Friday, February 1, 2013

War of Attrition

UConn had no right to win this game.  With a hapless frontcourt, a hobbled Boatright, an anemic half court offense and a underperforming Napier, UConn leaned heavily on a defense that kept Providence to only 33 percent shooting.   Kevin Ollie primarily used the man-to-man defense, sprinkling in some pressure and zone which got gashed, but the backcourt did a good job off driving off perimeter shooters and despite the Friars’ 11 extra attempts, they made 5 less field goals.  This game was a war of attrition, and it was UConn’s ability to remain aggressive, get points at the line, and shoot 50 percent from the perimeter that kept them in the game and from there it was the backcourt’s ability to make clutch plays as the frontcourt began to foul out. This was no easy feat.  Not at this arena and especially not with this roster.  This was all heart and grit out there on court and Ollie has these kids playing extremely hard despite their talent.

Napier looked like he was going to have a stellar game, hitting an early elbow jumper and 3-pointer, but other than two free throws and another 3-pointer, he didn’t contribute much offensively throughout the two halves, but he came up clutch down the stretch in overtime.  He hit 5 of 6 at the line and a big time 3-pointer that counterbalanced Providence's inside game.  While it doesn't physically look like the shoulder is giving him problems, he hasn't been producing like his normal self since the injury and it has put a lot of pressure on Boatright to make up for it.

Boatright had a crazy game.  He dropped in a spinning floater, a pretty lay-up, a 3-pointer, and had some nice passes in the first half.  He picked the pace up in the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers, a lay-up, a floater and hit 2 free throws.  He did have some issues turning the ball over, 5 total, and also took several bad shots that instantly led to easy buckets on the other end, but he was aggressive and was playing north and south which is what Ollie wants from him.  This was a great showing for Calhoun, who made plays in key stretches of this ballgame.  He had an elbow jumper and a 3-pointer in the first half.  In the second half he got to the line, played solid defense, getting deflections and blocks, and hit a jumper.  It was in a crucial stretch in overtime that he made a gigantic 3-pointer that might be the confidence builder he needs going forward.  This team desperately needs him to contribute like he did that tonight to take the pressure off of Napier and Boatright.

Daniels was UConn’s only effective frontcourt player.  He started out red hot, hitting an early 3-pointer, had a nice lay-up, hit a 15-footer, and was able to get to the line.  He carried over his play into the second half, creating a charge, blocking shots, hitting a jumper, having a shot goal tended, and rebounding the ball in traffic in crucial stretches.  Without his effort, this game would’ve been a blowout. He needs to be a little more assertive with the basketball in the middle of the zone though. Giffey had a nice jumper that he created off the dribble which is rare for him, and he hit a nice jumper.  He also gave UConn some solid defense even though he was playing out of position when Olander and Wolf fouled out.  It is a luxury to have a player that can slide into four different positions.  Nolan also came in and gave solid minutes though his box score won't impress you. He played good enough defense without fouling which is more than you can say for the other two front line players.  Evans had a lay-up and a steal which is an improvement, but he also made some bad decisions with the basketball.

Olander was a no show.  He is lowering his arms on defense and getting fouls called on him.  He isn’t battling for boards, and didn’t have a single rebound.  Not good.  At one point he had his armed pinned on a rebound, but instead of jumping for the ball and making it obvious, he let his man pin him down and get another offensive rebound.  He needs to be stronger than that.  Wolf wasn’t much better, though he did have some nice blocks in the first half that led to easy points and had a dunk in the second, but he was inconsistent and let his opponent get around him for rebounds.  Ollie struggled to find ways to rebound the ball and what these two showed in this game was embarrassing.

This was a great win.  It proves that this team can win games on the road even if they aren’t playing perfect basketball and this game was far from flawless but they keep surprising us with inspired play and winning these games on shear heart and hustle.  This was a physical game and they didn't back down from it.  They responded and that's refreshing.  In the long run they'll need to shore up the rebounding which had been much better in the previous three games, but took a major step backwards.  They need to keep this rolling, because if they want to put themselves into position for a Big East title, they'll need to rattle off a few wins in a row here to put pressure off the tail end of the schedule, but for now they can enjoy what very few UConn teams have done, win in Providence.


Matias Nino said...

What a great game.

David Gillett said...

I agree despite the rebounding, it was a nice back and forth affair. UConn has had their fair share of overtime games this year.