Friday, February 28, 2014

Coach Cronin on Playing UConn

UConn vs. USF Highlights

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Plain Ugly

Nothing has been easy for UConn in the last three games and they once again found themselves in the offensive doldrums.  Jumpers clanked off the rim, passes were deflected, and simple dribbling seemed impossible.  USF wasn’t much better and with referees having a hard time calling a clean game, it all added up to an ugly game to watch.  Their calls were inconsistent and they missed some blatant and obvious calls against both teams. With UConn struggling to get anything going, Kevin Ollie tried to mix and match his line-up and defensive schemes in hope to jump start his team.  It finally worked and they began getting turnovers that led to easy points.  Their defense kept the game within arms reach and the offense finally put together a string of points that got them the lead and they held onto it by the skin of their teeth.

Napier’s game has been in a funk in these last three games.  He dribbled the ball off his leg twice, shot an air-ball, and took some poor shots.  It wasn’t until he attacked the lane that he started getting his offense going.  He needs to play more north/south earlier instead of leaning on his jumper to kick start his offense.  With his poor showing, it is amazing that he finished with 17 points and 7 assists.  On top of that, his clutch shooting has been incredible this year.

Boatright let his early poor play in this game effect him.  He wasn’t getting calls and his jumper was all over the rim. It began to snowball on him and his body language reflected it.  His game finally started to come around and he made a lay-up,  a 3-pointer, had an intentional foul called against him, and hit a 3-pointer, all in a quick spurt that brought UConn from down 9 to up 9.  That stretch turned the whole thing around.  His game is centered so much on that jumper of his that when it isn’t dropping, he has trouble adjusting.  He did do a great job of getting to the line and converting, dropping 6 of 7 from the charity stripe, but it was a slow go for him.

Daniels continues to struggle through this offensive lull that UConn has been going through lately and this team desperately needs him back.  He hit another early 3-pointer and had a lay-up, but that was about it for him. Five field goal attempts isn’t going to cut it. He is not rolling to the basket or using his athleticism to make plays, not to mention his lack of post production.  He needs to post up and demand the basketball.

Giffey was outstanding and finally began taking those open jumpers without thinking about it.  He knocked down some big time 3-pointers and quietly did a good job on the boards.  Kromah looked good early with a steal, a dunk, and a lay-up, but then ended the first half with poor defense and a travel.  Other than a 3-pointer, he struggled to get going and found himself on the pine for the rest of the game.  That was because Ollie inserted Samuel and the freshman made some key plays that helped UConn get the gears going offensively.  He had a sweet reverse lay-up and two critical steals.  Ollie rewarded him with crucial minutes down the stretch.  This unit has been a bit inconsistent as of late and needs to get on track.

Brimah got into early foul trouble and had a hard time rebounding.  Other than a dunk in the second half, he struggled. He only played eight total minutes. Nolan had a charge and a put-back that should’ve been a basket interference.  He had a hard time defending and found himself in foul trouble throughout the game.  Olander struggled defensively and was really out gunned in the paint.  If you blinked, you missed Facey play.  This unit had a rough go and couldn’t keep USF off the boards.  They all combined for 9 points and 7 rebounds in 43 minutes.  That is not going to get it done.

This was the third game in a row that UConn’s offense has struggled.  They settled too much on their jumpers early and couldn’t get into their transition game or to the line which is the main culprit as to why this team is struggling lately.  The defense continues to be there for this team though and that was the reason why they were able to pull this game out, but they need to figure out where their offense went and soon because they have a very tough stretch in the next couple of weeks.  They don’t want to head into the tournaments playing this lethargic brand of basketball.  Next up is Cincinnati and if they come with this type of effort, it could get ugly real quick and this team needs to bolster their resume heading into March.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spinning Wheels

UConn carried over their sloppy play against Temple into their afternoon performance versus SMU.  Both teams struggled to get anything going offensively as their defenses held each other in check.  Connecticut only made four jumpers in the first half and had a hard time solving SMU’s stingy defense.  They settled for the outside shots that just weren’t droppping for them.  SMU on the other hand found high percentage plays around the rim and were able to get into the seems of UConn’s lackluster defense and dish the ball when the help rotated over.  UConn didn’t have an answer and every time they would make a basket, they couldn’t stop SMU from scoring right back on them.  UConn’s body language didn’t look good and they were pointing fingers at referees and each other as their frustration mounted.  In the end, UConn just couldn’t find the combination of offense and defense to crawl out of hole they dug themselves in during their slow starts to the halves and need to reassess themselves heading forward.  They are too dependent on their jumpers to score and when they aren’t dropping, the offense starts spinning its wheels.

