Monday, February 28, 2011

Fresh Start


UConn needed a strong performance and they got one. The defense was stellar throughout the entire game, limiting Cincinnati to jumpers and they did a good job of corralling defensive boards. The offense once again got off to a fast start and stuttered after hitting double-digits. They held on to their lead in the first half even though they struggled against the full court pressure which led to numerous careless turnovers and easy buckets for the Bearcats. But in the second half, UConn was able to deal with the pressure and the freshmen finally found their legs and began hitting jumpers again. Once again they had the game well in hand, but began getting careless with the ball down the stretch and made it more of a game then it had to be, but they were able to make the plays to put the game out of reach and get the victory that they desperately needed.

Walker had a solid game. He was deferring early on, trying to get Lamb and Smith some open looks. He got going by following up a miss with a lay-up and getting to the line on a nice pump fake. Walker picked up his third foul early in the second half, but when he got back in, he was aggressive, hitting a rhythm three pointer, stealing the ball for a lay-up, and playing stellar defense, but again he had two costly turnovers down the stretch. He needs to do a better job in ball handling in those crunch time situations.

Oriakhi had a rough first half, having only two offensive rebounds as his only impact besides good defense. In the second half, he missed two easy dunks and is taking to long to gather himself to finish strong, allowing the defender to get a step on him. He also isn’t getting much action on the pick and roll or finding shots in the post. Most of his offense is on second chance points. Okwandu didn’t get the start because Calhoun wanted him to stay out of foul trouble but it didn’t work. He picked up two early fouls anyways. He did bank in a jumper and hit a line drive hook shot, but he didn’t have a big impact on the game. Olander had a foul in his first two seconds of play and had a turnover after a rebound in the second half.

Lamb finally had a good game. He had an early sloppy pass but made up for it with a rhythm three pointer. He followed that up with a nice floater and another three pointer in the first half. He came out just as strong in the second half, hitting a wide open three pointer, knocking in another floater, and getting a couple of lay-ups. The only knock against him was his dribbling. He dribbled the ball off his foot and put himself in precarious situations with over dribbling. But overall it was a great performance for the freshman.

It was great to see Smith hit that first three pointer and he wasn’t done, knocking down two more. He also did a great job of crashing the boards. While he didn’t have a major impact down the stretch of the ballgame, his timely shooting and defensive rebounding kept Cincinnati at arms length. Hopefully this is the Smith that will show up for the rest of the season. Coombs-McDaniel hit a wide open three pointer, but wasn’t getting the rebounds or lay-ups that made him a double-digit scorer in the past. He did knock down his free throws in crunch time though. Giffey didn’t follow up his strong performance against Marquette. He over dribbled, a major issue for him, and had a horrible pass. He didn’t even take a shot.

Napier had an early turnover and was yanked. He came back and was aggressive, which is great to see, and got to the line. He followed that up with a three pointer and a steal before taking two horrible outside shots which had him back on the bench. In the second half, he took another bad three pointer before hitting one in rhythm. He is having a hard time in handling pressure late in the ball game and dribbles into trouble and then blindly passes the ball. He needs to know when and where to turn on the jets. Beverly had another turnover on a poor pass and didn’t do much after that.

At times it wasn’t pretty, but this team hung their hat on their defense and it won this game against a hot Bearcats team. The freshmen played well, Walker was efficient, and they controlled the boards. While they haven’t solved the full court pressure or the zone, they are moving in the right direction. This is a fresh start and they need to finish off these next games with solid contributions from Napier, Lamb, and Smith to let them carry over some momentum into the tournaments. From there who knows what can happen?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jeff Adrien can Score and Score and Score

Rick Adelman on Hasheem Thabeet

Friday, February 25, 2011

House of Cards


It was an utter collapse. UConn had clawed their way from down double digits and literally had the ball in their hands to seal the game in the closing seconds and gave the game away. They coughed the ball up time after time down the stretch. This felt just like the first Louisville game where they had everything in control and let Marquette steal it. This team is nothing like what they were in the first half of the year. They get so tight down the stretch and begin turning the ball over in places that lead to easy points on the other end. It has to be frustrating for them. This isn't a good sign for there hopes in the tournaments. The freshmen continue to be inconsistent, Walker is turning the ball over too much, they are getting killed by offensive rebounds, and the zone is causing their offense to go stagnant. This once mighty team is falling like a house of cards.

