Sunday, January 12, 2014

Breaking Out

Where did this come from?  UConn, last in the AAC in rebounding, beating the best rebounding team in the conference by 26 boards.  The sudden outburst of paint production also came against the vaunted zone defense that had thus far confused the Huskies this year.  This is UConn basketball that most fans are used to seeing.  The inside-outside game opened up everything on the court and when teams have to honor their big men, UConn made them pay with easy lanes to the basket.  They decimated the zone and finished plays at the rim.  Despite a pedestrian night from deep, they built a double digit lead and answered every UCF run with one of their own, coasting to the much needed conference victory.

Napier started the game aggressive on both ends of the court.  He had several steals and a block while getting much of his points from the line.  Even though he didn’t shoot the ball that much in the first half, he was more involved in the game and found his big men on numerous occasions for easy buckets.  He continued to probe the lanes and dish the basketball, racking up 11 assists.  His overall game was on display from rebounding, playing in your face defense, and knocking down the occasional jumper.

It was a rough start for Boatright.  He had a turnover on the baseline and had three passes that also led to turnovers.  He did get things going in the second half with a lay-up, a jumper, and found ways to get to the line and knocked them down, but he needs to do a much better job of taking care of the basketball.  On the bright side, this was one of his best rebounding performances of his career, grabbing seven.

Daniels finally broke out of his offensive funk.  He hit back-to-back 3-pointers, jammed in a monster dunk, and hit his patented turnaround floater which hadn’t been dropping for him lately.  He did a fantastic job on the boards as well and grabbed seven of them.  Hopefully this is the Daniels we will see heading forward because when he is playing well, the offense begins to show some flow.

Giffey also got back on track and was able to get a sweet driving lay-up, hit a 3-pointer, and added another lay-up, but it was his 5 rebounds that was the most impressive. Sometimes it feels like he doesn’t want to shoot the ball because he doesn’t want his 3-point percentage to go down.  Unlike the rest of the team, Calhoun just couldn’t get back on track.  He struggled to find his shot and also had a horrible inbound pass.  Other than his two rebounds, it was a big no show for him.  Kromah had an uncharacteristic quiet game, but provided solid defense.

This game belonged to Brimah.  He finally broke out of his funk and exploded for an amazing 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks.  He scored on a three offensive put-backs, four dunks, and went a perfect 4 for 4 from the line.  While this might be the high point for him this season, it is a great confidence builder for him heading forward.  He now knows that he can make a major impact on the game and just needs to focus on rebounding the ball on its highest point, don’t bring it down, and put it up as soon as possible.  Nolan also joined in on the fun and had 2 dunks, a lay-up, took a charge, and hit 2 of 2 from the line.  Olander did start both halves but with the superior play of both Brimah and Nolan, he only played 4 minutes.  This group that had struggled to combine for a double-double provided UConn with 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 blocks.  Now that’s getting it done in a big way.

Samuel, Facey, Watts and Tolksdorf also got into the game with a couple of minutes to play.  Both Samuel and Facey both showed Ollie that they can make impacts even in their limited play.  They just need to practice hard and they’ll get their shot eventually, because the talent is evident every time they are on the court.

This was exactly what UConn needed.   Not only did they get their first conference win of the season, they also had their young front court play their best basketball of the year and at the right time.  The question now is if they can come close to what they did in this game.  They just need to provide a little impact on the game so that they respect the screener and not hedge the ball handler out of the play.  If they can do that then the offense will continue to roll, zone defense or not.  They’ll need all the offense that they can handle for a tough road game in Memphis against a very talented squad.  Who said that this conference was easy?

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