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.

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