Napier struggled for much of the game and had several uncharacteristic poor passes.  While he was aggressive, his shots around the rim were way off and SMU did a great job of driving him off the 3-point line.   He did a poor job on defense, leaving his man on the wings numerous times for wide open jumpers.  It wasn’t until late in the second half that he started getting to the line and scoring in the paint, but it wasn’t enough to carry UConn over the edge.

During these two poor UConn performances, Boatright was the only person to bring his consistent offense.  He got to the line, though he had a hard time sinking them, he hit two 3-pointers, and a jumper.  He is still having a hard time scoring on the break and is slowing up to look over his shoulder instead of going up strong and slamming it home like he is capable of.  He’s dribbling too much and without much of a purpose.  He needs to take a few dribbles and pull up for his jumper or use the screen to open up his shooting hand instead of dribbling his way around traffic, but it is hard to blame him for this loss.

Daniels has been a mystery.  His jumper wasn’t there and it seemed to take the wind out of his offensive sails.  He never really posted up and called for the basketball.  When he did get the ball in the post, he rushed his shots and brought the basketball into the opponents.  He needs to do a much better job of creating space and shooting the ball with his body lined up with the basket.  This team desperately needs him to show up in these games and when he is a no show, it puts a lot of pressure on the backcourt to make plays.

Giffey had a good game and sank two 3-pointers, a lay-up, and a sweet turnaround jumper.  He did have a travel on an easy lay-up opportunity and had a few hiccups on defense, but he outplayed much of the other bench players.  Kromah is in a bit of a funk lately.  He had a deflection and a 3-pointer, but he isn’t having the usual impact on the basketball game that he had been having and it is putting a lot of pressure on the bench to make up for it.  Calhoun came in and fell asleep on defense during an in-bounds play and also missed badly on a wide open 3-point attempt.  It’s not the confidence booster he needed.  Despite Giffey’s play, this unit needs to play much better.

Brimah made a bunch of hustle plays, blocks, and rebounded with tenacity though he found himself in foul trouble and had a hard time getting back into the game.  Nolan played well and had a lay-up and battled hard on the boards, but he did give up a free throw rebound.  Olander got a steal in his first few seconds of play and had a nice block that nearly had his head taken off, but like Nolan, he gave up a free throw rebound.  This unit struggled to keep their defenders off the offensive glass and make plays on the offense end.

There are two ways to look at this game.  One is that it’s just one of those games where nothing went their way and every team has a performance or two like this.  Or it is a precursor to a larger problem that this team needs to solve and fast.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  There were some very makeable shots that didn’t drop for them and also role players that have been contributing aren’t.  Daniels, Kromah, and the frontcourt aren’t making the plays that this team needs to help out Napier and Boatright right now it has caused the offense to become stagnant and that has slowly carried over to the defensive end.  For this team to make a deep run come March, they’ll need everyone playing at a high level and right now only two players are.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

Main Goal

Let’s be honest here.  UConn played a sloppy game.  They toyed with Temple for much of this game like a cat would it's food and against a better opponent, they would’ve lost this game.  Their jumpers weren’t falling and they were late defensively on their rotations.  They were sloppy taking care of the basketball and at times they looked like they were going through the motions.  Kevin Ollie can’t be thrilled on the effort put forth in this game.  They allowed a depleted Temple team to not just out rebound them but to also get 11 offensive boards.  Alas, UConn’s talent did come through and they made enough plays to climb out of an early hole and hold off each Temple run with one of their own.  They did it with their defense, creating 16 Temple turnovers that fueled their fast break, and they got to the line, shooting 22 of 26.  While it wasn’t UConn’s best performance as of late, to get a conference road win is a big deal but there are definite areas this team needs to improve on to move into the elite class of teams.

