Friday, November 30, 2012

Half Built

It certainly wasn’t pretty.  UConn used its defense to create turnovers to stretch out leads throughout the game, only to then let up on the intensity and let the Wildcats back into the game.  Their hot shooting from the arc in their last outing went frigid in this game, shooting an arctic 7.1%.  With little to nothing coming from the deep, UConn relied on getting to the line, 2nd chance points, and points off of turnovers for their offense.  The half court offense struggled and they took early shots or passed into trouble.  There was no inside-out game, little to none  effort to rotate the defense, or dribble and pitch out.  It was mostly one to two passes and a shot.  The defense was the best weapon for the Huskies, but that also was inconsistent.  They had 18 points off of turnovers, but they also gave up way too many easy plays around the basket because the help was slow in getting into position.  They did enough to win this game, but the half court offense and front court remain major concerns and this game did little to alleviate that.

The only thing you need to know about Napier’s night is that he didn’t even attempt a free throw.  He wasn’t aggressive, took only 9 shots, had only 3 assists, and was a non-factor for long stretches of this game. His slow starts have now become a theme rather than an anomaly.  He has way too much talent for these kind of performances.  Again the majority of the offense had to flow through Boatright and he delivered.  He remained aggressive and was rewarded with 11 trips to the charity stripe and he also improved on his turnovers, only having one this game.    It was one of his better all around games of this season.  Omar Calhoun had an excellent night and made an instant impact on the game with energy on the boards, playing good defense, getting to the line, and making plays around the rim.  He is still turning the ball over way too much, but he’s improving each and every game.  It was good to see him more assertive, especially late in the second half where he usually disappears.

DeAndre Daniels is the unsung hero of this game.  He did a great job on the boards, 10 rebounds, had a block, 2 steals, and got to the line.  His impact was evident when he got his second foul in the first half and was on the bench, New Hampshire instantly went on a run.  He makes plays when he is around the paint by either getting second chance points, blocking shots, or just creating havoc.  Olander again struggled to play defense without fouling and only played 16 minutes.  He was having a pretty good game offensively, hitting a 15-footer and some shots around the rim, but couldn’t put together long stretches of plays without having to go to the bench because of fouls.  Some of the foul calls against him are inconsistent but he puts himself in bad positions to get those calls.

Giffey was coming off a career game versus Stony Brook but he couldn’t carry it over.  He didn’t get to the line at all or find ways to contribute on the boards.  His shots caught a lot of iron and only finished with 2 points and 3 boards.  The good sign was that he wasn't turning down open jumpers. Wolf did a good job.  He outplayed Olander in his comparative minutes of play by snagging 6 boards,  dishing 2 assists, and finishing plays around the rim.  Nolan got some playing time and was very active on the glass which is a good sign, but he struggled to get the ball through the basket, missing all of his free throw and shot attempts.  The bench was very average and inconsistent.  One of them shows signs of life but just can’t put back-to-back solid performances or carry any momentum forward.  It leaves Ollie to search for the right combinations throughout the game.

Its amazing that they got virtually nothing out of Napier and they still never relinquished the lead.  They gritted out another tough fought win, bending but not breaking.  Omar, Wolf, Daniels all did a good job on the boards and they need to build on that, but winning the rebounding battle by one is more of a tie than a win, but at least it's an improvement.  Their half court sets need major polishing and they rush things instead of moving the ball to make the defense work more.  Ollie has his team playing hard though and showing improvement.  He has limited materials to work with, but he's building something and that's obvious.  Hopefully it gets built before the end of the season.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kevin Ollie: Pass The V

Kemba Walker Shoe Collection

Louisville Heads To ACC

Monday, November 26, 2012


UConn came out of the gates half asleep from their Thanksgiving meal.  They struggled getting good shots, getting into the lanes, and when shots were taken, they were by their big men and nothing was dropping.  With R.J. Evans and Tolksdorf out for this game, UConn had a very short bench and played hesitant on both ends of the court in the first half as if they were afraid of getting into any foul trouble.  Stony Brook smelled blood and took an early lead on easy and wide open buckets. UConn trailed at the end of the half and all the momentum was in Stony Brook's sails, but then UConn put on a 3-point barrage unseen in these parts in some time.  The once tight rim opened up and they hit eight 3-pointers in a row to pull away from a pesky Stony Brook squad and sealed the game late from the line.  It was an amazing display of shooting from a team struggling for an identity in their half court sets.

