Friday, March 21, 2014

Survive And Advance

This game looked reminiscent of the Iowa State game of two years ago that had ended UConn’s last trip into the NCAA tournament.  Like Royce White, Halil Kanacevic had his way throughout this game and found cutters, hit smooth hook shots and jumpers, and made numerous amazing passes.  Langston Galloway and the Hawks came out on fire and couldn’t miss a shot.  UConn on the other hand hit their first couple of jumpers and began settling for perimeter shots instead of attacking.  The free throws began to mount for Saint Joseph’s and UConn’s frontcourt found itself in constant rotation with the fouls piling up.  They kept themselves within arms length by hitting 6 first half 3-pointers and despite getting thoroughly outplayed, they only found themselves down by 5 at the half.

In the second half, UConn’s rotations were much crisper and the Hawks lights out shooting began to settle back down to earth.  But each time UConn made a big play to get within a possession of the lead, St. Joseph’s made one of their own.  Time began to slip away and Napier and Boatright struggled to make plays. Both took rushed and well defended shots early in the shot clock.  Surprisingly it was a Daniels’ 3-pointer and Amida Brimah’s clutch 3-point play that brought UConn back to tie the game up in the closing minutes.   After a last second miss by Napier, they went into overtime.

In overtime, Daniels changed the entire complexion of the game by driving the lane and getting Kanacevic to foul out.  Without their offensive cog, St. Joseph’s offense sputtered and UConn kept up the pressure, doing what they should have done from the beginning of the game, get to the line.  They used one of their strongest weapons, their free throw shooting, to create some separation, and St. Joseph’s didn’t have enough magic left to get back into the game as UConn built a three possession lead to get the victory.

Napier had a hard time making shots, going 7 of 22, but the good sign was that he took 22 shots.   He made two 3-pointers and 5 lay-ups with some of those shots in much needed moments.  He finally started getting calls late in the second half and when he did get to the line, he made them pay, going 8 for 8 from the charity stripe.  What was most amazing about his performance was his ability to snag 8 rebounds.  For someone his size, he has a knack for getting to the weak side for rebounds.

Boatright carried UConn early by hitting a jumper and two 3-pointers in the first half and continued his solid play into the second half where he made an incredible behind the back pass to Brimah and hit another 3-pointer, but then the bad side of Boatright’s game emerged.  He took two bad shots at the end of the second half and had a horrible foul in overtime.  He needs to be a more reliable player in late game situations, but without his great play earlier UConn would’ve been in deep trouble.

Daniels had everything going but still disappears in long stretches.  He hit two 3-pointers in the first half but had problems getting rebounds and making plays in the paint.  That turned around in the second half where he was able to sink a floater, hit a lay-up and sink a clutch 3-pointer.  It was his lay-up in overtime that knocked Kanacevic from the game with 5 fouls that allowed UConn to seize momentum and pull away.

Giffey started off the game strong with an offensive rebound and put-back, but he had a hard time playing defense without fouling and was constantly in and out of the game.  He did make plays when he was in, getting steals, a lay-up, and knocking down two 3-pointers.  Kromah had two lay-ups, a 3-pointer, and an offensive rebound, but it was his defense on Galloway that was his biggest contribution to this game.  He rode Langston’s shooting hand and made him give up the basketball numerous times in the second half.  Samuels missed two easy lay-ups and Calhoun made a bad pass.  He hasn’t made a positive play in a very long time.

Brimah came out and had an early offensive rebound and put-back, but had problems defending without fouling and was pushed around in the paint for offensive boards.  It wasn’t until the second half that he began asserting himself.  He had a tip-back, a dunk, and two offensive rebounds, with one of those an & one that he promptly sank to tie the game up.  His energy sparked UConn’s comeback and eventual victory.  Nolan made some nice plays in the paint with two dunks, got to the line, and hit an up-and-under move.   His major problem was getting rebounds.  He needs to do a better job of clearing space and going after the basketball. Olander only played 3 minutes.

UConn will need to do a much better job defensively to beat Villanova.  They can’t have late rotations like they did in this game because the the Wildcats play at an incredible speed.  Hopefully UConn can ride the hot hand of Brimah and Daniels.  Having paint production changes the complexion of this team and allows Napier and Boatright to operate in space.  Luckily Ollie and the Huskies are familiar with Jay Wright’s team and are comfortable in playing them.  UConn will need a much more efficient night from Napier and Boatright to pull off the victory but the name of the game this time of year is Survive and Advance and they sure did that.


Curtis said...

What a game! Brimah gets HUGE credit for hitting his free throws. He is quickly becoming my new favorite player at Uconn (behind Stanley Robinson and Kemba of course).

I wanted to know your thoughts on Omar Calhoun. Is his injury still lingering? Is he not practicing hard? Was he just never that good? Is he going to transfer? Or did Niels Giffey suck his talent like the Monstars from Spacejam?

Another important point to note: My brother was at this game. Apparently the St. Joes fans greatly outnumbered the Uconn fans. He made it seems like it was almost an away game for Uconn (can't help but think of the SDSU game during their 2011 run).

David Gillett said...

It was a fantastic game. Brimah has grown so much in his freshman season that it is hard to imagine him lasting four seasons if he continues at this pace. He could be the catalyst for a deep UConn run.

It is all mental with Calhoun right now. He is too tentative and is over thinking everything. Add the fact that he is playing such sparse minutes, his opportunities to make plays are limited.

Lots of fans were there to see Villanova play and of course they would be rooting for their in-state team and especially against an old Big East foe in UConn. Hopefully UConn can get a great contingent in the game against Nova.

Thanks for reading and posting a comment.