Friday, March 16, 2012
Same Sad Song
It was the same old song for UConn. They had problems protecting the perimeter early on and were blitzed. The offense was stagnant and they settled for horrible three pointers. Even with their size advantage, UConn still got crushed on the boards. It wasn’t until they started attacking the rim that UConn stumbled back into the game. But as soon as they crawled back to six points and it looked like they had a chance, they reverted back to settling for terrible 3-pointers, started fouling on defense, and gave up offensive rebounds. There was nothing new here. UConn giving up big leads or falling behind by massive deficits and having to chip their way back and not quite getting there. This has been the issue with this team all year and they couldn’t find a way to fix it. They just never improved all year and that doesn't happen with a Calhoun coached team.
Lamb needed to be aggressive but instead took two horrible 3-pointers early on and played sloppy perimeter defense, letting Iowa State get on that huge run. It wasn’t until late in the first half that he finally attacked the rim and got to the line, hit a lay-up, knocked down a jumper off a screen, and hit a floater. It helped cut into Iowa States’ huge lead and he remained aggressive early in the second half, getting to the line twice and knocking down a floater, before reverting back to settling for the perimeter shot. He needs to know that he is best in the mid-ranged game, but he continues to take a majority of his shots from deep. Until he realizes his strengths and weaknesses, he will remain inconsistent.
Napier did all that he could, even yelling at his teammates in that Iowa State run, shouting, Stay Connected. He was aggressive throughout the game and wasn’t afraid to attack the rim. He hit a couple of 3-pointers in the first half, had a lay-up, got to the line but couldn’t consistently knock them down, and had a few nice passes. It was in the second half that he once again reverted back, like Lamb, and took terrible 3-pointers, had bad passes, and struggled to get others involved. This loss can’t be blamed on him or Boatright though. Ryan did have a rough start, getting his shot blocked, taking and missing two 3-pointers, before he made a lay-up and had a hustle steal. He had a nice stretch in the second half that gave the team a boost and brought them within six points. He had a nice jumper, a floater, and a 3-pointer. He showed flashes of potential and was more determined to probe the defense.
This game encapsulates Oriakhi’s season. He was yanked twice early with poor defense on White and had a turnover where he couldn't handle a pass. He did have a dunk and a block, but was a non-factor for much of this game and was no where on the boards where this team needed him the most. UConn also needed Drummond on the boards and he was a no show, coming down with only 3. He did have a put-back, and a block, but he missed some easy lay-ups and had a hard time dealing with White, but that his understandable with his hybrid style. What is not acceptable is their inability to out-rebound teams and continually to ball watch instead of jumping for the ball at its apex or blocking out.
It looked like Smith was going to have a good game, hitting an early 3-pointer, but then his game fell off a cliff. He over-helped & left wide open shooters, missed most of his shots, and once again threw the ball for a half court shot with time still left on the clock. He did have a nice put-back in the second half and played the best defense against White, but he didn't make enough positive plays to outweigh his negative ones. Olander got to the foul line, but didn’t have a single rebound. Giffey played well, hitting a jumper and got to the line, but he had a hard time defending without fouling.
This was a tough way to have the season end, because Iowa State plays a style that put their strengths against UConn’s weaknesses. They were able to pull UConn’s big men from underneath the basket and opened up lanes for drives and second chance points. They just couldn’t find a way to slow down Iowa State and they countered every UConn run with one of their own. The problem with this team is that they had Kemba Walker on the team last year and won the Championship. They are still young and had the bar set too high and they couldn’t handle that pressure. They just didn’t look happy out there and it came across in their play. It added up to poor chemistry and selfish play and that will get you beat every single time.