Walker had a great twenty-five minutes. He was good early, knocking down jumpers, and great during most of the second half he had his game going, but his sloppy ball handling and forcing up bad off-balanced shots down the stretch cost UConn this game just as much as his great play had put them in position to win it. He is so much of a focal point of the offense down the stretch that it is almost a detriment to the team. He needs to let others handle the ball so that he can come off screens for rhythm jumpers. Teams are throwing double teams at him and instead of dishing, he is trying to split it. He knew that he cost them this game by the look on his face at the end of regulation and overtime. Hopefully he can bounce back from this one.

Oriakhi had a good game. He wasn’t much of a post presence, other then an early hook shot, but he was a force on the boards and had a bunch of second chance points and played solid defense. He did miss some important free throws down the stretch and had a bad turnover while rebounding, holding the ball too long and letting Marquette sneak behind him for the steal, but this was a great bounce back game for him. Okwandu played well also. He had a nice steal and dunk to start his night. He backed that up with rebounds and some blocks. He was limited in his minutes due to foul trouble, but he made a positive impact out there.

Lamb had a slow start and missed his first four shots before hitting a floater. His jumper is still not there, but he was everywhere on the boards. He had the play of the game for UConn, tipping in a missed shot with his off hand while gliding under the hoop. This team desperately needs him to find his confidence in his outside shot again. Smith did hit a 3-ball from the wing, but couldn’t hit another jumper after that. He did an adequate job on the boards, but didn’t do much down the stretch to help the team. With his excellent free throw percentage which shows that he can hit jumpers and his driving skills, he should be deadly from the soft parts of the zone, but he isn't getting it done.

Giffey came out in the second half and had an early offensive rebound and lay-up and continued to instill energy from there. He hit a three pointer and a jumper, played solid defense and crashed the glass. He did have a sloppy pass and missed from point blank range, but for him, this game is a giant step in the right direction. He needs to back it up with another solid performance. Coombs-McDaniel hit an early three pointer but struggled to find his offense that he demonstrated in previous games. He sat out most of the second half for Giffey and only had a rebound and a missed three pointer in the second half.

Napier struggled mightily. He missed all his jumpers in the first half and had a horrible turnover and a poor decision to intentionally foul to boot, his second of the year. He sat out the rest of the way. Beverly had a good night and was steady in place of Napier's absence. He didn't have those forced plays or costly turnovers but he also didn't make many plays either. Olander was getting killed on the boards and had a horrible pass and played limited minutes.

The double-bye is a distant memory. So is a top notch seed in the NCAA tournament, but these next games are still vital. This team needs momentum and finish strong. They are so young and need to rebuild some of the confidence that they had in the beginning of this season. They are falling apart down the stretch of ballgames and are having sloppy turnovers and giving up way too many second chance points. They need to find ways to limit offensive rebounds and start sinking jumpers again. This was a tough game to swallow and like the first Louisville game, they had it won and gave the game to Marquette. If they don't straighten out the mess, then it doesn't look good for their prospects in the tournaments.

 



View more videos at: http://www.nbcconnecticut.com.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Colossal Letdown


It was ugly. UConn just can’t figure out the match-up zone and struggled to get any offense going. They gave up too many offensive rebounds, turned the ball over on numerous sloppy passes, and gave up lay-up after lay-up because of the inability to stop dribble penetration and had poor rotation all game. It ended up in a colossal letdown. Offensively, the frontcourt could not help out and take advantage of the soft spot of the zone and the backcourt settled for off balanced jumpers. They had their chances in this game and even had the lead for a brief moment in the second half, but Louisville then drained some outside shots to stretch the lead back to double digits and never looked back. Calhoun was left with the same questions he had from three games ago and doesn't have the answers.

