Friday, January 17, 2014

Getting Even

This was a good old fashioned slug fest.  Memphis came out and wanted to knock around UConn.  Both teams wouldn’t back down and the whistles were blowing all over the place.  The Tigers, a usually poor 3-point shooting team, came out on fire from deep and with trips to the free throw line, they carried the lead into the first half.  It didn’t last long as UConn came out on fire and quickly built up a seven point lead before Memphis once again began hitting the outside shot, but it was fool's gold as the perimeter shots dried up for them.  Connecticut took advantage and went on an incredible run late in the ball game to take a six point lead, but like in previous games they made some bad turnovers late in the game and were very lucky that Memphis missed some shots so that they could escape with a much needed conference road win.

Napier came out of the gates aggressive and was looking for his shot though they weren’t dropping early on.  He continued to probe the defense and made some brilliant passes to his big men for easy buckets.  He took over late in the game when it counted most and knocked down two jumpers, a lay-up, and sank two important free throws.  If there was any downside to his game it was that he still took too many 3-pointers (8 of his 13 shots) and needs to take a couple of more mid-ranged shots, but he was masterful in this game.

Boatright continues to have his up and down performances.  He has been having trouble controlling his dribble, falling behind on defense, missing fast break lay-ups, making poor passes, and turning the ball over late in the ball game but then he sinks a jumper, a 3-pointer, and two crucial free throws late.  He needs to step up more when Napier is on the bench and the offense tends to get stagnant when he is the primary scorer.

This was the DeAndre Daniels that everyone has been waiting for.  He hit four 3-pointers, had a couple of offensive rebound put-backs, driving lay-ups, a hook shot, and made plays on the post.  On top of all that, he had his best rebounding performance of the year-snagging 11 with 4 of those offensive.  This team is totally different when his mid-ranged shot is dropping.  It opens the driving lanes for the backcourt and allows them to collapse the defense.  He is finally play and making plays off the ball in the painted area and it has sparked his offense.

Giffey had a lay-up early and one late but couldn’t find a way to knock down his jumper.  He did a good job on the boards and had 4 rebounds with 2 of those offensive.  He still seems shy to take a shot.  Calhoun had a good first half with a lay-up and a 3-pointer on back-to-back plays.  It was good to see him have a positive impact on the game.  Hopefully this will raise his confidence a little.  Kromah bounced back from his quiet performance in his last game.  He had two lay-ups, two jumpers, and a 3-pointer.  He did have three turnovers but he was able to sustain a few of UConn’s runs.  This group continues to find their game with Kromah leading the way.

Brimah was coming off his best performance of his short career and while it wasn’t on the same level, he still had a good game.  He was active around the basket and had 5 rebounds with 2 of those offensive.  He did foul out of the game, but with the way this game was being played and called, it wasn’t really his fault.  Nolan also played well and had a lay-up and a dunk though he only grabbed one rebound in his 13 minutes.  Olander was pushed around in this game but did have a lay-up in the second half and grabbed two rebounds in his ten minutes.  The center position gave UConn 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 block.

This was the biggest game of the year for UConn.  Not only did they get a must win on the road against one of the conference elites, they didn’t back down, had their offense play consistently, and most importantly, they out-rebounded another team.  Credit goes to Kevin Ollie for the improved play of Nolan and Brimah.  They had struggled to not only score points, but get a couple of rebounds as well.  Now they are nearly combining for double-doubles.  UConn now has a very tough test against the National Champions in Louisville.  Hopefully they will rise to the challenge at Gampel and dig themselves out of an early hole.  They’ll need a performance like they put together in this game and with Napier on their side, they always have a chance.

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