Thursday, February 14, 2013


UConn did everything they weren’t supposed to do against Syracuse.  They turned the ball over 18 times and gave up 18 offensive rebounds, giving Syracuse a whopping 20 extra looks at the basket.  This should’ve been a blowout of epic proportions but this team counteracted all of that plus a paper thin frontcourt with deadly outside shooting, hitting 8 of 14 from deep, efficient half court offense against the zone that has troubled them all year, and a stifling man-to-man defense.  While Napier and Boatright were the focal points of the offense, this was a total team victory with everyone chipping in, squeezing the Orange in their last meeting between these two rivals for the perceivable future.  This was as great of a regular season win for this team as any in recent memory.  It shows that this team is on the right track and that the demise of this proud franchise was dramatically overestimated.

Napier didn’t take a shot until mid-way through the first half, but still did damage by penetrating the zone and finding open teammates for easy looks at the basket.  He played ball hawking defense, getting numerous steals that allowed him to attack the rim before the zone formed.  It is amazing that he only took 6 field goals with four of them from deep, because he left his mark all over this game.  From steals, to rebounding, to clutch shots, he did everything efficiently and showed true leadership out there.

Boatright was sensational and had everything working.  He was rebounding, penetrating the zone, hitting floaters, dunking, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers, and sealing the game at the line late.  He did a better job of handling the basketball and had a team high 3 steals. This was by far his best performance against the zone. Calhoun had a rough start with a bad turnover and a horrible shot but still played with energy.  With that energy, he got to the line, hit a runner and had two blocks in the first half. Unlike previous games, he came alive in the second half where he hit three 3-pointers, knocked down his free throws late and stepped up as that third scorer that this team desperately needs. Evans played early and had a falling down floater that he was fouled on.  He also came in and settled the team in the press.  If he was a better free throw shooter, he would be in there late in the game and help against the pressure defense that caused them trouble in the waning minutes.

Olander got the game going with four early points on a dunk and an up and under move, but struggled to remain in the game, dealing with foul trouble. With all the knocks against his game, it is his inability to play defense without fouling that is the most troubling and with the absence of Wolf, he will need to play more extended minutes. Nolan came in during the first half and played with energy and effort, ending the game with 5 rebounds which is a great sign. This team only needs two things from Nolan, defense and rebounding and he came through. When Daniels is hovering around 8 rebounds, this is a totally different team.  He did that and it fueled his offensive game, where he had a floater, an up and under lay-up, and sank free throws late in the game.  Giffey had a superb outing.  He had two bank shots, a baseline dunk, a hustle steal, a 3-ball, was active rebounding, and hit free throws late.  He had to be playing with a heavy heart, being close with Wolf.

This is what team is all about.  They are dealing with adversity but instead of it bringing them down, it has brought them together.  The conference is falling apart, there is no post season, their best front court player is probably kicked off the team and possibly deported out of the country and yet they play one of their best games of the year, taking it to one of the best teams in the country.  It has put them in a great position heading into a tough match-up against Villanova.  They must bring this same energy and hold home court to ultimately win the regular season title that had once seemed only a dream but with this win under their belt, is still a possibility.

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