Monday, February 26, 2007

Out Of Reach

Louisville 76 Uconn 69

You are what you are. This season is frustrating but you can’t fault these kids from trying. Dyson has come into his own, building his game off of threes and slicing to the hoop. When the offense flows off of him, than Uconn can hang with anyone but draughts occur when he misses a few shots and no one takes over. Uconn is a team growing, a few pieces have emerged but the surface of this team hasn’t been touched.

Uconn needs Stanley Robinson and Marcus Johnson to produce. They played 22 minutes and produced, 2 points, three rebounds. Louisville’s forwards scored 48 points to Uconn’s 18. They out muscled Uconn underneath and had several easy looks around the basket. All the blame does not fall onto the Forward’s shoulders; the guards had a hard time rotating and getting beat off screens, causing the big men to fall off their man and cover.

Uconn knows the only shot to get in is to win their tournament. They need to approach these next couple of games as preparation for the three game marathon. Their in, time to spread out the minutes and make sure that the team has enough gas to get their best effort come Big East Tournament time.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Valentine Blizzard

Uconn 67 Seton Hall 55

Everything was leading up to a disappointing loss. The first half had its stagnant offense, scoring only 27 points. The defense had done its job holding the oppisition to 25. But than in the second half, Seton Hall stormed out with full court pressure, luring the Huskies into turnovers, than the most miraculas thing happened, the stars shined.

Dyson splashed threes from around the arch and Thabeet had a good ole fashioned block party. They finally dispelled the plaguing drought. The Valentine Blizzard drowned it out with an offensive outburst of 40 points a half.

This win goes to the defense though by holding Seton Hall to shooting 28.8 percent. The 14 blocks is simply incredible. The guards have been rotating well, putting a body on every body. Uconn out rebounded Seton Hall, 52 to 40 with 6 more offensive boards.

Credit goes to Seton Hall for the effort. They played an up tempo game and even applied full court pressure that gave the Pirates the lead. But they had a short bench playing eight deep to Uconn’s 12. If not for Dyson’s outburst, they could have stole this game.

The Guards did a good job driving into the lanes and kicking out. Dyson is our best weapon and shot 7 for 22. He’s going to have to shoot us into the tournament. Austrie did a create job setting up plays and went 4 for 11 but had 7 assists. Wiggins is still finding his role. Am I a shooter or an assist man? He finished 3 for 10. The guards also rebounded, grabbing 16 boards.

The Small Forwards didn’t play, only getting 6 minutes. They did each get a shot, going o for 2. Marcus Johnson did get a rebound.

The Big Men did their job. They blocked, rebounded and scored. Jeff Adrien had a great day continuing his stellar field goal percentage, going 5 for 7. Thabeet had back to back impact games, blocking 7, grabbing 9 boards and for bonus, scored 6 points. Back ups Gavin Edwards had a good game. In nine minutes he got to the line twice and grabbed 4 boards.

Uconn still had a bad free throw night, converting 15 of 23. Seton Hall cashed in on 14 out of 17.

You can look at this win in two ways. They have turned the corner or they are an inconsistent team that will fall flat one game but rise against lesser talented teams. Times running out and these Huskies need to keep that steering wheel turning.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Breaking News: Doom and Gloom Has Arrived

Let’s focus on the task at hand, staying above the bottom four in The Big East. This loss to Georgia Tech, a team that mirrors Uconn’s problems with youth and sloppy play had four players go over double figures to Uconn’s two. Uconn has been battling under the boards and playing with heart but their play is not creating points. They are a physical team that will go to the line consistently 20 to 30 times a game but your only making half of those points. Defense did well, Offense was sluggish but the free throws by Wiggins on a one and one, Stanley Robinson who had signs of being a consistent free throw shooter can’t hit a free throw in three straight games and Marcus Johnson hit 1 out of 4.

This isn’t rocket science. Get the ball in the hoop. Half of the players at a YMCA could make a better percentage on free throws with the same practice this team has had.

The shooting was atrocious. 17 for 55. Dyson, who will break through his poor shooting went 4 for 14. Uconn needs him to shoot 14 or more a game. He is by far the best scorer on the team. He drives and creates shots. Wiggins should no longer dribble. He looks uncomfortable with the speed of the game. He’s a shooter but better to give the ball to him coming off screens for jump shots like Richard Hamilton. A.J. Price is still hurt only getting 13 minutes but he to is going to be stout. Austrie looked primed to be a shooter the past few games but had a rather poor showing, hitting 1 for 10 but dished out 5 dimes.

