Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lost Swagger

It was another slow start for UConn.  Both Napier and Boatright were frustrated by St. John’s zone and were held in check.  They didn’t contribute a single point in the first half.  Calhoun and Daniels carried UConn as far as they could in that horrific 20 minutes of first half basketball, but the most disappointing aspect of this game was the defense which was severely lacking for much of this game, allowing St. John’s easy looks five feet and in at the basket.  It wasn’t until the second half that UConn finally showed signs of life to made it a game and amazingly it was when Boatright on the bench .  Behind some great outside shooting, UConn took the lead, but they never established a way to get to the line and soon those jumpers began to hit iron again, allowing the Johnnies to have one last run in the game and shut the door on UConn’s comeback hopes.

No matter what the violation was that had Napier sit out the first six minutes of the ballgame, he wasn’t the same player.  He looked lethargic and it was reminiscent of last year when Lamb and Napier were having their issues and Napier disappeared in games.  He wasn't forceful and his defense was uninspired. Plain and simple it was a selfish game for him.  He primarily was standing around the perimeter and shooting threes which isn't what this team needs.  They need him to get to the line and play a downhill type of game.  He didn't and they lost.

Boatright had a horrible game.  His shots around the rim rolled out, he clanked his jumpers, and his defense was uninspired as he watched his defender run right by him.  Ollie had enough and sat him.  That takes a lot of guts but it worked out because the role players came in with energy and made impact plays that brought UConn all the way back.  Ryan needs to get out of this offensive rut that he has been in, especially in first halves of games. His up and under lay-ups aren't dropping and his lay-ups are rolling off the rim. Calhoun did most of his damage in the first half, knocking down jumpers, but he took too many quick shots and needs to settle down with his stroke and get into a flow when shooting like he did in the first half.  He was UConn's leading shot taker with a majority of them from deep.  He's still learning but needs to find ways to get to the line, especially for a shooter, because seeing the ball drop a couple of times will open up that rim.  Overall it was a great game for him and shows that he can take over the offense in stretches.

Daniels played extremely well in the first half, but disappeared in the second half.  It feels like when the outside jumpers are working for this team, he stops making plays.  He did have some hustle plays but needs to get more second chance points. He needs to be a more consistent defensive rebounder for this team.  Giffey had an excellent game.  He rebounded, played solid defense, got to the line, and was aggressive in the paint.  This was his best game of the year by far and it was all done from inside the perimeter.  Hopefully this will give him the confidence to battle more on the boards because it opened up his game.

Wolf had a bit of nastiness to him in this game which is what this team needed.  He helped contain St. John’s in the second half and put the Johnnies into foul trouble with his effort on the boards. He wasn't making plays offensively but this team needed someone to clog up the paint and he did that. Olander struggled again and most of his minutes were given to Wolf,  because he was unable to stay in front of his man on defense. Evans had a good game and helped fill in for Boatright who was riding the pine for most of the second half.  He even had a dunk in this game, the first of the year for him.

This team is not going to win with Boatright and Napier not scoring a point in more than 26 minutes of game time.  It was amazing that they were in this game and it is a testament to Coach Ollie.  The advantage of the 3-ball and some role players stepping up made it a ball game, but the defense had gaping holes and that was the real reason for this loss.  Even though they have been winning games, they haven’t been playing well in the last three games.  They’ll need to refocus on rebounding and help defense.  There were too many direct lanes to the basket for this team.  The offense has been having slow starts and will continue to if they remain a jump shooting team.  Until then, the zone is going to cause them issues and they'll see it for the rest of year since teams can rebound against this team while playing zone defense.  They've lost their swagger a bit now and it is going to be vital that this doesn't lead to another loss.  They'll need to bounce back or they could fall down this tight Big East standings.

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