Napier had an off night with his jumper, shooting only 3 of 11 and not making a 3-pointer all game.  He did make some very nifty passes to his rolling big men, but he also had some uncharacteristic turnovers.  Shabazz needs to stop passing the ball behind his back.  Those low percentage plays usually lead to points the other way.  He is doing a great job of getting to the line and he made Temple pay for their aggressive defense against him.  This game is an anomaly for him and he’ll most assuredly bounce back against SMU.

Boatright gave UConn another Topsy-Turvy performance.  He had some very egregious turnovers, but was the only player that brought his jumper with him, knocking down 5 of 9 from the field.  He had sweet up and under, two mid-ranged jumpers, a deep ball, and a spinning floater.  It’s his late game basketball that he needs to improve on and he made some costly errors in the last two minutes.

Daniels went through the motions in this game and wasn’t very aggressive.  He had several first half dunks in transition but struggled making plays in the post.  He did have a couple of nice jumpers and a floater, but this team needs him to fight down in the paint and one rebound just isn’t going to cut it.

Giffey did a great job of pump faking and driving to the basket for a better look.  It allowed him to get to the line also where he can do some damage. If he can continue to improve that part of his game, he can really become a threat offensively.  Kromah had a sub-par game with only a lay-up and a trip to the line as his only contribution offensively.  It’s a rare game to see him with only 4 points.  Calhoun finally recovered from his concussion but looked tentative out there, passing up some open jumpers.   This unit, which is usually a strength of the team, had a hard time getting going.

Brimah had a very strong game.  He rebounded with some tenacity, got a charge call, hit a nice hook shot, had a dunk, a lay-up, and played with energy. This is what this team needs from him on a daily basis.  Nolan on the other hand struggled.  He had a hard time of rotating defensively and keeping his position.  He did have a nice charge call and hit a put-back, but was out-played by Brimah in this game.  Facey came in for a brief stint and gave Temple a 3-point play.  While Brimah played well this unit only gave UConn 12 points and 7 boards in 41 minutes.  That’s just average.

UConn has been playing some incredible basketball as of late and to see this sub-par outing is a bit disconcerting, it is understandable.  They were on the road and a team heavily dependent on their jump shots, if they aren’t dropping then they tend to push things.  They’ll need to come out with better energy come Sunday to avenge that loss down in Texas against SMU.  It would be a great home victory against another ranked opponent that would help bolster their seeding come March and at this point of the year, that’s really the main goal.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Clean Sweep

For two teams battling for fourth place in the AAC, UConn and Memphis certainly demonstrated the strength of the top tier of the conference because this was a heavy weight bout.  Both teams mirrored each other with strength of their backcourt and they certainly shined.  Memphis’ trio of Jackson, Crawford, and Johnson went 21 for 38 and 51 points. While UConn counteracted that with Napier and Boatright, who went 14 for 33 and 55 points.  Each team traded runs back and forth throughout the game.  Memphis started out hot, hitting several 3-pointers but UConn seized the lead by the middle of the first half as their jumpers began to fall.  Each time UConn took the lead to near double digits, the Tigers would make a run to either cut the lead to one possession or take the lead.  The game went back and forth right down to the end when Napier swirled out what looked like a sure game winner.  In overtime, Napier and Boatright took over and built a three possession lead that they rode to the finish line. Memphis did a great job of taking advantage of the risky defense that UConn’s guards displayed in transition.  The Tiger’s big men would seal their defender and allow easy lanes to the basket.  UConn did a great job of attacking the basket and was rewarded with a whopping 36 attempts at the line which ultimately won this game for them. This could be the beginning of a really good rivalry.

This was the most aggressive Napier has been in a long time.  He took 21 shots at the basket and only 12 of them were from deep.  He had everything working for him, hitting five 3-pointers with one of those from NBA range.  He also had his mid-ranged jumper working, hit off-balance shots around the rim, and was a menace on defense, snagging four steals.  He is playing some of his best basketball of his career in these past couple of weeks and at the right time.

Boatright’s game is so inconsistent lately.  He struggled defensively throughout this game and allowed his man to attack the lane with ease, was caught behind screens, and had some poor angles.  He also had some sloppy passes and missed almost every shot around the rim, but then he gives you two 3-pointers, a couple of steals, and found ways to get to the line where he sank 11 of 12.  It was his emergence in the overtime that finally put the game away for the Huskies, but he needs to be much more consistent especially in when Napier is on the bench.

