Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dog Eat Dog

Every time UConn plays Washington, it brings back the memories of instant classics, but alas this wasn’t one of them.  Both teams struggled mightily with their jumpers and the halfcourt sets looked out of sync.  Kevin Ollie, just inking a brand new five year contract, has instilled into this team a defensive mindset and that was more than evident.  UConn turned Washington over 13 times and held their own on the boards, actually winning that battle by four.  It was that defensive intensity that won this game.  They had no right winning this game, turning the ball over 17 times, hitting only 2 of  14 from deep, and missing 10 free throws. They left the door open numerous times for Washington to take over the game, but UConn deserves credit for locking down defensively and making just enough plays to stretch the lead to three or four possessions.

It was a strange game for Napier.  He took numerous bad 3-pointers that led to points at the other end.  His only offense was a steal & lay-up, a 3-pointer, a jumper, and 3 trips to the line.  The good thing was that he was playing downhill and creating pressure on the defense.  Unfortunately he was making poor decisions in crowds and had a whopping 7 turnovers.  His defense was amazing though and Washington’s size was out dueled by his speed and agility.  He just needs to find a better flow to his game, because at times it seems like he is swimming upstream in these games.

Boatright’s night started out strong, hitting an early jumper, but he got into early foul trouble which limited his impact.  He again came out strong and hit an up & under lay-up, had a back-door lay-up, but then struggled to find his offense for the majority of the second half.  He had some bad turnovers, took some horrible shots, and let his man find easy lanes to the basket, but when the team needed a play, he sank a jumper and got to the line to stretch out that lead again.  He’s been the offensive cog to this team for the majority of the month and when he struggles to find points, the team flounders, especially in the half court sets.

Calhoun's night began with two clanks from the free throw line but it didn’t affect his mindset.  He came right back with a lay-up and a sweet push-shot in the first half, but he was just getting started.  In the second half, he hit a baseline jumper, had a nice pass, played great defense, had two lay-ups, a jumper, and sank both his free throws.  This is the impact that this team needs from him each and every outing.  The game has slowed down for him and he isn’t rushing things or turning the ball over at an incredible clip.  Evans came in and gave the team a nice spark, getting two lay-ups, snagging two steals and playing solid defense. He did have a bad pass and missed his two attempts at the line, but his instant energy to the team is so important and a great weapon off the bench.

Daniels had a solid game.  He hit a nice mid-ranged jumper, had a nice cut to the basket for a lay-up, hit his free throws, had a hustle block, hit an elbow jumper, and sank an important 3-pointer to put some wind back into UConn’s sails, but on a freak play he hit his chin on the hardwood and needed help getting off the floor.  This team needs him and his loss would put a lot of pressure on the already weak frontcourt.  Giffey had little impact on this game other than an offensive rebound.  He needs to do a better job of moving without the ball.  Nolan got some playing time and hit 3 of 4 from the line, but needs to provide something in the rebounding department.

There is no telling which Enosch Wolf that Kevin Ollie is going to get.  In this game it was the one that plays with effort, goes after the ball, runs the break, and makes positive plays.  He didn’t score until late in the second half on a loud dunk that ignited the crowd, but he made his impact early and often on hustle plays and carving out space on the glass.  That is the key to his game and he needs to focus solely on that.  Olander got the start and struggled to establish position on the block and gave up a free throw rebound.  He did sink two free throws, but again could only muster 2 rebounds in 17 minutes.

This was an important win heading into Big East play.  Washington is the type of team that they are going to face in the Big East.  Big and strong guards and legitimate frontcourt size and UConn was up to the challenge.  The good sign was that they were able to win a game without relying on their jumper and they did so convincingly.  They did it on the backs of their defense and aggressiveness on the offensive end.  They have a lot to clean up, but this team is playing extremely hard which is night in day from the way they looked heading into Big East play last year.

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