Napier’s disappearing act in the first half continued in this game.  He is so cautious about fouling that he doesn’t even try to attack the defense and it causes an enormous amount of pressure for others to contribute.   He did do a great job early on of creating steals and converting on them, but this team needs more early from him.  They can’t have the mentality that they can just turn up the intensity in the second half, because they are falling behind in each of these ballgames.  His outside shot that had fallen off a bit in the last few games, came back in a huge way.  He sank three 3-pointers and was clutch down the stretch at the line, sinking 5 free throws, but he needs to find ways to contribute more in the first half or this team will struggle in Big East play.

Boatright felt the pressure to make plays in the first half and might have forced the issue too much, turning the ball over a couple of times, but his baseline jumper and 3-pointer kept them in the game when nothing seemed to work.  His up and down game continued with three sloppy turnovers, a horrible foul on a 3-point attempt, and a lazy pass that led to a dunk, but he still provided a sweet step back jumper and hit most of his free throws, but it wasn’t his best performance.  He's been in a little bit of a rut in the last two games and needs play a more contained game.  He's turning the ball over way too much on unforced errors and he needs to simplify his game.

What a game Niels Giffey had.  He got to the line early, which is important for him to see the ball go through the rim a few times.  He then hit a pull-up jumper, three 3-pointers, a block, and did an incredible job on the boards.  When things were spiraling out of control for UConn in the first half, Giffey steadied the ship by making play after play.  This is what this team needs out of him each night, a little scoring, a little rebounding, and solid defense.  This could be a major building block for his progression heading forward.  Wolf got in and quickly shot an airball.  He struggled to defend without fouling and he didn’t even get a rebound in his brief five minutes of play.  His inconsistent play continues.

Omar Calhoun started out slow but turned on the afterburners in the second half, sinking three 3-pointers, a baseline pull-up, and getting a steal, but he struggled to control the basketball and had way too many turnovers, 6. That has been his Achilles' heel this year and he needs to sure up that aspect of his game. Daniels did a much better job in this game and was active in the paint, getting 6 boards and hitting some tough shots in traffic.  He needed a bounce back performance like this in the worst way and it should carry over into the next one.  Olander played much better.  He had several jumpers, a hook shot and rebounded much better. If anyone on the team needed a good performance it was Olander.  Nolan created a nice charge, grabbed 2 boards, and made a hustle tip to keep the ball alive. Not bad in his 10 minutes.

Though this was a great win for UConn, it might not bode well if they continue to rely on the 3-point shot.  They probably won’t have a shooting performance like this one for the rest of the season, possibly not the rest of the next 5 seasons.  Their identity should be in the dribble penetration, relentless on the ball pressure, and a great free throw shooting team that gets there more than their opponents.   They shouldn’t shy away from the outside shot, but they need to use it sparingly, not one out of every two or three shots.  With that all said, it was a fantastic win and good to see them make jumpers that they struggled to make in the last few games.  Ollie has his team playing hard, especially on defense, and even with their short bench, they outworked a good Stony Brook team.  These are all positive signs heading forward.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Alumni Profile: Jeremy Lamb

Looking Back:  Jeremy Lamb had a tough time through UConn’s 2011-2012 season.  That’s not saying that he wasn’t good.  It was just that he wasn’t consistent.  There was so much potential that he displayed in the Huskies Championship year that it looked like Lamb was ready to make that transition into the elite status, but the pressure to perform game after game wore on him and he struggled to carry his team to victories late in ballgames.  He was drafted by the Rockets early in the first round but was soon traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Good:  Lamb is smooth in everything he does.  His jumper is effortless and his shot has a soft touch when it hits the rim.  He also possesses a fantastic runner that few his age have and he uses it effectively.  He is great with ball screens and uses them to free up his shooting hand.  He also has a quick release and uses his lankiness to avoid defender’s outstretched arms.

The Bad: He is on the frail side and needs to bulk up in order to endure the rigors of the NBA.  He will be tested on the block and isolated.  He is also a streaky shooter and he settles too much for the easy shot instead of working harder for an easier look.  The major knack that came out of the NBA draft process was his demeanor.  He has a lackadaisical approach to his game that some take for not caring or lack of effort.  He has to do a better job of distilling those rumors.