Daniels looked primed to have a great game.  He had a nice turnaround floater and a 3-pointer before coming down awkwardly on a rebound.  He gutted it out but it certainly affected his game because other than a couple of blocks and a few free throws, he was a non-factor.  There is no doubt that he has been a warrior throughout this season, but the injuries are paying a toll on him.

Giffey played hard but his outside shot was not there, hitting only 2 of 6 from the field.  He needs to shoot the ball when he is set and usually misses shots when he takes a dribble to spot up.  He did play good defense and had a nice offensive rebound, but it wasn’t his best performance.  Kromah made some very impressive hustle plays.  One had him sliding face first out of bounds for a loose-ball.  His jumper wasn’t there but he did have two lay-ups and got to the line.  On top of that, he had five rebounds.  Samuel got some playing time and though he didn’t make an impact, having Ollie have faith to put him in is a great sign.  This group struggled a bit with Memphis’ speed and multitude of stellar guards.

Brimah got the start but it didn’t last long.  He did have an early dunk but was rebounding with one hand and found himself in early foul trouble.  Ollie decided to go with Nolan for the bulk of the minutes and he also struggled.  He did take a charge and moved his feet well, but had trouble finishing plays around the rim.  Facey got a sprinkling of minutes.  He had a rebound and got to the line.  Olander made the biggest impact of this group and had an offensive rebound, a steal, a hook shot, and a lay-up.  This group was a big no show and provided UConn with a measly 10 point and 5 boards in 48 minutes.  Ugly.

UConn fans have to be happy with how their team is playing lately.  Sweeping Memphis is impressive.  They are playing their best basketball at the right time.  While the frontcourt took a step back in this game, the backcourt has more than lifted the team on their shoulders and Napier is putting his name in the long list of UConn point guard lore.  They need to ride this wave of great basketball they are playing right now and not let up against Temple.  Right now it is all about seeding and a great finish to season will bolster that and give them a great chance at a deep run come March.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blown Away

This was an old fashioned beat down.  UConn used a combination of steals and blocked shots to fuel their fast break and led to easy points against an offensively challenged USF team.  UConn’s defense stifled the Bulls and the front court did a great job of blocking out and rebounding the basketball.  The Huskies didn’t let up, like they had in previous games when they had big leads, and they kept attacking, ballooning the lead to 10, 20, 30, and finally 40 points.  They didn’t rely on the outside shot and did much of their damage in or around the paint which was a great sign.  It was a team win with no one scoring more than 12 points and only two players in double figures and they still managed to score 83 points.  Simply amazing.

Napier wasn’t asked to do much in this game.  He hit a 3-pointer, had a lay-up, and got to the line, but he sat much of the first half with foul trouble and then sat much of the second half when the game was out of hand.  His defense caused havoc on USF’s young guards and didn’t turn the ball over at all.  If there is anything to complain about it is his overly fancy passing.  He just needs to make the simple play and not dazzle.

Boatright had a hard time knocking down free throws early on, but he finally found his jumper and hit two 3-pointers.  Like Napier, he played sparingly in the second half, which he needed because he was dealing with a sore shoulder.  On top of that, he tweaked his ankle early in this game, but he fought through it.  He’s shown tremendous heart throughout this season.

Daniels had a terrific game and had his mid-ranged game working.  He carved up USF’s soft zone.  He hit a floater, three jumpers, a lay-up, and a tomahawk dunk that put an exclamation mark on UConn’s run that put USF away for good.  He also played great on defense, blocking two shots and getting a steal.  On top of that, he didn’t settle for the outside shot and focused his offense in the paint.  This is the type of game that Daniels needs to emulate heading down the stretch of crucial games.

Kromah did all the little things in this game like setting the table for easy buckets, blocking shots, getting steals, hitting a lay-up, and getting a dunk as the first half expired.  He’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. Giffey was a bit hesitant to shot the ball, but did knock down a 3-pointer.  Ollie has shown more trust in Samuel and he has responded.  He made an early impact and had two lay-ups, a deep jumper, a couple of steals, took a charge, and got to the line.  He made the most of Calhoun’s absence and deserves a bit more of a role heading forward.  Lennehan hit a 3-pointer and was allowed his name on his jersey, Tolksdorf continued to jack up shots whenever he got the ball and sank a 3-pointer, and Amilo got to the line.

