They had Syracuse on the ropes, all the momentum was in UConn's favor, and the offense was clicking on all cylinders, but like they have done time and time again, they reverted back to the bad UConn. They began turning the ball over, missing free throws, taking horrible jumpers and three pointers instead of attacking the zone, and they couldn't make a play in that dreaded five minutes left period. They had shot the ball well from the perimeter in their first two games, but it came back to bite them because they thought that they were Ray Allen and took 23 three pointers in this game. Numbers do not lie and they need to understanding that it is one of their greatest weaknesses not their strength and they need to focus the majority of their offense on attacking the rim with their speed. It is a shame that they fell apart down the stretch, because they finally did a great job on the boards, out rebounding a good team, and they weren't getting rained upon by the three pointer, but it was a combination of poor shooting that led to poor defense, sending Syracuse to the line 23 times, that sank UConn's Big East title hopes.
Lamb was frustrated by the zone and only could muster 9 field goal attempts which is 10 less then what he should take. That put a ton of pressure on Napier and Boatright to make plays and they couldn't. He wasn't aggressive either, not getting to the line once, and taking 5 of his 9 field goals from deep. Much of this loss has to be pointed at Lamb for his disappearing act down the stretch. Other then two 3-pointers, a lay-up, and a pretty step back jumper, he was non-existent and UConn doesn't have the talent offensively to keep up with Syracuse when he isn't the focus of the offense.
With Lamb sleepwalking, Napier shouldered much of the offensive load, but his jumper was off. He went 5 of 17 from the field. Other then a pretty tear drop jumper and a lay-up & 1, his only other field goals were 3-pointers which he took way too many, 9. It is hard to blame Napier because the offense was solely dependant on him to produce and he tried. He just ran out of gas which was evident in two jumpers that missed everything. Boatright also struggled mightily. He missed all his outside shots from deep, going 0 of 5. He did have a nice floater, a lay-up & 1, and played good perimeter defense, but this team needed his speed to get into the zone but he instead settled for the outside shot.
Oriakhi had a bad tournament, getting into early foul trouble again and played only 17 minutes. He only had 3 rebounds and if he isn't getting rebounds, his offensive game follows suit. Drummond bounced back from his poor two previous games and had a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. He had a put-back, a slam, a sweet one-handed put-back slam, two tip-ins, and a reverse late in the ballgame. Olander had a solid outing and played a good chunk of this game with Oriakhi's foul trouble. He had two nice jumpers, hit the offensive glass, and passed the ball well. It was good to see him contributing again and should help his confidence.
Smith continued to search for his game. He struggled from the line, going 1 for 4, missed all his field goal attempts, only had two boards, and was benched after getting his shot blocked. This team needed him in the center of the zone and he couldn't muster the magic he had in his last match-up versus Syracuse. Giffey hit a 3-pointer, had a steal, but also had two costly turnovers. He needs to take better care of the basketball because his turnovers always seem to come at the worst possible time. Daniels played a minute but didn't do anything.
Sure they were playing with house money and this loss won't hurt their chances to get into the NCAA tournament, but they let three great opportunities slip through their fingers to put that stamp on their big dance ticket. Now they have to hold their breath and cross their fingers that their resume will be good enough to get in. The flaws are obvious and this team more than likely won't contend for the Championship, but they deserve a shot. Not only because who knows what will happen next year with the APR situation but this team is a fingernail away from contending. And like all season, it has been out of reach.