Looking Ahead:  Lamb will get his opportunities in Oklahoma and needs to make the most of them.  If he can have a consistent jumper, do the little things like rebounding and hustle on defense, then he should have a solid rookie season, but his expectations aren’t that high, especially with such a core nucleus of the Thunder.  He’ll definitely have the opportunity to learn from one of the most talented backcourt tandems in the league.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Glaring Warts

This was bound to happen.  UConn had flirted with defeat in the last two games and did so again, but couldn’t finish off a final comeback.  They dug themselves a huge hole and couldn't climb out of it, giving up way too many open looks on the perimeter and fouling too much on defense which New Mexico didn’t miss, hitting an astounding 21 of 21.   UConn had problems converting scoring opportunities in the paint, getting in transition,  and getting to the line like they had in the previous two games.  New Mexico converted on their open looks and took advantage of a fatigued and sloppy UConn defense.  UConn wasn’t going to go out without a fight though and Napier,  Boatright, and Daniels hit big shots to get within one, but that was as far as they would get.  The Lobos snatched control back by sinking clutch shots while UConn settled for threes down the stretch instead of having an attacking mentality.  The game was won at the line with UConn only getting 7 points to New Mexico's 21.

Napier had a slow start to the game, displaying lazy defense, taking a bad 3-pointer, and having a bad pass, but he quickly made up for it by having a nice dish, an offensive rebound, a lay-up, a 3-pointer, and a jumper.   He was the only offense in much of the second half hitting several jumpers, a lay-up, a bank shot, getting a hustle steal, and 3-pointers.  He had a solid game and carried much of UConn’s offense because Boatright struggled mightily.  Boatright’s night started off on a bad note, having an early turnover.  He did have a lay-up and a jumper in the first half, but he struggled on defense and put undue pressure on the big men to help out.  His sloppy play carried over into the second half where he had an unforced turnover, missed a wide open Wolf for an easy score, and had a bad foul.  He finished the game on a strong note, hitting a jumper, a 3-pointer, and was fouled on a 3-pointer, hitting all three, but his first half and much of the second half disappearing act caused UConn's offense to sputter.

Calhoun had an up and down game.  He was fouled on a drive, had a 3-pointer, a jumper, a tie-up, and a lay-up but then had a  couple of bad passes, a travel, and disappeared down the stretch again. He needs to be a part of this offense in clutch time.  There just aren't enough pieces on this team to carry the offensive load without his contribution.  Daniels had an early block, a pick & roll lay-up, a steal, a tip-in,  another lay-up, and an offensive rebound in the first half, but was in foul trouble for much of the game.  He didn’t have the same impact on the game in the second half, besides a clutch three late.  He needed to hold his own on the boards and only had 5 rebounds which isn't going to cut it.  Olander had a horrible game and he desperately needs to get back on track.  He struggled to create space, block out, or play defense without fouling.  He needs to play more in control and simplify his game.  One dribble and a shot and keep his arms from reaching on defense, which is one of his biggest problems.  The only stat you need to know about Olander's night is 0 rebounds.

The bench was flat out awful besides Wolf, who hit a nice jumper and a jump hook, but Giffey, Evens, and Nolan all struggled to make any meaningful impact on the game.  Evans did have a steal and some rebounds, but couldn’t get those lay-ups that he was able to get in every other game.  Giffey couldn’t find the basket at all, missing open jumpers or tapping the ball around on rebounds though he did have 5.  Nolan looked out of place in the half court sets but did play solid minutes without fouling.

Name your excuse: fatigue, poor defense, bad shot selection, or a clutch shooting New Mexico team.  UConn didn’t play UConn basketball, pure and simple.  The help defense was late and the guards played too lackadaisical on the perimeter, leaving their man for wide open shots or dribble drives.  On the offensive end, UConn couldn’t get on the fast break, the driving lanes weren’t there and UConn dribbled into trouble.  This team has some glaring warts from a bench with limited skills sets, and poor front court play, but they’ve been in every single game with a chance to win it in the last three minutes, which is all you can ask from this team this year.  They need to take this loss, get some much needed rest, and continue to work hard on getting better, because they don’t need to play the NCAA beauty contest to get a good seed this year, they just need to win their conference games.  So tip your cap to New Mexico and move on.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Will To Win