Brimah put his stamp on this game and had 6 blocks which changed the aspect of what USF wanted to do since they are a horrible outside shooting team.  He also had two early dunks, got to the line, and hit a nice hook shot.  He did have some problems rebounding and defending without fouling but his shot blocking was immense.  Nolan hit a baseline jumper, had a dunk, and a lay-up.  Like Brimah, he had trouble rebounding and needs to do better on the boards especially with so many misses by USF.  Facey just comes in and makes plays.  This time he hit a turnaround jumper, had a dunk, a lay-up, and hit a 3-pointer.  Who knew he had that range?  He needs to defend without fouling though and ended up fouling out of the game.

UConn needs to put this game behind them and prepare for a tough game against Memphis in a few days. Games like these are great to take the pressure off the starters and get a look at some of the role players, but there really isn’t much they can take from this game other than confidence.  In fact it might be a detriment if they come out slow against Memphis.  Hopefully that defensive intensity that they had garnered in these past two games can transfer over to one of the elites in this conference, because UConn could use another marquee win to bolster their resume.  But for now they can savor this one win before this winter storm blows through.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014

Business Trip

Coming off a tough loss at Cincinnati, UConn looked to bounce back against a young but struggling UCF team.  Like their previous game, UConn’s jumpers just weren’t dropping for them, hitting only 5 of 17 from deep, but the difference was that they attacked the basket this time.  They owned the paint and had 18 offensive rebounds and the backcourt of Napier, Boatright, and Kromah did a masterful job on the perimeter, causing 10 turnovers that ultimately led to points on the other end.  UCF wouldn’t go away quietly and when they inserted Justin McBride, UConn had no answer.  The big man got to anywhere he wanted to in the paint and had easy looks at the rim.  He provided the spark to chip away at UConn’s lead but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit and UConn made enough plays in the closing minutes to balloon the lead back to double digits for the win.

Napier displayed a balanced game.  He made some nice passes early on, looking inside for his big men.  He didn’t rely on his jumper, even though it was working for him.  Only 4 of his 11 shots were from deep.  His defense was spectacular and caused havoc against UCF’s younger guards.  He is still getting a bit too fancy with his passing and turning the ball over instead of making a safer and higher percentage play, but he made plays when UConn needed him to make them.

Boatright didn’t hit a jumper until the closing minutes of the game.  He did most of his damage attacking the basket and getting to the line.  While Napier was on the bench, Boatright had some issues finding his offense.  He had trouble dribbling in traffic and he forced some shots.  It wasn’t his best performance but when this team needed to make a play to stem UCF’s run, he made them.  He has a tough time finding a way to score when he is taking five or more dribbles and really needs to focus on ball movement and quicker decisions when he is running the point.

There was no telling what Daniels would bring to this game because he was coming off an ankle and back injury that had kept him out of a couple of games.  It only took a minute to see that he was fine.  He hustled around the paint, getting offensive rebounds and scoring on the post.  He still takes some awkward shots on the post, but his floater has finally started to drop for him again.  He did everything from three dunks, three floaters, a put-back, and taking a charge.  This is the DeAndre Daniels that UConn has been waiting for and hopefully will see heading forward.

Kromah was simply amazing.  He hit two 3-pointers, three lay-ups, a pretty fade-away jumper, and a floater that was goal-tended.  On top of all that, he played great on defense, snagging a team high 4 steals.  He’s putting together several solid games in a row.  Giffey played good defense and made some key hustle plays early, but didn’t have his offense working for him.  He missed some wide open jumpers.  Calhoun played a sprinkling of minutes and had an assist.  Samuel also got into the game in the first half and played some good defense.  It is good to see him get some trust from Ollie to play some critical minutes.  It will pay dividends heading forward.

Nolan made a major impact in the first half.  He had a dunk, a floater, a lay-up, a nice outlet pass, and took a charge.  He had trouble controlling space when McBride was put into the game, but did have a lay-up and put-back in the second half.  Brimah struggled mightily to play defense without fouling.  He did have a nice offensive rebound and put-back, but sat much of this game on the bench.  Olander played sparingly and was pushed around in the paint.  This unit provided UConn with 12 points,  8 boards, and 3 blocks.

