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.