UConn was playing in the warm weather of the Virgin Islands but it didn’t help their ice cold shooting for much of this game versus a very talented and competitive Quinnipiac team.  Jumper after jumper clanked off iron for UConn, shooting a paltry 25% from deep.   It was an entertaining, back and forth, affair with UConn scoring much of their points at the line, hitting a spectacular 39 of 45, and Quinnipiac doing everything right from offensive boards, knocking down shot after shot, to getting to the line themselves 35 times.  With the game in peril and UConn down 10 late in the second half, Napier and Boatright took over and found driving lanes, forcing the issue.  They scratched and clawed their way back to tie the game up and send it to overtime, but Quinnipiac was ready to return the favor, sinking two 3-pointers in the closing seconds of the first overtime to give UConn a taste of their own medicine.  In the end, Quinnipiac’s magic wore out and Napier, Boatright, and Calhoun all made plays in the 2nd overtime to pull off the victory.

Napier looked aggressive early on, getting fouled in transition and hitting a spinning lay-up, but then reverted back to the Napier of old and started jacking up outside shots that weren’t dropping.  In the second half, he knocked down an early jumper but grew increasingly frustrated with his poor shooting.  As the game began to tilt in Quinnipiac’s direction, Napier started playing more north and south and was rewarded with three lay-ups and a 3-pointer.  He was clutch down the stretch, sinking free throw after free throw to hold on to UConn’s advantage in the first overtime and sank a dagger 3-pointer in the second overtime.  It was a rollercoaster of a game for him and he is still searching for type of consistency.

Boatright’s night mirrored Napier’s.  His jumper was non-existent and he made some bad decisions in the first half.  In the second half, he was more aggressive, getting to the line on four separate occasions.  In the first overtime, he continued to find ways to get to the line and also made a pretty spinning lay-up.  He finished the game with a turnover and a jumper in the second overtime period.  Like Napier, his night was a struggle but he kept fighting and was able to pull off the victory through sheer grit.  Calhoun had an up and down game as well.  He had a quiet first half with an early jumper and got to the line but did much of his damage early in the second period.  He hit two 3-pointers, one in transition, got to the line, and had a hustle tie-up.  He did have a minor impact in both overtimes, scoring once in both sessions.  Evans put his usual stamp on the game with three lay-ups, a block & hustle save, and played solid defense.

Olander struggled mightily.  He had only 7 rebounds the entire game and was outplayed by Quinnipiac’s big men.  He did have a nice driving dunk and a lay-up but this team needed more from him.  Daniels also floundered in this game.  He only had 1 rebound this entire game, 1.   He did have several nice blocks, but he needs to focus on rebounding first and foremost. This is a totally different team when he is playing well.
The trend continues with Giffey.  He had only 3 rebounds in his 21 minutes of play.  On the good side, he did hit 5 of 6 from the line, but rebounding should be his main concern and 3 boards isn’t going to cut it.  Wolf was coming into this game after a great performance against Wake Forest, but touch fouls had him in and out of the game.  He is UConn’s best screen setter on the team though.  Nolan had a great first half with an offensive rebound put-back, getting to the line on another offensive rebound, and having a sweet dunk on a put-back.  Hopefully this will keep his confidence up moving forward.

A lot of credit needs to go to Quinnipiac for this game.  They played their butts off and frustrated a very good UConn defense and imposed their will on the boards.  But it was Napier and Boatright’s sheer will to win that earned UConn this tough nosed victory.  Sure the rebounding is severely lacking, but they find ways to overcome that and that’s impressive.  The one thing this team does well is play hard.  They don't put their head down, say this isn't our night or this game doesn't really matter.  They fight hard from tip off to buzzer and for that alone this team is different than last years and something to be proud of.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Paradise City

Get used to this UConn fans.  This team isn’t going to blow out other teams.  They are going to scratch and claw to victories on the backs of their defense and this game symbolized that.  The offense was a work in progress and they reverted back to their 2011 season and depended on the 3-pointer way too much.  That can’t be their style.  While they have good 3-point shooters, they need an attacking style, slashing to the basket to either get to the line, make a lay-up, or kick out to open shooters.  With little to no fast breaks going, they grew frustrated and lost that attacking mentality, letting a young Wake Forest team take UConn’s bad shots on one end of the court and turn them into points on the other.  The rebounding edge was as lopsided as other games and they only lost the rebounding edge by 5, which is not bad at all considering Daniels and Olander sat out much of the first half in foul trouble.  What won this game was the relentless defense.  They clogged passing lanes, attacked inbound passes, walled off driving lanes, and created 18 turnovers.  That will win you games.

Napier had another slow start that put undue pressure on the rest of the team to make up for the difference and it looked like it wasn’t going to be his day.  Then he found a way to get a rare fast break lay-up which ignited his game.  From there he hit a 3-pointer, had an inbounds lay-up & 1, grabbed a steal, and sealed the game at he line, going 6 for 6 down the stretch. Shabazz needs to stop settling for 3-pointers. That's not his game, he settled too much for bad shots and that gave UConn empty possessions that created momentum for Wake Forest. Omar Calhoun seems to be a different person on the road than at home.  His day did start out good, hitting a 3-pointer, getting a lay-up off a steal, and making some free throws, but he disappeared in the second half, taking a bad-3 and having a turnover.  He still provided great on the ball defense and did the little things to contribute to this win.

What more can you say about Boatright?  He carried the team in the first half, getting to the line, hitting a jumper on the baseline, making some incredible passes, and putting pressure on the Wake Forest defense with his aggressive mentality.   Even with him carrying the offense for much of the game he still was able to get a team high 7 rebounds.  His play was simply amazing and continues to be UConn's best player.  Evans is one of those steady players and a pleasant surprise.  He finds a way to impact each and every game.  He had a nice bank shot through contact, had a steal & lay-up, played great defense, and had a lay-up.

Olander had a tough game and needs to do a better job of staying out of foul trouble, playing only 9 minutes.  He did display some pretty post moves though they didn’t fall, but 1 rebound in 9 minutes isn’t what this team needs.  Daniels has become such an important piece to this team.  He started off hitting a 3-pointer but got some fouls being aggressive which Coach Ollie probably doesn’t mind.  UConn needs him to have that attacking mentality and if costs him a few offensive fouls then so be it.  But with him sitting on the bench with two fouls,  Wake Forest made a run and UConn’s offense hit a brick wall.  Ollie unlike Calhoun inserted Daniels back in with those two fouls and was instantly rewarded with a 3-pointer, a jumper and a baseline lay-up.  The only thing that Daniels needs to do better would be his rebounding.  He only had 2 and if that trend continues then this team is in trouble.

The biggest surprise of this game was Enosch Wolf.  Every UConn fan is rooting for him.  He has the body to be a true center which this team needs, but just hasn’t shown solid enough play on the court until now.  He displayed great hands with steals, had offensive rebounds, blocks, four lay-ups, and an 18-footer that swished.  Hopefully this is the coming out party for Wolf and not an anomaly, because this team could use him more.  Giffey played solid defense, had a nice lay-up, and hit a jumper.  It was an overall solid game for him.  Tolksdorf had some early playing time and got to the line to make his first collegiate points.  Nolan continues to search for his game and had the opportunities to make plays but had a turnover and missed another easy shot.  It is all mental for the freshman right now.

This was another solid win for this team.  They overcame a lot of adversity from a cold shooting Napier, a depleted frontcourt due to foul trouble, and travel weariness but they found a way to win the game.  There are definite flaws to this team, but they play extremely hard, fight to the finish, and believe in themselves.  That all comes from their head coach.  As fans we need to understand the undue pressure this team is under each and every game.  They get questions about the bans each and every game, they have a coach playing for his contract, and they have a very thin line-up, but they play together as team, which unlike last season is a breath of fresh air, and that is something we can all be proud of.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hanging Their Hat

If this team has any aspirations at a Big East title, they’ll have to hang their hat on the defensive end and they did just that against a good Vermont squad.  The backcourt did a great job of putting pressure on Vermont’s guards, creating 16 turnovers which led to 23 points.  UConn’s jumpers weren’t falling in this game, but they didn’t continue to settle for outside shots.  Instead they attacked the rim and were rewarded with easy lay-ups and trips to the line, which they hit an astounding 14 of 18.  It wasn’t all great though.  The rebounding still needs some major improvement.  They were out rebounded by 7 and gave up a horrible 17 offensive boards to an undersized Vermont team.  That is a formula that will cost them numerous games against better talent and needs to get fixed.

