Saturday, March 29, 2014

Garden Grove

UConn came right out of the gates and gave Iowa State a taste of their own medicine. Napier, Boatright, and Daniels were able to knock down shots from deep and built up a three possession lead early, but this game was won on the defense end. UConn used great switching and got back on defense to prevent any Iowa State run to get back in this game in the first half. They really did a fantastic job on driving off the Cyclone's shooters around the perimeter. They only made six 3-pointers and the surprising number was that they took only 16. With the Huskies taking away the Cyclone's biggest weapon, they ended the first half with a double digit lead.

Both offenses started to heat up in the second half and they began trading baskets at a furious pace. UConn had no answer for Hogue and Iowa State couldn’t stop DeAndre Daniels. Both players carried their teams for the majority of the second half, but like they have all year long, Iowa State began making plays in crunch time. UConn helped them out by taking bad shots early in the shot clock, turned the ball over, created offensive fouls, and couldn’t keep Iowa State off the offensive glass. The once double digit lead shrank to a two possession game, but UConn used one of their biggest weapons, the free throw line, to keep themselves in the lead and hold on for the victory.

Napier came out on fire, hitting four 3-pointers in the first half which helped build a double digit lead. He didn’t have as big of an impact in the second half. His only offense was a lay-up and five free throws. He played sloppy defense at times and left wide open shooters, he also took bad shots, turned he ball over, and had two offensive fouls. This team will need a much more controlled Napier heading forward.

Boatright continued his superb play. He had two 3-pointers and two jumpers in the first half. He did have problems in transition and turned the ball over a couple of times, but he was in attack mode for much of the game and was able to drive into the lane and create contact. He also went 6 for 6 from the line in the second half. He still needs to work on his late game decision making and took numerous bad shots early in the shot clock that led to points on the other end, but he has stepped up his game in this tournament.

What more can you ask from DeAndre Daniels? He had everything working for him in this one. He started out playing great defense, blocking two shots, and then got to the line to see the ball sink into the basket. He then hit a 3-pointer, a turnaround jumper, and then a pretty crossover lay-up. That was just in the first half. He really put on a show in the second half. He hit a fade-away jumper, a 3-pointer, two lay-ups, another jumper, an offensive rebound put-back, and went 2 of 2 from the line.  On top of all that, he grabbed 10 boards. This is the DeAndre Daniels that has UConn fans drooling. The problem is that he rarely puts back-to-back displays like this one. For UConn to move forward, they’ll need this type of game from him to elevate the pressure on the guards.

Giffey had an early lay-up, but his outside shots looked rushed and they barely caught iron. He rebounded really well in traffic and played good defense, but it was his late 3-pointer that helped UConn pull off the victory. Iowa State looked primed for a comeback and had all the momentum but Giffey changed all that with his big time shot. Kromah had a rough game. He had an early turnover and had a hard time on defense. He only played eight minutes. Samuel continues to play like a junior. He has grown so much in such a short time and Ollie has tremendous faith in him, even getting a friendly slap after the game. He had three lay-ups, hit his free throws and played really good defense. He even created a charge. His new found role has created a much deeper bench and has allowed Napier and Boatright plenty of rest to be fresh down the stretch.

This was a tough game for the big men. Iowa State played a more perimeter oriented game and their big men were barely in the paint, so Ollie had to play more small ball to match-up. Brimah had an offensive rebound and put-back, two blocks, and a hook shot, but only played 20 minutes. Nolan only played 9 minutes and had a tough time rebounding and defending. Both players only had 3 rebounds in their combined 29 minutes of play. That’s not getting it done.

So far UConn has matched up well with all three of their opponents, but for them to head forward, they will need everyone on their A-game. Michigan State such a deep and well rounded team that can beat you in numerous ways. Boatright needs to finish plays around the rim, Giffey needs to hit the outside shot, Brimah and Nolan need to rebound, Daniels needs to remain hot, Kromah and Samuels need to play smart basketball, and Napier needs to bring some magic. If they play their game and use their strengths, 3-point shooting, half court defense, and free throw shooting, they will be in this game, but they need to find that right combination of taking outside shots but remain aggressive to get to the line. The one thing UConn fans have seen before is a team not expected to make a deep run be able to find that spark and ride it all the way to the Final Four and this team has a very similar feel to it.

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