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.

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