Napier had a quiet first half and did most of his damage in the second period.  A good sign for him was his aggressiveness.  He wasn’t settling for the outside shot and had several nice cuts to the basket for lay-ups, or got to the line. He took a few bad shots but this was the first game that he was thinking drive first.  Boatright carried the team in the first half and has turned into the primary facilitator for the offense.  He had a game high 7 assists.  He had the highlight of the game with a beautiful behind the back pass to Daniels for a dunk.  Calhoun came back to life in this game.  He made some early jumpers and he felt more comfortable at home.  He also did some of the little things like diving on the floor for loose balls and taking a charge.  That’s a great sign for such a young player.

Olander had a very good outing.  He rebounded well in traffic, made his free throws, attacked the rim, blocked shots, and had a pretty post move for a lay-up. These are all encouraging signs, but he needs to keep his man off the offensive glass.  DeAndre Daniels had an off night besides his rim rattling dunks that he sprinkled throughout this game.  This team needs his rebounding more than any other aspect of his game.  He only had 3 boards and also gave up a free throw rebound by not boxing out. He has set a blistering pace with his early play, but this team desperately needs more from him in the rebounding department to be successful. Giffey played solid defense, rebounded well, and had a nice tip in.  Evans had a fantastic showing, finding easy paths to the rim for lay-up after lay-up.  He has deceptive speed and has a knack for getting the ball in the basket in traffic.  He is really thriving in the bench role and isn't afraid to insert himself into the offense.

Be it fatigue or just giving opportunities, Ollie used a deep bench in this game.  Nolan got 7 minutes and finally got a ball to fall through the hoop.  Hopefully this will give him some much needed confidence going forward, though he is extremely foul prone.  Wolf got in and had a reach in that promptly sent him back to the bench.  Tolksdorf also played 7 minutes, missed a deep three, and had a pass go right through his hands.  These players are all a work in progress and they'll need patience with the lack of playing time.

There was plenty of good and bad from this game from UConn’s ability to attack the zone to their inability to block out, but the consistency on the defensive end has to be the most impressive.  They make it tough to score the basketball and that type of intensity will serve them well heading forward.  They’ll never be a great rebounding team, but they’ll patch up the holes as best as they can, especially on the defensive rebounding end.  If they can't group rebound better, it will be a tough year, but so far Ollie has them playing hard and coming out with the intensity early on.  These are all encouraging signs from this young squad.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Litmus Test

This was a great litmus test for UConn.  They knew that they had a talented back court, a questionable front court, and some young and unproven talent.  So going up against a top Michigan State team on a neutral court would give Coach Ollie some answers to were his team was truly at.  UConn couldn’t have gotten out to a better start, using their defense to get steals and converting them into points.  Like any good team, Michigan State made their run but to UConn’s credit, they answered back each time they lost the lead.  It was a gritty and tough nosed victory for this young squad that has already taken on the persona of their coach and this one game could propel them throughout the rest of the season.

Napier had a sub-par performance in his first two preseason games, but he brought his A-game at the right time.  He had 3 lay-ups, two 3-pointers, and a steal in the first half which helped UConn take control of the game early.  He wasn’t as effective in the second half and might have had to do with his conditioning, since he missed most of the summer due to injury, but he still had a pretty reverse lay-up, a spin move bank shot, a 3-pointer, and sealed the game at the line late.  He still took 3 bad three pointers, making one of them, but he showed the leadership down the stretch that will carry this team throughout the season.

Ryan Boatright was a menace all game.  He had several steals that led to points, had a beautiful dunk, a sweet pull up jumper, and a 3-pointer late in the ballgame to sustain the lead.  It was his toughness in this game that was most impressive.  He turned his ankle at a ninty-degree angle and limped off, but came back in the second half and earned this victory through his play.  That type of fight is what this team needs.  Calhoun had a freshman-like game.  He looked a bit overwhelmed and some of his passes were late and he was reluctant to get his offense going.  These types of games are going to happen to Calhoun, he just needs to keep his confidence up.

What more can you say about DeAndre Daniels?  He had a tremendous preseason and then he comes into this game and immediately plays solid defense, has a spinning lay-up, a 3-pointer, a monster baseline dunk, a sweet lay-up, and then a spin hook.  His passes in the second half were a bit sloppy and his offense dried up, but he still battled hard on the boards and had numerous blocks.  He has been the most improved player on this team by far.  Tyler Olander had a tough job.  He was out sized by Michigan State, but did all the little things that this team needed to pull of this upset.  He rebounded in traffic, had a hustle save, a tie-up, some blocks, a spinning hook, and some great rebounding in traffic.

