For the first time since 1987, UConn played an official home game outside of Hartford and Storrs. The fans around Bridgeport had to sit through a mediocre first half where UConn struggled to hold onto the basketball and secure rebounds which allowed a sub-par but scrappy Eastern Washington team to battle toe-to-toe with the fifteenth ranked team in the country. Whatever Kevin Ollie said in the locker room at halftime, UConn certainly righted the ship and did a much better job on the boards and didn’t create those sloppy turnovers that led directly to points. Connecticut’s overall talent helped create separation and they eventually ran away with the game, but don’t let the end score fool you. Eastern Washington were very much in it for two-thirds of this game.
Napier took too many risky passes in the first half and only had a lay-up and a long jumper as his only field goals. He played much more aggressive in the second half and had three lay-ups and found ways to get to the line. His defense still needs to improve a bit and he tends to get a bit lazy when his opponent is stationary and he gave up a few open shots.
Boatright had a bit of an inconsistent game. At times he would get steals, sink jumpers, get to the line, make lay-ups, up& unders and dunks and then take horrible shots that lead directly to points, not block out, not ready for passes, miss around the rim, dribble way too much, and leave his feet and cause a turnover. He really needs to get rid of some of these bad habits to be able to take his game to the next level.
Daniels had a sub-par performance. His quiet night consisted of a pretty spinning floater, a block, a dunk, and his patented floater. He only snagged four rebounds and played only 22 minutes despite only having one foul. He needs to assert himself more into the offense, establish position, and demand the basketball. There is no reason for this type of performance against a team that played man-to-man defense.
Kevin Ollie made another change to the starting line-up, inserting Giffey. He immediately made an impact with a steal which got him to the line. He added several blocks, a 3-pointer, lay-ups, offensive rebounds, a dunk. His length and ability to play multiple positions gives UConn more flexibility with the starting unit. All eyes were on Omar Calhoun and how he would respond to the demotion. He struggled early, missing an open 3-pointer, but then hit a driving lay-up. He responded in the second half and hit a jumper, played solid defense, and hit back-to-back 3-pointers which had to feel like a weight had lifted off his shoulders. The greatest sign from this game was his ability to rebound, grabbing six boards. Hopefully he can carry over his play from the second half and build on it. Kromah continues to shine in his role playing solid defense and getting a couple of lay-ups. He adds some offensive juice off the bench.
Brimah once again got the start and made an impact with his length, but once again his poor positioning created two back-to-back fouls which sent him to the bench. Ollie sent him a message that he needs to play smarter by not reinserting him into the game. Nolan had a slow start to the game and had an early turnover, but was able to create positive plays in the second half. He played aggressively and with purpose in the paint which awarded him opportunities at the charity stripe. He also added a dunk and rebounded the basketball much better. Olander played some solid defense and got to the line in the first half but only played 4 minutes. This group added 9 boards, 14 points, and 4 blocks in 31 minutes. That’s not that bad.
Facey got a couple of minutes and showed an ability to crash the glass. He deserves a shot at more minutes heading forward. Samuel needs to show some patience. He won’t get as much opportunity now with minutes but it will pay dividends next season. Tolksdorf found minutes and made sure to shoot the ball. He ended up getting an offensive rebound and put-back. Watts and Lennehan also got into the game.
Kevin Ollie continues to tinker with the starting line-up to see what combinations will work heading into conference play. It paid off with Giffey providing a lift and continuing to mature his game. The rebounding continues to plague this team, especially on the offensive end. They need to win those 50/50 opportunities and haven’t lately. If they can tread water in the rebounding department and take better control of the basketball, then they will have a tremendous opportunity for a top seed in both tournaments but that depends on some of these younger players stepping up and seizing the opportunity.