The big men played good but not great. They did make their presence felt. Thabeet swatted 7 shots and earned his start with contributing seven boards. Any offense from him is bonus if he gives you that every game. Jeff Adrien is a rock, doing his thing with 13 points, on 5 of 7 shooting, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. Gavin Edwards filling in for Mandeldove, gave effort but only had 2 boards in 12 minutes. Kelly made his big body known around the rim, getting to the line but clanking on all trips to the line and only collected 1 board in eight minutes.

The small forward position is the most mysterious group. One night it is Stanley Robinson, who did hit two consecutive threes, have 2 boards but shot 3 of 8. Marcus Johnson played 14 minutes and clanked two shots and went 1 for 4 from the line.

The formula to loss a basketball game is to go to the line 21 times and make 12 while your opponent goes to the line 18 times and makes 17. Than shoot 31 percent form the field and allow the opposing team to shoot 43 percent. The final result Georgia Tech 65 Connecticut 52

Monday, February 5, 2007

Uconn 67 Syracuse 60

Take a deep breath, Calhoun. They’re finally coming around and you’re actually winning against quality opponents.

This is the first game that Uconn has been dominant on the boards and created deep foul problems for Syracuse’s big men. Uconn played stout down low, standing tall, with hands outstretched and blocked out. Syracuse were caught pulling and pushing for position.

On offense, the game has slowed down for the guards, passing it along the top and finding open shots and converting them. Uconn found the spark that they held for a brief instant in the Providence game. Threes splashed in flurries. Syracuse countered each spurt with a little of their own, no team pulling away with a double digit lead and this young team, who scrapped for the win two days ago, powered their way to the victory.

Now Syracuse has been plagued with putting up games where their effort on the offensive glass was less than satisfactory. This team has turned a major corner with this victory. They need to work on this momentum and take care of business. Beating Georgia Tech will add another piece to their resume and they need it.

This was a total team effort with five players scoring in double figures. Austrie led the way with 14 points and 7 boards. Price coming of a deep thigh bruise found his stroke and scored on some drives and long range, scoring 12 points in 20 minutes. He’s for real. Johnson shined with 10 points, a spectacular dunk, 3 boards and 4 for 6 shooting. Adrien is Adrien and did his work. 12 points, 12 rebounds, 5 offensive and being a force and fouling out two big men and two more on the ropes with 4 fouls.

It still ain’t all roses for these cubs. The free throw shooting was horrendous. Going 19 for 37 isn’t going to cut it. An experienced team would have been up by ten and sustained the lead from the line. But this team is improving and winning and with each win, the more confidence this team will have.

The next series of games are going to either lift this wave of momentum the cubs have garnered or wash their dreams of a post season away.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Syracuse at Uconn, Monday 7:00 pm

Which Syracuse team will show up at Storrs, the one that beat Marquette, Rutgers, Villanova, and Cincinnati in a row or the team that lost to St. Johns, Louisville and Notre Dame? Uconn hopes it’s the latter. Whichever Syracuse team that steps off the bus will be a more cohesive unit than Uconn’s.

Syracuse has an experienced team with Demetris Nichols, Eric Devendorf and Terrence Roberts that combine for 43 points a game. So this team isn’t a one trick pony. They have depth and use their bench as much as Uconn but with more execution.

What to watch for: Keep an eye on the battle of the boards. These two teams lead the Big East in rebounding margin and average and also in defense field goal shooting. This is going to be a tough and bloody battle to get and secure every rebound. Hopefully Thabeet’s good play continues.

Not missing McNamara: Syracuse’s offense is ranked 3rd with 76.4 points a game and Uconn plummeting to 73.3. Syracuse also has a good three point shooting team making .381 a game. So Uconn needs to counter the threes and be ready for long rebounds because Syracuse will shoot plenty of them. Uconn has kept opponents to shooting .312 a game that ranks them 4th.

Don’t fear rejection: These two teams combined to block 358 shots this year, ranking 1st and 2nd in the league. This smells of a foul plagued game and that doesn’t fall into Uconn’s favor.

Player to stop: This is easy, Demetris Nichols. He leads the league in scoring with 18.5 a game and is ranked 4th in field goal shooting at .870 a game. See how many points he gets from the line. If it is more than 10 than Uconn will lose.

Syracuse’s weakness: Their size is not that intimidating but they make that up with experience with 9 juniors and seniors on the team. If Uconn wins, it is because they are penetrating the zone and hitting jumpers, which is something Uconn was able to do for only one half versus Providence.

This is a huge game for Uconn and to beat Syracuse and build on the momentum of their previous win will do wonders for the teams confidence. Though I see this game as lopsided towards Syracuse, I still believe Uconn can pull off the victory in front of the home crowd but seeing is believing.

Uconn 65 Syracuse 63

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Player Of The Game

It was good to see Thabeet have a good game, 8 points, 11 boards, 6 of those offensive and 5 blocks. He changed at least 10 other shots and helped sustain Uconns offense.