Giffey did a good job.  He had a steal and a 3-pointer, but got himself into trouble dribbling but overall it was a good game for him.  Evans jad a nice turnaround in the first half, two lay-ups, and a steal, but had a couple of bad passes. Wolf had a nice block, a 15-footer and did a good enough job on defense.

This was a great win for this program.  Not only did they get a win against a Michigan State team that has a chance to win it all this, but it gives Ollie some room to breath, a front court some much needed confidence, and a backcourt a chance to test their mettle against the best.  They’ll need to build on this, heading into lesser talent.  The rebounding needs to get better, the half court sets need to be more efficient, and the passes need to be more crisp, which are all correctable.  So enjoy this win and know that even though this season will end abruptly they still have plenty to play for, each other.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Alumni Profile: Andre Drummond

Looking Back: Andre Drummond’s arrival to Storrs was heralded as one of UConn’s greatest recruiting jobs ever.  He was a local kid, athletic, a solid rebounder, and had an above the rim game.  He was compared to Ed Davis, but things didn’t quite go his way.  He couldn’t get himself involved in the half court sets, and struggled mightily at the line that would've even made Josh Boone shake his head.   His stock dipped a bit because of his lack of progression throughout the year and was drafted by Detroit.

The Good: The one word surrounding Drummond is potential.  He already possesses the ability to rebound and block shots.  He has the build to become a big time NBA center and should be able to hold his own in the paint even at his current weight.  He also is a force on the break and can finish plays strong.

The Bad: Drummond’s offensive game is limited now.  He doesn’t have a jumper, he rushes things when his back is to the basket, and he is susceptible to being fouled because of his paltry numbers at the line.

Looking Ahead: The good thing for Drummond is that he has a capable big man in Greg Monroe that can slide into the power forward position and create space for Drummond to do what he can which is defend, rebound, and clean up things around the basket.  Fans will need to be patient with his progress in his first year and understand that he is a raw talent that could eventually be a premiere center in the NBA and those are hard to find.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Final Tune-Up

It was the final tune-up for the Huskies and they needed to focus on two aspects of the game that Coach Ollie wasn’t happy with in their last game against AIC, rebounding and defense.  They won the rebounding department by 18 but their defense in the first half was again suspect.  They lacked a consistent intensity in transition and in the half court, allowing UMass-Lowell to come back and even take a brief lead late in the first half.  But the story of this game was at the free throw line.  UConn took an incredible 45 free throw attempts and converted 29 of them.  The majority of fouls were on the backcourt being aggressive, which was a great sign and will help stem offensive draughts.  UConn pulled away, in the second half, on a cold shooting UMass-Lowell team and they were able to create turnovers which they converted into points.  It was a total team victory with mostly everyone chipping in and getting playing time.

Napier is still shaking off the rust of not playing for much of the summer and only took 5 shot attempts, 2 of them from beyond the arc, which means that he wasn’t being aggressive.  He did have two fouls midway through the first half that kept him on the bench, but this team needs more from his 22 minutes than 5 points, 2 assists and 2 turnovers.  Ryan Boatright more than made up for Napier’s sub-par performance.  He carried over his second half play from the AIC mgame into this one.  He hustled for loose balls, made some stellar passes, got to the line & knocked down 7 of 10 from there, and had some picturesque slams.  He has become the number one option in the offense.  Omar Calhoun had a slow start to the game, getting two early fouls and playing poor perimeter defense, but he didn’t let it affect his game once he got back in.  He has become a major sharpshooter for this team, hitting 5 of 6 from deep, got to the line, grabbed 4 boards, and didn’t have a turnover.  He has asserted himself nicely into the rotation and has an ease to his game that is far beyond that of a freshman.

DeAndre Daniels has been the most impressive in these preseason games.  He continues to show a maturity to his game.  He scored in a variety of ways and had an impressive 14 rebounds with 4 of  those offensive.  Not only that but he was a force on the defensive end with 4 blocks.  Hopefully he can carry this over into the regular season.  Tyler Olander took a step back.  This team needs two things from him, a defensive presence and a rebounder.  He only had 4 rebounds and he needs to hover around 8 to 10 a game.  He did get to the line and made 6 of 7 from there but it wasn't enough and the pressure for him to perform out of position might be to much for him.

