Friday, March 14, 2014

On Track

It is hard enough to win on the road but to do it twice and against a tough Memphis squad seemed daunting, especially with how UConn has been playing, but they were up for the challenge.  After two weeks of dismal offense, it finally turned around for them.  They shot the lights out from behind the arc, led by Giffey, who torched Memphis by draining six 3-pointers, but Napier, Boatright, and Daniels all chipped in as well.  It was their defense that clamped the Tigers’ high powered offense down and won this game for them, holding Memphis to just 26.4% shooting.  It also helped that Memphis couldn’t take advantage of the free throw line and they had plenty of opportunities there. They only hit 20 of 37.  It was a get right game for UConn and something they certainly can build on heading forward.

Napier had a great start to this game and was aggressive early on.  He hit a crazy lay-up that got him going and then found his range, hitting a 3-pointer.  He struggled hitting his free throws in the first half though and only made 1 of 3.  He hit a 3-pointer in the second half that helped balloon the lead and really played the floor general game.  He let the game come to him which seems to be when he plays his best.  The bad shot Napier has started to emerge again and he needs to keep that impulse shooting to a minimum.

Boatright kept dribbling into trouble and had a rough start to the game.  He found himself on the bench and watching much of the first half from the pine.  When he got back in, he still found it hard to find an opening to score until the very end of the first half where he was able to get to the line and hit a 3-pointer.  His second half was much better and had several steals and a lay-up but is still missing shots around the rim.  He is working too hard to get anything going and needs to attack more downhill instead of laterally.

Daniels had an early 3-pointer and a steal, but had a hard time rebounding and defending without fouling.  He found himself with two fouls around the six minute mark and had to sit out the rest of the first half.  His second half was much better and he had a dunk, two jumpers, and a sweet turnaround jumper.  This is the second game in a row that he has made a significant impact on the game.  This team will need him to continue to play this way heading forward.

Giffey was simply amazing and lit up Memphis in the first half with four 3-pointers, an offense rebound, a lay-up, and a steal. He remained hot in the second half and knocked down two more 3-pointers and two lay-ups. Kromah played good defense and had a lay-up.  Samuel has slowly garnered Ollie’s trust and he found himself coming in for a struggling Boatright.  He immediately made an impact with a jumper, a save, and got to the line, but struggled in with ball handling.  Calhoun didn’t play.

Brimah made a pretty hook shot and a sweet pass to Napier, but it was his second half defense that really made the difference. Nolan had a tip-in, a dunk which he made a bone-headed play by holding onto the rim and smacking the backboard.  He played sub-par defense and eventually fouled out.  Facey came in for a minute.  Olander took a horrible 3-pointer and a travel but did have a nice tip-back. This unit only provided 8 rebounds and that’s not good enough, especially with all of Memphis’ misses.

This was the type of performance that Ollie’s team thirsted for.  They needed to have a game where their jumpers were dropping to build their confidence up before heading into the Big Dance.  They now have to take on a tough Bearcats team looking for the tie-breaker.  Hopefully UConn’s jumpers continue to fall and they keep their defensive intensity though with a little less fouling because this game will be a slugfest.  It will be the first team to sixty will win and if UConn can hit those outside shots, it won’t even be close.

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