It was another slow start for UConn against a scrappy and undefeated Loyola squad. They missed easy buckets and their big guns in Napier, Boatright, and Daniels struggled to get things going. It wasn’t until they began getting easy buckets on the fast break that they finally pulled away and they withstood a pretty good run at the end of the first half and beginning of the second from the talented scorer Cormier, but with the combination of the fast break, getting to the line, and offensive rebounds in the second half, UConn pulled off the victory. It sure wasn’t pretty though and they once again were out-rebounded by a team that was averaging a minus-9 in the rebounding department and UConn gave up 20 offensive rebounds to them. That gave Loyola 70 shots in the game to UConn’s 55 and Connecticut still won by 10. It is a testament to how well UConn is playing defense right now but giving up that many offensive rebounds is usually a recipe for a loss.
Napier looked to get others involved early and it wasn’t until mid-way through the first half that he got his first points on a steal and layup. He followed that with a jumper late in the first half and that was his only field goals of the game. He displayed an well rounded performance in this game, crashing the boards, blocking 3 shots, and dishing out 7 assists to only two turnovers, but it would’ve been nice to see a bit more aggressiveness on the offensive end from him.
Boatright’s jumper is still off but he did a lot of other things in this game. He played harassing defense, had 3 layups, and got to the line a season high 11 times. He did have an awful foul late in the first half, fouling a 3-point attempt, and he also missed some free throws late, but he rebounded much better, 8 boards, and passed the ball really well. It is a great to see him involved when his jumper isn’t dropping and is a sign of his maturation as a player.
Daniels had an awful first half with only a 3-pointer as his only impact on the game and sat a long time on the bench while getting an earful from Coach Ollie. He erupted in the second half and played much more aggressive and was rewarded. He had a dunk, four offensive rebounds put-backs, two blocks, and a 3-pointer. He also rebounded the ball much better and ended with 8 boards. It is strange how he doesn’t have that killer instinct and sometimes needs some prodding. If he can have that aggressive mindset all game then he'd be a high lottery pick despite his size right now.
Giffey bounced back from his poor showing in New York with another great first half. He had a 3-pointer, 2 dunks, a jumper, and an offensive rebound. He is still struggling to make that second half impact though. Calhoun looked to be back to form and had a nice first half with a jumper and a 3-pointer, but just couldn’t remain consistent. He’s in a bit of a rut right now. The biggest surprise was from Kromah. The veteran defensive presence showed some offense in this game and had three lay-ups, two 3-pointers, three assists, and a steal. He’s quietly putting together a pretty good season. Samuel made a brief appearance.
The struggles continued for the centers. Nolan flashed some offense with two dunks and two layups, but could only muster 2 boards in his 18 minutes. Olander played 10 minutes and had 1 board which is a major step back for him. Brimah had 3 blocks and 2 boards in his 8 minutes but was plagued with foul problems. Add that up and that’s 5 boards in 36 minutes. Not good at all.
This team is a work in progress but what they do have is plenty of options offensively and tonight it was Daniels, Giffey, Kromah, and Boatright. Eventually the lack of rebounding will catch up with them especially on the offensive end. They can’t give a team 15 more shots and expect to win games. But as long as this team can get in transition and continue to play solid defense, they can play with anyone. They just lack that final piece of the puzzle right now to fill out the entire picture. Hopefully they can find that.