It was good to see UConn not be so dependent with their jumpers and to score around the paint, but McBride’s dominance in just a short span of time still shows UConn’s Achilles heel, even though they held their own on the boards.  They will now host UCF and can’t let these home games slip away from them if they want to remain in contention for a high seed come March.  Barring a major collapse in February, they are a lock for the Big Dance, but right now it is all about seeding for them and dropping home games against teams not going to be in the tournament will hurt them.  So it is imperative that they remain focused and take care of business at home against these teams looking for a signature win.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Slipping Away

It is really tough to get a road win in college basketball and UConn found that out the hard way.  They started out well and spread the scoring around from Kromah, Giffey, Boatright, and Napier all chipping in, but they just couldn’t sustain it.  Defensively, they didn’t have an answer for Kilpatrick or Patrick.  They combined for 41 points, 15 for 25 from the field, and 18 boards.  Without Daniels playing, nursing back spasms, the pressure was on Napier and Boatright to carry them to the finish line and they just couldn’t do it.  Cincinnati began to take over the pace and UConn forced shots, turned the ball over that led directly to points, and the Bearcats made some tough shots.  Ollie needs to tip his cap and move on from this one.

Napier flat out struggled.  It looked like he was going to light it up, hitting his first deep shot of the game, but only sank two more jumpers all game.  He went 2 of 12 from deep and only had 3 assists.  He tends to get in a jump shooting mode and tries to shoot himself out of it instead of adjusting and attacking the basket more.  Chalk this one up to an off night, but he needs to find ways to get to the line more and he couldn’t do that.

Boatright was nursing a sore shoulder and it might have affected his game because other than that late 3-pointer, his shots were off.  He had a hard time creating his own offense and besides that first half stretch where he made a lay-up, got to the line, and sank a jumper, he struggled to find consistency.  He’s been in a mini-rut lately and this team needs him to be a bit more consistent.

Kromah was the best player on the court for UConn and while that’s great for Kromah its not a good sign for UConn.  He made five lay-ups and a jumper while also contributing on the boards and playing solid defense.  Where would this team be without his impact? Giffey had a great first half but once again disappeared in the second half with only two trips to the line, which he only hit 2 of 4, as his only second half points.  Calhoun had another rough game.  He did make a slight impact in the second half with a jumper and two offensive rebounds but his shots are all over the rim.  Samuel got some minutes in the first half and had a turnover and a lay-up.  Ollie is getting more comfortable in putting him in some pressure situations.

Brimah had a productive performance.  He found ways to get to the line, blocked shots, and had a nice offensive rebound and dunk. He has these flashes during games that make your mouth water at his overall potential.  Nolan couldn’t defend without fouling and his footwork needs to improve.  He found himself with two early fouls and each time he was out there he was called for another.  Olander had a rebound in six minutes and Facey had one in his two minutes.  This group was a big fat no show in this game and had no answer on how to defend Patrick.

While this loss is disappointing, there is no shame in it.  They were short handed and their major weapon, their jump shots, weren’t dropping.  They still were right in this game down the stretch.  The only disconcerting aspect was their inability to adjust when they knew that their jumpers weren’t there for them.  That’s a recipe for an early exit in the tournament.  They’ll need to dust themselves off because they have a short turnaround against and a long road trip to UCF for a rematch.  One thing we know so far under this Kevin Ollie regime is that he’ll have this team ready after a loss.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


UConn limped into January with a loss to Houston and compiled that up with another loss to SMU that dropped them out of the top 25.  They bounced back with a tough win against Harvard, a dominating performance against UCF, and then an eye opening win against Memphis, buy then they hosted Louisville in a physical battle that had Kevin Ollie get ejected from the game on a controversial call.  The Cardinals manhandled the Huskies and gave them their fourth loss of the season.   Dusting themselves off, UConn once again put together another three game winning streak against Temple, Rutgers, and revenged their loss by beating Houston.  With each loss, they have shown a way to bounce back.  The rebounding has improved, the jump shots have started dropping again, and they are doing a much better job of finding different ways to get points from the free throw line and actually scoring in the post.  This team has taken a huge step in maturing in the month of January and showed glimpses of potential that could flourish into a sleeper team in the next couple of months.