Walker struggled again and it had to do with the zone. It clogged up the lanes and frustrated him. He only had a banked in three pointer in the first half and an early jumper in the second for his only two field goals. He did get to the line and did his damage there, but it wasn’t enough. If he can’t figure out the zone, then this team has no shot of making a deep run through both tournaments. Teams don’t even need to be fluent in zone to cause UConn problems. Once Walker sees the zone, he begins deferring and the offense hits the wall. He needs to remain aggressive and take balanced jumpers.

Oriakhi had an early 15-footer but soon found himself getting an earful on the bench from Calhoun due to his defense. He came out in the second half and battled hard on the boards and had several offensive rebounds that led to two dunks and did a good job at the line. He still needs to block out better and tends to get his rebounds five feet and in without blocking out, but this loss can’t be blamed on his play.

Lamb was a no show. He only took a handful of shots and didn’t contribute much of anything in this game. This has been his third non-impact game in a row. This team desperately needs his offense and he just isn't giving them it. Coombs-McDaniel was the best player for UConn. He made several lay-ups in a row, rebounded, and hit an outside shot, but he also had several bad passes, and missed an one-and-one attempt, but without his offense, this team would have been embarrassed.

Napier had a bad start, making a horrendous pass, but followed that up with a nice steal and a three pointer. He struggled defensively and was going under screens and allowing Siva to drive to the rim on numerous occasions. He also has been turning the ball over way to much and giving up easy points. Beverly had a board in the first half and made two free throws in the second half. He did a good job defensively but wasn’t much of an impact on the game.

One of the few good things to take from this game was Smith’s play. He rebounded much better, got to the line and sank some free throws, hit a jumper, and had a hustle tie-up, but he also didn’t block out on a free throw and continues to search for his offense. Okwandu had a good first half and had a couple of offensive boards and a blocked shot, but also had a couple of sloppy passes and didn’t do anything positive in the second half. Giffey played well, hitting a three-pointer and had a nice steal. Olander had a rebound, but also struggled defensively.

Burn this game tape after watching it and start again. This is still can be a good team against the zone and are a great team against man-to-man. They have the size and talented backcourt to figure out the zone and just need Walker, Lamb, and Napier to make shots on the perimeter and Coombs-McDaniels, Oriakhi, and Smith to attack in the soft parts of the interior. This is still a young nucleus and it is Walker's eminent departure that has fans feeling the urgency, but they still have some winnable games down the stretch and who knows what will shake out in the cluster filled Big East. They just need to show improvement.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dog Eat Dog


This was just what UConn needed. The offense looked crisp, the defense mostly kept Georgetown to outside jumpers, they rebounded well and Walker and Coombs-McDaniel carried over their stellar play. Again a team didn’t play a majority of zone or pressure defense which plays into UConn’s strength and Georgetown’s defense was getting gashed by drives and mid-ranged shots. On the other hand, they also need to do a much better job at the free throw line, leaving numerous points on the court and making this game closer then it had to be. But this was a fantastic performance against an elite team that was playing at a high level and should instill some confidence that had been tarnished with their play in the past couple of weeks.

He’s back. This was the Walker that Husky fans had seen in the first two months of the season. He found his jumper against Providence and carried that over in this game, but he rediscovered his driving lay-ups that he were missing throughout his extended slump. He had everything working from his outside shot, mid-ranged jumper, to a street ball off the glass lay-up, and he also made the right play when the help came. The only thing lacking from his game was consistency from the line, leaving five points on the court. Hopefully this is the Walker that will be showing up the rest of the year and especially against the zone.

