Monday, December 23, 2013

Dog Eat Dog

After taking a beating in their first loss of the season against Stanford, UConn had to travel across the country to take on an inconsistent but talented Washington squad.  Washington started out in a zone that had sputtered UConn’s offense in their previous game, but UConn came out prepared and sliced it up for an easy dunk and that pretty much put an end to that experiment because they primarily played man-to-man the entire game.  Despite the sub-par zone defense, Washington’s offense came out on fire, knocking down outside shots and getting most of the 50/50 balls, while UConn’s offense continued to search for a rhythm and knock down jumpers.  They fell behind by double digits and it wasn’t until five minutes to go in the first half that they began turning defense into easy offensive opportunities.  They roared back and took the lead and  never looked back, especially after their jumpers started dropping again in the second half.

Napier had a quiet first half with only one jumper on a deep two and hit 2 of 3 from the line.  He then took over in the second half with two jumpers, a 3-pointer, a block, and a lay-up.  He also had a team high 6 rebounds.  Unlike the Stanford game, he did a great job of eliminating his poor shots but he still had some sloppy turnovers and a five second call on an inbound’s play.  His uncharacteristic 4 turnovers to 1 assist performance is not indicative of what we have seen all year and needs to do a better job of handling the rock.

Boatright finally crawled out of the offensive doldrums and found his offense.  He hit two mid-ranged jumpers and a 3-pointer in the first half.  His defense was much improved and kept getting into passing lanes, turning steals into points.  He also found ways to get to the rim and had a lay-up.  His aggressiveness also created some opportunities at the line.  Like Napier though, he had a hard time controlling the ball and when he turned it over it almost always led to points on the other end. Hopefully he can build on this performance heading forward.

Daniels had a quiet game.  It started ominously with an offensive foul, but then he hit a jumper on an inbounds pass, had a steal, a lay-up, and got to the line.  He only had a dunk, a block, and hit 2 of 2 from the line in the second half.  This team needs more from him, especially if he isn’t knocking down shots. The most disappointing aspect of his performance in this game was his rebounding. 3 rebounds in 30 minutes just isn’t getting it done.

Giffey had a rough game.   He had a hustle save, a 3-pointer, and got to the line hitting 2 of 3, but he had a hard time defending without fouling and setting screens.  He picked up his fourth foul with 9:08 to play and eventually fouled out.  Calhoun’s offensive rut has hit a new low and he missed some wide open shots, only knocking down one jumper.  His confidence is at an all-time low and he needs a great shooting performance in a huge way. There is no underestimating Kromah’s impact on this game.  He came in when UConn’s offense struggled and immediately had a pretty driving lay-up, a put-back, deflection, another lay-up, and a steal & lay-up.  He then started the second half in place of Calhoun and again had a steal, two more lay-ups, a dunk, and a block.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start over Calhoun heading forward.

Brimah got the start over Nolan and had a dunk against Washington’s sub-par zone defense and looked stronger on the boards then in previous games.  He looks incredibly awkward with the ball in his hands though and he continues to get called for touch fouls, but he makes an impact every time he is on the court.  Nolan did play with some urgency when he got on the court.  He attacked the glass and had two offensive rebounds & put-backs and found ways to get to the line.  The most impressive part of his game was his rebounding.  He snagged 5 boards.  Olander only played five brief minutes but found a way to pull down 3 rebounds in that time.  The front line contributed for 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks.  This was the best this group has played in some time and they need to continue to put up these solid numbers.

If one thing we have learned in Ollie’s year and a half as coach for UConn, it is that he has his team ready to go after a disappointing performance.  They came out and battled adversity in their first true road test, showing some resolve that an experienced team should have.  The frontcourt looks much better and the jumpers are starting to drop again.  This team still needs to take better care of the basketball and coral those 50-50 rebounds, but they have proven that they can win in a tough spot on the road and that will pay dividends heading forward.

No comments: