a jumper and had three poor defensive possessions. Giffey passed up an open 3-pointer and played a bad defensive possession.
Who knows what will happen going forth, but the most important thing is that this team is playing better. It has been such a turmoltuous season with Boatright's absence, Calhoun's surgery, to the lack of chemistry or leadership, but they still control their own destiny. If they can get a few wins in a row, which they haven't been able to do in over a month, then they have a good chance to redeem what has been a lackluster regular season. The regular season is just about seeding. It all comes down to the tournament. If a one and done scenerio doesn't put a sense of urgency into this team then nothing will. It's time to clean off that slate, play together, and see where everything stands when the dust settles.