Oriakhi had a bounce back performance. He rebounded much better and single handedly brought UConn back in the first half with three consecutive offensive boards that led to two dunks and a nice over the shoulder lay-up. He did make a bad play in the closing seconds of the game and pulled a Scottie Haralson and made a basket that he didn't have to which had Calhoun jumping mad. But this game should put him on the right track and hopefully get him to play with energy he displayed all game.

Lamb is in the midst of his own slump. He did make a three pointer and a floater in the first half but missed a lot of shots that had been going down for him. He still played solid defense, snatching two steals, which is good to see for a player not playing well on the offensive end of the court It wasn’t as much of a factor since Coombs-McDaniel has emerged as an offensive juggernaut and filled the role that Lamb had. He finally looks like he is having fun and why not when he is scoring from deep, driving to the lane for runners, and hitting numerous jumpers. Having a fourth option behind Walker, Oriakhi, and Lamb has given this team much needed versatility and should be able to break the zone with the ability to make plays from the top of the key.

Napier struggled and was pulled early in the ballgame for not getting back on defense. He didn’t have much of an impact on the game other then running the point to free up Walker. Beverly had a board, a miss, and dribbled into trouble. He needs to do more with less. Giffey had some early minutes and had a horrible pass. He needs to know his role as a spot up shooter and like Beverly, he does too much when the ball is in his hands.

Okwandu had a good game and had a few blocks and a dunk but Calhoun went small and he had a reduced role down the stretch. He has been a pleasant surprise on the defensive end of the court and lets Oriakhi play his true position at power forward. Smith continues to struggle to find his shot, missing everything that he threw up there. He had a tough time with the back cuts and the Princeton style of play, but his length defensively was invaluable on the perimeter. He is the missing piece to this offense and if he can get it going from the wing then watch out. Olander had a really good outing with his limited minutes. He had a nice up and under move and hit a jumper. He seems to always be out of breath after a few minutes in the ballgame but he still plays with a ton of energy.

UConn has clawed their way back into contention for that coveted double-bye with this impressive victory, but they still have a brutal stretch of games left. The good thing is that Walker has gotten back on track, they have rebounded much better, and they have found help offensively from Coombs-McDaniel. They just need to get Lamb on track, get Smith rebounding, and Napier to hit the outside shot, then this team has a chance to finish this season out strong. They are a lock for tournament and are only playing for seeding in both tournaments but with their higher expectations these next few games can determine how hard their final goal can be ascertained.

 

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Payoff


It was as close to a must win for UConn. They certainly didn’t want to fall to .500 in the Big East with the cluster of teams ahead of them in the standings. It didn’t look good early on for them. Nothing was dropping and they couldn’t stop Brooks without fouling. But Providence did UConn a favor and didn’t play zone or pressure defense and all of a sudden they found their offense again. Calhoun also threw away the zone, which was ineffective, and played man-to-man for nearly the entire game. The rebounding is still spotty and they are giving up too many second chance points and are turning the ball over too much, but they righted the ship with this victory and hopefully can build on the momentum.

Boy it was good to see Walker have an efficient game. He still isn’t getting the calls and was stopped for chatting after his second make, but he made the most out of his possessions. He stopped shooting off balanced shots and used his jumpers more, hitting a couple from the baseline and from deep. He also was knocking down his free throws again, only missing one. His whole game was on display and showed his rebounding, defense, and passing more. Hopefully this is the game that sets him up for a strong finish down the stretch and into the tournaments.

Oriakhi just couldn’t get his night going. He had a nice hook shot and lay-up in the first half but it was also marred with a travel, going 0 for 2 from the line and getting out worked in the paint. He road the pine for much of the second half and had an earful from Calhoun. He has had a roller coaster of a season, having a solid game then a sub-par one. This team desperately needs consistency from him.

Napier had a slow start, missing his first two shots and having an intentional foul, but came out strong in the second half with two big-time three pointers which was the catalyst for extending the lead for good. He still has a problem of letting his opponent get by him too easily and tries to bat at the ball from behind. Lamb had a tough first half missing his first two shots and then had a dunk before sitting the rest of the half with two fouls. He then had a quiet second half with only a lay-up and three pointer as his only effect on the game. It is his second quiet game in a row and needs a solid outing to get his confidence back.

Coombs-McDaniel played out of his mind. He was all over the boards and got behind the defense and settled right at rim for lay-up after lay-up. He also hit a three pointer too. It was the type of performance that could spark something consistent. He has learned to not settle around the perimeter and is flashing to the rim without the ball and is being rewarded. What also goes unmentioned is his defense. He has been able to keep Brooks out of the lane and not foul which is just as important as his scoring.

Okwandu played fantastic. He had several blocks, a 15-footer, two hustle tie-ups, hook shot, and several boards. It was the second time this season that he has outplayed Oriakhi and was just as responsible for this victory as Walker and Coombs-McDaniel. Smith had a tough game missing all of his outside shots and only had a lay-up. He also was a no show on the boards and needs to contribute more there. Giffey had some early minutes and didn’t take advantage of it, missing a few shots and having an awful turnover. Beverly had a good game with two nice passes, a board, and a steal in the first half. Other then a sloppy pass, he did a much better job with the ball.

For some odd reason Providence didn’t play zone or pressure defense which had given UConn trouble all season. Those questions still haven’t been answered and they’ll need to, but this win puts them in position to make a run down the stretch for that coveted bye in the Big East Tournament. They have such an inconsistent team now and haven’t been able to have Oriakhi, Walker, and Lamb play well all at the same time. Hopefully this game gives them a fourth option in Coombs-McDaniel and a second big man in Okwandu. With the finish line within sight, they need to put it all together and finish strong, because they don't want all their hard work to not pay off in the end.

 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ray Allen breaks Reggie Miller's record











Steamrolled


This was an identical performance that UConn displayed in their dismal outing in the Big East tournament last year. Sloppy ball handling, terrible transition defense, inability to knock down shots, and St. John’s caught fire and UConn couldn't put it out. They were able to get anything that they wanted offensively and Calhoun’s experimental zone defense was getting decimated with open jumpers and was getting gashed with easy interior passing. UConn was struggling against the zone in previous games and now they can’t handle extended pressure and the turnovers are leading to easy buckets. The offense has been a mess for weeks and now the defense has followed suit. It all adds up to a major blowout and has Calhoun scratching his head and wondering where his great team has gone to.

It has been well over a month now that Walker has been shooting poorly. He is hitting a good percentage from outside because he is able to set his feet but when he drives, he is off-balance and those shots that were falling months ago are rolling off the rim. His confidence is shaken and it is reflected in his slumping free throw shooting. He has done a great job of helping out on the boards but was a non-factor in the second half, missing his first five shots before hitting a three pointer. With his offensive woes, the pressure has been put on the defensive to keep them in ballgames and it wasn't up to the task.

It was sad to see Oriakhi’s good performance go to waste. He attacked the boards getting multiple offensive rebounds in the first half and found ways to score around the basket, but he disappeared during St. John’s major run in the second half and had a hard time finding rebounds late in the ballgame. This loss can not be put on his shoulders though.

It is hard to blame Lamb from having a bad game since he was on a pretty good stretch of great offensive performances. He struggled to find his shot early on going 1-for-7 in the first half and was caught lagging behind several times on defense, giving up easy transition baskets. He did heat up a bit in the second half hitting some floaters and a couple of three pointers, but it was way too late.

Napier should have been able to dissect the pressure defense with his dribbling but he had trouble even getting the ball across the timeline. He did hit a couple of three pointers in the second half, but he was held in check for the most part. This would've been the game where he made tons of plays by beating the pressure and finding the frontcourt for easy buckets.

