Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Running Out of Magic

It didn’t start out as an instant classic but it sure ended that way. Right from the tip, UConn was getting beat on the glass early and often. The frontcourt struggled matching up with Marquette’s talented and deep group of big men.  Wolf, Nolan, Daniels and Olander were all in foul trouble and had problems clogging driving lanes, defending without fouling or stopping post moves around the basket.  Marquette deployed the zone that frustrated an already lackluster halfcourt offense and UConn settled for jumpers that weren't dropping. They shortly found themselves down by double digits but then those elusive jumpers started to fall.  On the backs of Napier and Boatright, UConn soared ahead with only seconds left on the clock.  But then Marquette found a little magic, knocking down a deep 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded and sending the game into overtime.  The game only got crazier from there and both teams lined up at the wrong side of court so when Napier’s shot was goal tended, they were the ones penalized for the referees' mistake.  From there the momentum was in Marquette’s direction and UConn couldn’t make the plays to seize it back, seeing Marquette take a two to three possession lead to the finish line.

Napier had his Kemba Walker mojo going right from the start.  He had two lay-ups, fouled 7 times, hit four 3-pointers, had a floater, played great defense, made a pretty up & under move and made some nifty passes.  There isn’t much to criticize him for other than a few bad 3-pointers and passes.  Kevin Ollie is going to need this type of performances on a nightly basis from him in Big East play to compensate for a lack of a post presence.

Boatright was effective, making some early jumpers and some pretty assists in the first half.  He did a majority of his damage in the second half though.  He hit a 3-pointer, a floater, an elbow jumper, a tear drop jumper, and a sweet turnaround jumper in the waning seconds of regulation.  He did miss an one & one opportunity in overtime, but it is hard to fault him for the loss in this game.  Calhoun was a no show for much of this game other than a few attempts at the line and a 3-pointer in overtime.   Evans also struggled to make his usual impact and only had a trip to the line, missing both attempts, as his only contribution.  UConn desperately needs Calhoun and Evans to find some consistency so that they don't rely so heavily on Boatright and Napier.

Daniels got the start but that only lasted one minute.  He was quickly pulled for Giffey on a poor defensive possession.  When he came back in, he made an instant impact with a lay-up & 1, had a few nice box outs, sank a sweet fade away jumper, and was fouled a couple of times and sank his free throws.  Other than a dunk, and a lay-up in the second half, he disappeared down the stretch.  This team needs more from him late in ballgames, be it rebounding, second chance points or blocking shots.  Giffey had an early 3-pointer, but struggled from there to get anything going offensively. He rebounded much better in this game though and needs to continue to chip in there.  Nolan got some early minutes but found himself in foul trouble early and never got an opportunity to make an impact.

Olander got the start but struggled mightily.  He had trouble on helping out with the dribble penetration and guards were driving right by him for lay-ups on his help defense.  He did have a nice lay-up and was fouled on a put-back, but overall it was a rough night for him.  Wolf again outplayed him.  He wasn’t muscled out of a spot, and held his own when posted up.  He battled through 2 touch fouls early and made a major impact in the second half.  He had 2 put-backs, a sweet lay-up on a post play which is a rare sight, and had a couple of blocks.  He did have a bad miss on a dunk attempt where he held onto the rim too long, but he was the best of the frontcourt for UConn.

UConn is used to playing these tight ballgames.  They really are a resilient bunch and even in their first true road game of the year, they hung in there and put themselves in position to pull out the win.  Marquette just made a fantastic play and road that momentum to the win.  The start of overtime was bizarre but didn't cost them the game.  Marquette made more plays and UConn's jumpers, which got them back into the game, stopped falling.  Overall it was a great showing for this team and they can leave feeling that they had a shot at the win against some long odds.  They need to bounce back and not let this loss carry over into their next game and knowing Kevin Ollie, he's going to have this team ready to go.


Matias Nino said...

Great effort on the part of the boys. It's great to actually see this team making progress (as opposed to spinning its wheels like last year). That dish out to Omar for a 3pt down the stretch was outstanding. I was hoping they would do that again in that final do or die moment, but looks like Marquette had him well covered and Shabazz had to fall back on his token desperation 3. To Shabazz's credit, he had a great night on all fronts and is certainly making progress. Still, I'm waiting for the day where he stops randomly throwing up those poorly selected 3 attempts.

David Gillett said...

Thanks for reading my post. I agree. There is something about this team that makes me appreciate them more. Its their loyalty to the school, but more importantly it is the fight they show each game. Their flaws are obvious, but they fight so hard to overcome them that you have to root for them.

Matias Nino said...

It's great to see them put in consistently good effort with positive body language and team attitude. Truly night and day from last year. I still wonder what this team would be like with Alex/Roscoe still there, but it really is interesting seeing Wolf coming out like he's been doing and DeAndre growing into more and more of a beast each game. Definitely looking forward to seeing them rain on a few parades this year and perhaps KO taking them to his first final four next year! ;)

P.S. I read your every post as religiously as I watch every game. Just wish I had more time to comment and discuss. :)
P.P.S. Please don't ever stop! :)

David Gillett said...

Thanks for the encouragement. We kind of know the Oriakhi story, but the reasoning behind the Roscoe Smith leaving is still a mystery. I'd love to hear more on why he left.