Niels Giffey continues to show improvement.  He had an early 3-pointer, a steal, and lay-up.  Then there was a stretch in the second half that turned into the Giffey show.  He had a block, a lay-up, and then a jumper all in about one minute.  R.J. Evans also had an impact in his 13 minutes with a nice back door lay-up and a tenacity on the boards.  He did make Coach Ollie mad when he didn’t hustle for a loose ball and then had a needless foul.  Phillip Nolan continued his struggles.  He went 1 for 6 from the line and had a turnover in his 8 minutes.  He needs a confidence boost in the worst way.  Leon Tolksdorf got more playing time but only took 3-pointers.  Enosch Wolf found some action in this game and had a productive 10 minutes.  He had 1 slam and 2 boards.  It was a good sign to see him out there.  Brendan Allen came in and played for 3 minutes.

It is fairly obvious that this team is severely lacking in the front court.  Olander and Daniels are playing out of position and will have their hands full when they play top level talent, but this three guard lineup looks intriguing and potent.  They’ll need to be at their best against a Michigan State team that looks talented across the board.  For them to pull off the upset, they’ll need Napier to make plays heading towards the basket, Olander, Wolf, & Daniels to become a rebounding force, and they’ll need to limit their turnovers.  If they can do those things, which is all possible, than they’ll be in the game.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Building Blocks

Everyone knew that this team was going to be a work in progress and it was evident early on.  AIC jumped out on UConn with easy basket after easy basket.  They exploited a sloppy UConn defense, had easy looks in transition, and watched a UConn offense that struggled to get anything going in the half court.  Every UConn look was contested, passes were off the mark, and they were out of sync.  They did finish the half strong and narrowed what had been a surprising double digit lead to just one.  It was on the backs of Boatright,Calhoun, and Ollie's in game decision to pressure the ball more that helped UConn to finally take control of the game and put away an AIC team that is scheduled to finish in the bottom of a very mediocre league.

The rust for Napier was evident.  He struggled to get any offense going, had a game high four turnovers and settled for mostly jumpers.  He was crucial in knocking down a three pointer in that late flurry of points in the first half to bring the team a back from a disappointing start to the game.  Boatright had a tale of two halves.  In the first, he struggled to keep the handle on the basketball, creating a multitude of turnovers and nothing was falling for him.  In the second half though, he knocked down a few jumpers, showed his speed to get to the rim and get some and-ones. His offense sparked UConn's comeback and the energy level of the whole team.

This game was the coming out party for Omar Calhoun.  It didn’t take long for him to show his silky smooth and lightning quick release from deep.  He certainly wasn’t shy, shooting a game high fourteen attempts.  What was most impressive about his performance was his ability to rebound.  He ended up with six boards, two of them on the offensive end.  He was also stout on the defensive end with a block and a steal.  This has to be a huge confidence boost for him in his first game and he needs to carry it over into the next exhibition game.

Giffey found himself in the right place at the right time to get himself some easy buckets and get to the line which he is an excellent free throw shooter.  The only question with him is his ability to help out on the boards and he only had four.  He needs to focus more on that aspect to his game.  Phillip Nolan had a rough night.  He missed several easy shots, had a team high five fouls, and had a turnover.  Evans had a solid game and had a nice steal, lay-up and-one.  Tolksdorf had a quiet game and played only three minute.

With the smaller line-up, Olander played most of the game as the five, but still found an opportunity to attempt three three-pointers.  Tyler has to be the physical presence for this team in the paint and he did a good job, ending his night with eight rebounds and a block, but it was DeAndre Daniels that was the most impressive of the front court players.  He had a team high nine rebounds, had a block, and put his stamp on this game in a variety of ways.  This is a great sign for him.  He looks to be a much more focused player and not relying on the outside shot.  He only took two of his nine field goal attempts from deep.

It wasn’t pretty but that’s what these exhibition games are for.  They still need to work better in the half court sets, avoid the careless turnovers while still attacking in transition, and play better transition defense.  While the first half was frustrating, UConn fans have plenty to be happy about.  The three guard line-up looks impressive and they out rebounded AIC by nine which was something they had a problem doing against lesser competition last year.  This was a great building block for Coach Ollie to instill a foundation for this young, undersized, but talented squad.