If there is anything to take from this game it is that Smith has bounced back. He was rebounding much better, pulling down numerous boards early on. He also was able to hit the outside shot that was eluding him for the past several weeks. He played with an energy that hasn't been seen in some time, but it didn't have any impact on the overall flow of the game. Giffey had some extended minutes and was able to hit a three pointer and jumper which is good to see, but he got caught playing sloppy defense. Coombs-McDaniel also hit an outside shot and a couple of boards.

Okwandu played some solid defense early on and was also the recipient of some fouls caused by sloppy defense from the guards. He needs to rebound better and be stronger with the ball in his hands. He had some sloppy turnovers during St. John's extended run. Olander had an early rebound, played some sloppy defense, and didn’t block out at times. He is a work in progress.

It was a horrible game and tough to watch. Nothing was falling for UConn and St. John’s was banking in half court shots. They need to figure out how to find fluidity in their offense. They are forcing things from attacking the zone to beating the press. It was the turnovers and long rebounds that lead to a ton of transition points and lost this game for UConn. Now they’re mired in the middle of the Big East now and only have a few more weeks left to figure this out. If Walker continues to struggle, they stick with the zone, turn the ball over, and not get back on defense, then it will be a terrible ending to an otherwise nice season.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Thievery


Everything was going Seton Hall’s way. They were hitting wide open jumpers, getting into transition and their zone was frustrating UConn’s half court sets, but then everything fell apart. UConn stopped tinkering with the zone, which lead to two 3-pointers, and started playing solid man-to-man and while no one was looking, someone put a lid on the rim for Seton Hall. It allowed UConn to crawl back into the game and steal one on the road to keep pace in a very colluded Big East. This game isn't going to instill much confidence for the Huskies especially against the zone, but winning a road game and getting back on track is a start to finding the magic that they had during their winning streak last month.

Once again Walker game out and sank an opening 3-pointer and looked to be getting out of his slump but then he struggled to find the basket, front rimming numerous attempts. His slump culminated in missing three straight free throws. But there he was in crunch time knocking down an important three pointer and attacking the glass for important defensive boards. Unlike other games, he was getting calls he wasn’t in previous games and if he sank his free throws then it would’ve been the old Kemba again. He is getting the same looks that he was in the past, but they just aren't falling.

Oriakhi did a little of everything in this game. He wasn’t dominating on the boards, but he did do a good job on defense and frustrated Pope throughout the night. He hit an early 15-footer against the zone, blocked numerous attempts, and had a monster dunk. The zone has taken away much of his post plays and puts him in uncomfortable offensive positions. The zone should allow him to get into rebounding position and be able to get double digits in rebounds but he is often out of position.

Lamb had everything going except his outside shot. He hit his floater, a couple of jumpers, and helped out on the boards, but it was his incredible defense on Hazell on the fast break in the closing minutes that saved this game. He is having more impact on the game in less plays then Walker and has emerged as a legitimate Freshman of the Year candidate.

Napier played out of his mind in this game. He started out with several beautiful passes, a jumper, steal and rebound and that was just in the first half. He continued his solid play into the second half, causing havoc on defense which culminated in a steal and lay-up which helped pull UConn away late in the game. He is driving more to the basket and it has opened up his offense more and he is looking up the court more for easy looks in transition.

Smith lost his starting job and didn’t respond well to it, having an offensive foul, rebound, bad pass and a miss in the first half. He came out in the second half strong with a lay-up and had several boards, a block, and two very clutch free throws which put UConn ahead by three. The wing position is one of the toughest to learn and he has been thrown into the fire and needs a little more time to adjust.

Giffey got the start but didn’t take advantage of it, having a bad pass as his only impact on the game. Again he passed up an open look for a dribble drive that got him into trouble. Coombs-McDaniel had a lay-up and a turnover to his outing. He is a player that has had fluctuating minutes and it is effecting his consistency. Beverly played good defense and got to the line, sinking one of two shots. He also had an offensive foul. He did a good job of not doing too much and played within himself.

