Monday, January 28, 2013

Knight and Day

This was a huge game for UConn.  Coming off of two straight losses and wanting to hold home court against a middle of the pack team, UConn needed a win to stay within striking distance of the front of the pack in the Big East standings.  Rutgers got off to a hot start with Seagears hitting some early 3-pointers, but UConn struck back quickly, pushing the ball down the court for easy baskets.  They mixed up their defense, throwing in a two-three zone, full court press, and their standard man-to-man.  It stifled Rutgers early on and Daniels and Napier began hitting jumpers to pull ahead early, but they soon hit a wall at 18 points. Both teams struggled to find points and the game slogged along.  Luckily Napier's jumpers came alive and carried the team into halftime.  UConn came out sluggish in the second half, scoring only 1 point in the first six minutes and Rutgers took advantage, attacking the offensive glass and knocking down some jumpers to seize the lead.  At last Boatright and Napier heated up and they grabbed the lead and never looked back even though Rutgers made a few more attempts at the lead.

Napier’s shoulder wasn’t much of problem and he was aggressive early on with some solid rebounding and knocking down an elbow jumper.  He hit a deep 3-ball, a mid-ranged jumper, and a step-back jumper in the first half.  He finally got his offense going 12 minutes into the second half with a 3-pointer and immediately knocked down another. Other than a few bad 3-pointers, he played a great game, getting others involved and wasn't shying away from the offensive end.

Boatright struggled getting lay-ups to drop and didn’t hit a jumper until 11 minutes into the ballgame.  He then picked up his second foul in the middle of the first and had to ride the pine the rest of the first half.  He finally got UConn going in the second half with a dunk in transition and started getting to the line.  Finally a 3-pointer dropped for him and he hit an up and under jumper. It wasn't his night and he needs to take better care of the basketball which has been an issue for him all season. Calhoun dropped an early corner three but was quiet throughout the first half.  He got to the line early in the second half and hit a baseline jumper.  He's been up and down these last couple of games which will happen if you are primarily a 3-point shooter.

Daniels had an early offensive foul but remained involved the game, hitting an 18-footer, a 3-pointer, and a dunk in transition.  He had a quiet start to the second half, but made some noise late with a put-back, a steal that he dunked and lay-up that sealed the game.  He did an excellent job on the boards and needs to keep it up.  Giffey had a nice dunk in transition and landed without breaking his neck.  He also had a couple of nice steals and made some plays around the basket. When he provides this team a lift they usually win. Evans had a quiet game.  He contributed on the boards, filled in for Boatright when he was on the bench, and made some hustle plays but he has been in a rut offensively for the last couple of games now.

Olander battled hard and wasn’t getting any calls to go his way, but he rebounded well.  Wolf had an early block that led to points but struggled to get rebounds.  He did have a nice dunk in the second half but the frontcourt struggled to get anything going on the post and failed to establish position and demand the basketball.  The rebounding was better, but it is still a work in progress.

With the Big East in flux at the moment, it leaves the door open for UConn to make ground. Which makes this stretch of games important for UConn.  They’ll need to take care of business against these middle of the pack teams like Providence if they want to have a shot at the Big East Title.  They’ll need to bring the same defensive intensity and focus on rebounding like they did in this game and they should get a win in the hostile confines of Providence where they’ve had problems in the last couple of years.

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