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.

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