Okwandu had a solid night, blocking shots, hitting a fifteen footer, sank a nice lay-up with some fancy footwork, grabbed some boards, and hit two out of two from the line. He has certainly been a pleasant surprise as of late and has added some much needed depth to a very thin front court. Olander lost his starting gig and played sparingly in the second half without having an impact on the game. He plays with energy and is fearless but needs more strength to put those attributes to work.

This team seems to live and die with the close games and barely came out on top in this one. There was no one reason why they won this game. It was a little of Seton Hall’s inability to knock down open shots, some solid UConn defense, and some clutch shooting by Walker, Napier, and Lamb. Even though they came away with the victory, they can’t be happy. They still struggled against the zone, Walker can’t find his offense, and they are still unable to win the rebounding battle and give up too many second chance opportunities. They were lucky in this one. If they don’t find the right formula against the zone, then they’re going to be in these tight ballgames. Luckily they had a bit of thievery tonight or it would've been a tough ride home.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Derailed


One could point to the poor shooting or lack of any consistent offense for this loss but this game was lost because of two factors: getting killed on the boards and awful turnovers. UConn let Syracuse have two or three attempts on the basket and score time after time on easy baskets around the rim. The Syracuse zone took away UConn’s strength and literally put it into the hands of their weakest link, interior play. The front court rushed passes or weren’t ready for them and the guards dribbled into trouble. Nothing was working but there they were only down three with plenty of time to get a stop and they had a freshmen mistake and fouled, which practically ended the game.

After Walker hit his first two shots and was pulling down boards, it looked like he was finally going to get on track, but he clanked every jumper after that. He did make a lay-up late, but overall it was a frustrating night out there for him. He isn’t getting the benefit of the calls anymore, which was one of the major reasons why he was averaging twenty-six points a game. Without whistles being blown, he settled for jumpers and that isn’t his strength.

Oriakhi should have dominated on the boards since he was going up against the zone, but he struggled mightily in that department, even giving up a free throw rebound. He did do a good job on help defense and blocking shots, but he has been in a major slump and it puts a lot of pressure on the half court offense.

Napier had a nice game. He hit two three pointers in the first half and made some sweet passes in the second. He is becoming more aggressive with the ball and found a way to get to the line, which he still needs to do. With Walker struggling, he needs to take more of a burden of the scoring and take a few more shots.

Lamb has become a go to player and has been the most consistent player on the team for at least a month. He hit four three pointers, had a couple of lay-ups, and is sinking his mid-ranged shots. He is the sole reason why this team is winning ballgames lately. The only thing lacking from his game is a post game and with his length, he should be able to have the complete package.

Smith had a tough game. He had a turnover, a couple of boards, and a few misses. This team needed his rebounding in this game and he didn’t show up in the second half. Olander had a good start to his night with a couple of boards and a trip to the line, but he followed that up with an awful pass and a sloppy turnover. Okwandu had a rough time with rebounding and with Oriakhi struggling offensively, he forced a lot of shots up. He still provided a lot of energy and gave the team what is expected from him.

It was good to see Giffey knock down that jumper and he had a beautiful pass too, but he also dribbled into trouble again. He played more then he has in a long time and he made some plays which is an encouraging sign. Coombs-McDaniel missed an outside shot, had a rebound, and turned the ball over. Not the impact that he wanted. Beverly also had a tough night with two turnovers, a rebound and a block. If he wants minutes then he can’t turn the ball over. It is the one thing this team needs from him.

It was the worst performance of the year and every team has them. They’ll have to put this one behind them, because they’ll have two very winnable games ahead of them and they can’t slip to far behind in the standings. They’ll see plenty of zone from here on out and they’ll need to knock down open jumpers and rebound much better to get this train on track, because in this league on slump late in the season could mean trouble.