Uconn Wins!

Uconn 61 Rutgers 50

At this point it doesn’t matter how they get the wins but that they get them. The more they win, the more they’ll believe in the system. Forget needing overtime to get 61 points or the free throw shooting that almost cost them the game and ignore that Rutgers leading scorer was attending his grandmother’s funeral. Let these cubs enjoy this one. Pat Thabeet on the shoulder for finding offense and rebounding. Tip your cap to Austrie hitting threes and driving lanes to easy buckets. Smile that Adrien is a solid basketball player, swishing free throws down the stretch, hitting the boards hard, dishing out of double teams and being an anchor for Uconn.

It didn’t matter how they got the win just that it is now behind them. The losing streak is gone and now they have something to work on. Sure this team has innumerous aspects of their game to work on and Rutgers isn’t a very good team but this win does give Uconn a shot at making the Big East tournament.

Uconn sits at 3-6 tied with three other teams and one of those is St. John’s whom they have beaten. Right now they’re in. The Syracuse game looms large for Uconn’s season. If they can beat them and have a quality victory and stay in the mix of the 4 win teams they will have turned a huge corner but this season is still far from over.

Even with the lack of scoring, Uconn finally overcame the dreaded drought. Their offense flowed with inside to outside passing and great rotation on defense. The hustle and determination to grab the loose balls were just as important as the domination on the glass. The guards took their jumpers when open instead of forcing off balance drives. The big men grabbed boards, boxed out and didn’t give up easy dunks. The small forwards were invisible and find a way into the offense.

The win is what it is, a win. It’s a band-aid to stop the bleeding but the wounds still there. These cubs dug in with only themselves to believe that they could pull out the victory in overtime and they did it. So let them smile and feel good about finding a way to win this one, because Syracuse is coming up and they still remember what happened in the Big East tournament finals last year.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Player Of The Game And Iron Man Of The Game

Losing your tooth and coming back to lead the team in scoring with 16 points, adding 6 boards, going 8 for 9 from the charity stripe and 1 assist will give any player both awards.

The A.J. Project

DePaul 66 Uconn 58

Jim Calhoun has done just about everything he can to get this team to improve. Every game has a different starting lineup and each game ends the same way, with a pitiful offensive performance. Is there one particular culprit to point your finger at for this one? Shooting 22 for 58 from the floor doesn’t help but DePaul only made one more field goal than Uconn, going 23 for 57.

So what is it? Rebounds? Uconn wasn’t dominant, though they should have, collecting 36 against DePaul’s 32. Assists? DePaul doubled Uconn, dishing 13 of them to Uconn’s 7 but the lack of assists are not from bad passing but missed shots and passed up shots for drives. Free throws? Definitely not. Uconn had their best game from the line going 12 for 14.

Then what is it that has Uconn sputtering on offense? It isn’t in the stats. They're not running. Plain and simple. Uconn has always been a team that pushes the ball up the court as soon as the they rebound. Did you see the way they played in the last twelve minutes? That is the way they should have played these past seven games. Run, run and run some more. But this team isn’t doing it. The guards and forwards are lingering to long after the ball is rebounded. There should be no one standing around. Everyone should be out of breath, wearing down the other team. Uconn has the depth to do this but they choose not to.

The defense needs to stop the back door cuts which is another result of lingering and not getting back. The transition defense is where other teams are devouring Uconn. When Uconn gets into a five on five, they excel and hold there own. Be it Draelon Burns drops 26 on Uconn when he averages 9 a game and Uconn watches another shot drop at the buzzer before halftime but Uconn had their shots and didn’t make them.

Uconn has size and athletes that are comparable to any in the Big East but they don’t have strength. Smaller but heavier men are pushing Uconn’s big men around. Several times, getting around Thabeet’s long frame for position and did you see during a dead ball that Thabeet wound up to kick the ball like a soccer player. The kid is learning how to use his upper body in coordination with his lower half. It will come around, but not this year. Time to lower his minutes.

A.J. could’ve been hurt but leaving him out until they were so deep in the hole to climb out seemed counter-productive. Calhoun could have been sending him a message but at the cost of a victory. A.J. did respond with emotion and played ten solid minutes but not enough. Stanley Robinson had a good offensive game but his defensive lapses have caused to many easy buckets in transition. Adrien had another solid performance but is a role player not a playmaker. Dyson has tenacity and pose, almost looking like not caring at times, but a player you want on your team. If he finds his jump shot, he’ll be an Allen Iverson. Austrie played well, scoring but didn’t dish out an assist in 27 minutes.

Uconn needs to turn this ship around and to do that is to do two things: Run and Run some more because there'll be plenty of resting come March.