Of course it would come down to the last shot. Why wouldn’t it? It’s going to be that type of year for this team. They just do not have the combination of rebounding and consistent offense to pull away from teams, but they have controlled the momentum in just about every game that they have been in. The jumpers in this game weren’t falling and with little transition game, both teams struggled in the half court. Most of the offense were from drives to the basket which led to the trips to the line and disruptive any flow to the game. It wasn’t until late in the second half that both teams offenses started to come to life and traded baskets. UConn’s defense prevailed and caused multiple turnovers down the stretch and Napier carried this team to the victory.
Napier once again has shown how special of a player he is. He started out with some sloppy turnovers on poor dribbling, which has plagued him in the last couple of games, but he turned that around with a nice crossover jumper and three 3-pointers all in the first half. He began driving to the basket in the second half and mixed in some clutch jumpers. The only knock on his game was his poor free throw shooting and sloppy ball handling, 7 turnovers, but he was under tremendous pressure to produce points and he did.
Boatright continued to struggle. Other than a nice up-and-under and driving layups, he couldn’t find the basket. His jump shot isn’t even close right now and he had a hard time finding his offense. He did do a great job on defense and found ways to get to the line, but it wasn’t his best game of the year.
Daniels also had a tough time and missed a ton of shots he would’ve normally made. He had a clutch 3-pointer late in the game, but this was a step back for him. It wasn't all bad. He did do a fantastic job on the boards though and had 6 rebounds, but he needs to find ways to get to his spots more and not get the ball twenty feet from the rim.
Giffey made a put-back, a 3-pointer, and had a couple of offensive rebounds. Teams have scouted him and are driving him off the 3-point line. The next progression to his game is to take a couple of steps in and take that mid-ranged shot. He had one of his best rebounding games of the year and needs to keep that up. Calhoun would like to see Madison Square Garden in the rearview mirror. He hit an early layup, then bricked everything else, had a double dribble, a goal tend, and had a turnover. He needs a bounce back game in the worst way. Kromah played well and had two layups, two rebounds, and played solid defense. He did exactly what Ollie needed from him.
Nolan once again had trouble staying on the court because of foul issues. He is a little late on the help defense and the guards are letting their man into the lane with little resistance and his late rotation is causing him to pick up quick fouls. He needs to slide into a guarding position and not move sooner. He ended up with a steal, an assist, and a rebound in just four minutes of play. Brimah had a rough start with a push-off foul on a rebound and a turnover, but then had three blocks and a save. He is still rebounding with just one hand instead of using his boxing out but that will come with time. He ended up with no rebounds in his nine minutes. The breakout performance out of this center group was Olander. He had an offensive rebound put-back, a deflection, a jump hook, a block, and a steal. He also rebounded much better, 4, and played with energy. This was the Olander that UConn fans expected to see last year and hopefully he can continue his resurgence.
It was a great test to see where UConn is as a team in this early season. They still struggle to score without jump shots dropping or fast break baskets. The center position hasn’t adjusted well to the new rules and are late getting to a defensive help position and aren’t clearing out space for rebounds. Those are what they really need to work on, but the strengths are in their depth. They have four possible twenty point scorers on this team with Napier, Boatright, Daniels, and Calhoun. They have a bench that can come in and effect a game. Giffey can stretch the court, Brimah adds defense, Kromah adds experience. The one thing we know about this team is that they can win close games in hostile and tense situations and that will pay dividends down the road.