 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January 2011


UConn’s January began much like it ended with a heartbreaking loss, but sandwiched between those tough losses were games that defined and set up their season heading into the pivotal month of February. UConn took care of teams they were supposed to beat like DePaul and Rutgers, they won tough victories against Villanova and Marquette, and went out of conference to beat Texas and Tennessee. While they let the Louisville game slip through their fingers and might regret it later on, only losing two games in a month is a remarkable achievement.

Walker has had his shooting troubles throughout the month. His outside shot has been inconsistent but it his inability to get to the line like he did in prior months that has hurt his scoring the most. He is also turning the ball over more this month then in the past few. Even with all his shooting woes, he still has hit two game winning shots in clutch opportunities and has shown up in late in every ball game. He just needs to get to the line more.

Oriakhi has been an enigma in the month of January. He put together dominate performances against elite clubs in Texas, Villanova, and Tennessee but then disappears in games like Marquette, Louisville, and Notre Dame. His post game is much improved and has shown a consistent baby hook, but his offense usually goes the way of his rebounding. If he isn’t getting boards then he isn’t scoring.

Napier has had a solid month. He has hit a three pointer in six of the seven games in January and is seeing the court much better. He is also playing much better defense and not being too aggressive and fouling. The team flows much better when he is running it and allowing Walker to work off the ball. He just needs to mix his game up a bit and take the ball strong to the rim more.

Lamb has finally emerged as a big time player. It started in the DePaul game, in which he started, and quickly found his mid-ranged game. He never let up after that playing well against Villanova, Tennessee, and Marquette. He did have a hiccup in the Louisville game and was flustered by the zone, but he has put together such a solid string of games that it looks like he will be a heavy contributor from here on out. Other then Walker, Lamb has the most versatile game.

Smith has had his offensive woes this month but he is doing all the little things with blocks, rebounds, and excellent defense. He did have a horrible play agaisnt Texas where he threw a full court shot with seven seconds to go which could’ve caused UConn to lose the game, but other then that he has played well and none better then the Tennessee game where he hit four three pointers. He is another player that has to get to the line more.

Coombs-McDaniel played well against Notre Dame, Rutgers, DePaul, and Tennessee. He looks to be settling into his utility role and isn’t taking terrible shots anymore. He is also fighting well for boards and playing solid defense. While it isn't the role he wanted, his ability to fill in the three and four spot is crucial.

Okwandu had some good games against Villanova, Tennessee, and Marquette, but still remains inconsistent. He has shown the ability to hit the hook shot and block shots, but he needs to do a much better job on the boards and hasn’t. He also fouls too much but that is mostly due to the guards playing poor defense.

Olander had a tough month. He hasn’t been able to get anything going offensively nor help out on the boards. With so little depth on the front court, he’ll get his minutes, especially early in games, but he needs to find ways to contribute and hasn’t. He gets pushed around underneath a lot but plays with a ton of energy. It just hasn't added up to plays.

Beverly has found some of his range this month, having three games in which he has hit a three pointer and has been a consistent third point guard off the bench. While it isn’t the integral role that he wanted to play in his senior year, he has adjusted well to his role off the bench.

Giffey started out the month playing a handful of minutes but that changed after the poor performance against DePaul and his minutes began to shrink. He now plays only a couple of minutes a game and looks to be thinking too much about not making mistakes. He needs to be a spot up shooter but either defers or dribbles into trouble. Wolf only played sparingly in the DePaul game and looks to be totally out of the rotation.

UConn has set themselves up nicely in the tightly contested Big East standings but needs to continue to play at their high level. They’ve been able to win some closely contested ballgames and are battle tested. They can't allow the Louisville game to become a setback and need to string together another series of wins to put it behind them. While they are sitting nicely with a bunch of resume building wins that has just about locked them into March, they are a team still with a bunch of upside and need to keep improving. If Oriakhi and Smith can get on track offensively then this team will be legit to making a deep run in both tournaments.