Monday, February 4, 2013

The Sword

UConn was in familiar territory.  They muddled through the first half, struggling to get anything resembling an offense against USF’s zone defense.  The Bulls took advantage of that stagnant offense and jumped out early and coasted to a comfortable 12 point lead by the end of the first half, but it didn’t last long.  UConn exploded out of the gates in the second half and eradicated that deficit by getting into transition through turnovers and finally having some jumpers start to drop.  Once it was all knotted up, it became a back and forth affair with both teams trading baskets.  UConn was finally able to put pressure on USF’s zone defense and get to the line, which was the difference in this game.  Both teams made plays down the stretch to swing the lead in their own direction and they found themselves knotted up as regulation ended. UConn is no stranger to these overtime games and looked the more comfortable team in the extra period, because Napier took over, put this team on his back and carried them to the finish line with some deadly outside shooting.

It didn’t start out well for Shabazz though.  Other than a 3-pointer, he struggled to get his offense on track in the first half.  It wasn’t until the second half that he was able to get into transition by turning USF over and do some damage.  It was in overtime where he became All-World, knocking down three 3-pointers that put UConn comfortably ahead and they nursed the lead until the buzzer.

Boatright also struggled early with only a 3-pointer and hitting only one free throw out of his three attempts.  He was much more aggressive in the second half, getting to the line but unfortunately missed some clutch free throws down the stretch to extend the lead. He's struggled in these past couple of games to make plays around the rim and he is settling for the jumper more. Calhoun couldn’t ride the momentum that he accrued with his clutch shooting against Providence.  His jumpers were all over the map, but finally got a baseline jumper to drop in the second half.  This team is drastically searching for a consistent third scorer, but it wasn't Calhoun in this game.

Daniels also had a sub-par game, coming off a strong performance against Providence.  He made some defensive lapses, having his coach hopping on the sidelines.   He hit a baseline jumper in the second half, but was in foul trouble throughout the game and finally fouled out in overtime. He did do a good job on the boards, but struggled defensively. Giffey also had trouble knocking down shots, but helped seal the game late at the line. The box score won't show the real impact that he had on the game. Evans played much more aggressively though his shots weren’t dropping.  He did have a nice offensive rebound and put-back and had a much better impact on this game then in his prior two.

It was night and day for Olander.  He was fighting hard all game in the paint. He had an early lay-up, had an offensive rebound on a free throw, and was fouled on a rebound.  It was nice to see him bounce back even though USF is about as efficient as UConn is on the glass.   Wolf was the one to take a step back in this game.  He only had two rebounds, but played just 10 minutes because Ollie tinkered with a smaller lineup.  Tolksdorf took the minutes Nolan was getting and made the most of them, hitting a 3-pointer.  It was good to see him get some productive court time.

You live by the sword and you die by the sword, and UConn was able to sink some late 3-pointers to escape a tough USF squad, though 27 attempts are far too many.  They were able to compensate a 29 percent shooting game with 26 points at the line, which is stellar.  They’ll need to remain aggressive against a St. John’s team looking to get themselves righted.  UConn has put themselves a game back in the standings but there is a pack of teams around them so this next game is vital. They need to win these middle of the pack games to put themselves into contention, but it won't be easy. Not in this league and especially not on the road.

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