Saturday, November 9, 2013


It was supposed to be a neutral site but UConn stepped into enemy territory in Brooklyn.  Red dominated the Barclays Center crowd but the Huskies were able to silence them early with the combination of the deep shot and offensive put-backs. They built up a double digit lead and held back each and every Maryland run.  UConn had a hard time defending without fouling and couldn’t adjust to the new hand check rules.  It put them into early foul trouble while sending Maryland to the line a whopping 28 times.  It wasn’t until Maryland switched to full court pressure that UConn’s 17 point lead begin to dwindle.  It slowed down UConn’s offense, the ball got stuck on one side of the court, and the once sure handed backcourt struggled to hold onto the ball.  UConn held on by their fingertips down the stretch as they missed two opportunities at the line to extend the lead but the defense stepped up and got two crucial stops to end the game.

Unlike the two preseason games, Shabazz Napier made an major impact in the first half with a 3-pointer, a steal, several nice passes, a jumper, and a trip to the line.  He had a 3-pointer, two jumpers and a steal in the second half, but struggled to defend without fouling, eventually fouling out.  He was masterful on the boards though and corralled a lot of those mid-ranged boards that UConn struggled to get last season.  It was his technical foul for taunting that propelled Maryland on a major run that would almost cost UConn the game.  He needs to play more under control defensively because this team needed him late in the ball game and all he could do was cheer.

At times Boatright looked brilliant.  He had a couple of his trademark steals and dunks, hit shots in rhythm, and found open shooters, but then there were those times when he dribbled into traffic or with no real direction, turned the ball over, and missed critical free throws.  He just doesn’t look like the same player without the safety net of Napier out there with him.  Calhoun had jumper in the first half and a lay-up, an offensive rebound, and two crucial 3-pointers in the second half.  He is still dusting rust off his game right now and is depending on his outside shot for his offense.  Kromah had a great first half with a 3-pointer, a steal & dunk, another dunk, and got to the line.  He disappeared in the second half though.

Daniels had an early foul with less than a minute into the game and didn’t come back into the game until halfway through the first half, but when he did he had two jumpers, a lay-up, a block, a steal, and a couple of nice assists.  He struggled in the second half though and only had a block and a lay-up.  This team struggles when the offense doesn’t flow through him and he needs to demand the basketball more.

Giffey carried UConn in the first half with two 3-pointers, a tip-in, several rebounds, and instant energy, but for some reason Ollie kept him out for much of the second half and he struggled to make a similar impact.  Samuel had a steal, a rebound, and a lay-up in his limited role and will have a hard time finding consistent minutes.  He needs to keep a good attitude and bring energy when he is out there.

The frontcourt struggled to give long stretches of playing time and they all battled with foul trouble throughout the game.  Nolan got the start and did a nice job early on the offensive glass, but had a few fouls and never got back into the flow of the game.  Brimah held his own on the glass and found ways to get two dunks.  He also changed the game with a beautiful series of blocks that ended with a Giffey 3-pointer.  It was great to see Olander dig his way out of Ollie’s doghouse with inspired play.  He was subbed in midway through the second half and instantly had an offensive rebound, an assist, two steals, and a critical 3-pointer (Which were the last points scored byUConn). Hopefully this will give him the confidence heading forward, because this team will need his experience and size down the stretch.

This was a great game and an early test to see where this team is.  They are much better on the boards, are playing better against the pick and roll, and the younger players looked like they belong, but they also struggled on the perimeter defense, defending without fouling, and making critical free throws.  Ollie has plenty to work to do with his team, but he should be happy with how they handled adversity down the stretch and held on for an early out of conference win.

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