Napier was the most consistent Husky during the month of January.  His jumper was on target and when he was in attack mode, he was unstoppable.  He can score in a variety of ways from spotting up for a deep three, to coming off screens for dribble penetration, and playing off the ball for spot up jumpers.  During January he has played without Boatright and Daniels in games and has carried this team in just about every category.  The only knock against him is his slow starts in some games.  He tends to try to get others involved which is his job, but sometimes his team needs him to carry them earlier because they dig themselves into a hole.

Boatright had a good start to the month but then hit a bit of a speed bump after the Harvard game.  He had to deal with a heavy heart with the loss of his cousin, which was more like his brother.  His jumper wasn’t as consistent as it had been in December and he continued to struggle to score in the open court.  He tends to take off balance shots around the rim instead of going up strong.  He has started taking some mid-ranged jumpers which are dropping and is attacking the baseline more.  He tends to gamble too much on defense and allows his man an open lane to drive or a wide open look at the basket.  The great sign for Boatright is that he hasn’t been dependent on his jumper to make an impact on the game.

Daniels had an up and down month.  During the Memphis game, he was unstoppable but then backed that up with a no show against Louisville.  He tends to disappear in some games and with this team in desperate need of post production, DeAndre is vital to UConn’s success.  His outside shot has been outstanding, but his floater has been inconsistent and he has been rushing his shots in the paint.  His rebounding has been much better as of late and when he is getting those rebounds, it tends to effect his offense.  He needs to demand the ball in the paint more and concentrate on rebounding, because that usually fuels his offensive game.

Giffey has been shy to look for his own offense, taking shots only when he is really wide open.  His 3-pointers weren’t dropping earlier in January but had started coming around late in the month.  He has been one of the most consistent defensive players to come off the bench and is rarely in foul trouble.  He still tends to have good first halves and disappear in the second, especially in the final ten minutes.  His rebounding needs to improve and hasn’t utilized the pump fake.

Kromah has continued to provide UConn with a spark off the bench.  He had his best game of the month against SMU and continued to play well.  He has been able to score around the rim, has hit the outside shot though he tends to be streaky, and he plays hard defensively.  His play really hasn’t diminished as UConn has entered conference play and he has earned the starting role.

Calhoun’s nightmare season continues.  His confidence has left the building.  His jumper is all over the map, though he has been able to knock down a few 3-pointers in January, and he is even missing wide open lay-ups.  His minutes have dwindled to near single digits and he had to miss a game due to an ankle sprain.  The problem with him heading forward is that he’ll only have a limited amount of time on the court to make shots to get back on track.

Brimah was the most improved player in the month of January.  He finally began making plays against UCF and hasn’t looked back.  He is starting to assert himself on the boards which is also giving him confidence on the offensive end.  He is making plays in the post with a baby hook shot, getting offensive rebounds and put-backs, and is making great cuts to the basket on pick and rolls.  He has come a long way since October with his hands and he is no longer making sloppy turnovers or bringing the ball down where it can get stolen.

Nolan has been a bit inconsistent during January.  His post game is near to non-existent and he tends to lose position during rebounding.  He does provide a shot blocking presence and when he is rebounding the basketball, he finishes plays.  He just has a hard time making the same impacts in back-to-back games and staying out of foul trouble.

Olander has been a team player all year but has made little to no strides in getting more minutes.  He is getting pushed around and out worked on the boards and when he does get in position, he isn’t able to secure the basketball.  He plays hard out there though and isn’t shy about diving for loose balls, but January hasn’t been his best month as a Husky.

Whenever Facey came into the game during January, he has made positive plays.  He has shown the ability to rebound but has had a hard time defending without fouling.  He has proven during this past month that he can be called upon to provide a spark when the big men above him are either in foul trouble or can’t get the job done.

Samuel didn’t get much playing time and when he did finally get to see some action, he had a hard time controlling the basketball.  He looked more comfortable driving to the basket instead of taking jumpers.

January showed a lot of progress and they were able to get a signature win against Memphis on the road, but they did counteract that with a bad loss to SMU, though they are playing well as of late.  The frontcourt has made strides and they need to continue that progress heading forward because February is a monster of a month for UConn and they could find things spiraling out of control if they aren’t careful.

Saturday, February 1, 2014