Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Know Your Enemy: Houston Cougars

Monday, December 30, 2013

Jeremy Lamb with Career High versus Rockets

Kevin Ollie on Webster Bank Arena

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Unfinished Project

For the first time since 1987, UConn played an official home game outside of Hartford and Storrs.  The fans around Bridgeport had to sit through a mediocre first half where UConn struggled to hold onto the basketball and secure rebounds which allowed a sub-par but scrappy Eastern Washington team to battle toe-to-toe with the fifteenth ranked team in the country.  Whatever Kevin Ollie said in the locker room at halftime, UConn certainly righted the ship and did a much better job on the boards and didn’t create those sloppy turnovers that led directly to points.  Connecticut’s overall talent helped create separation and they eventually ran away with the game, but don’t let the end score fool you.  Eastern Washington were very much in it for two-thirds of this game.

Napier took too many risky passes in the first half and only had a lay-up and a long jumper as his only field goals.  He played much more aggressive in the second half and had three lay-ups and found ways to get to the line.  His defense still needs to improve a bit and he tends to get a bit lazy when his opponent is stationary and he gave up a few open shots.

Boatright had a bit of an inconsistent game.  At times he would get steals, sink jumpers, get to the line, make lay-ups, up& unders and dunks  and then take horrible shots that lead directly to points, not block out, not ready for passes, miss around the rim, dribble way too much, and leave his feet and cause a turnover.  He really needs to get rid of some of these bad habits to be able to take his game to the next level.

Daniels had a sub-par performance.  His quiet night consisted of a pretty spinning floater, a block, a dunk, and his patented floater.  He only snagged four rebounds and played only 22 minutes despite only having one foul.  He needs to assert himself more into the offense, establish position, and demand the basketball.  There is no reason for this type of performance against a team that played man-to-man defense.

Kevin Ollie made another change to the starting line-up, inserting Giffey.  He immediately made an impact with a steal which got him to the line.  He added several blocks, a 3-pointer, lay-ups, offensive rebounds, a dunk.  His length and ability to play multiple positions gives UConn more flexibility with the starting unit.  All eyes were on Omar Calhoun and how he would respond to the demotion.  He struggled early, missing an open 3-pointer, but then hit a driving lay-up.  He responded in the second half and hit a jumper, played solid defense, and hit back-to-back 3-pointers which had to feel like a weight had lifted off his shoulders.  The greatest sign from this game was his ability to rebound, grabbing six boards.  Hopefully he can carry over his play from the second half and build on it.  Kromah continues to shine in his role playing solid defense and getting a couple of lay-ups.  He adds some offensive juice off the bench.

Brimah once again got the start and made an impact with his length, but once again his poor positioning created two back-to-back fouls which sent him to the bench.  Ollie sent him a message that he needs to play smarter by not reinserting him into the game.  Nolan had a slow start to the game and had an early turnover, but was able to create positive plays in the second half.  He played aggressively and with purpose in the paint which awarded him opportunities at the charity stripe.  He also added a dunk and rebounded the basketball much better.  Olander played some solid defense and got to the line in the first half but only played 4 minutes.  This group added 9 boards, 14 points, and 4 blocks in 31 minutes.  That’s not that bad.

Facey got a couple of minutes and showed an ability to crash the glass.  He deserves a shot at more minutes heading forward.  Samuel needs to show some patience.  He won’t get as much opportunity now with minutes but it will pay dividends next season.  Tolksdorf found minutes and made sure to shoot the ball.  He ended up getting an offensive rebound and put-back.  Watts and Lennehan also got into the game.

Kevin Ollie continues to tinker with the starting line-up to see what combinations will work heading into conference play.  It paid off with Giffey providing a lift and continuing to mature his game.  The rebounding continues to plague this team, especially on the offensive end.  They need to win those 50/50 opportunities and haven’t lately.  If they can tread water in the rebounding department and take better control of the basketball, then they will have a tremendous opportunity for a top seed in both tournaments but that depends on some of these younger players stepping up and seizing the opportunity.
Watch more Washington videos on Frequency

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dog Eat Dog

After taking a beating in their first loss of the season against Stanford, UConn had to travel across the country to take on an inconsistent but talented Washington squad.  Washington started out in a zone that had sputtered UConn’s offense in their previous game, but UConn came out prepared and sliced it up for an easy dunk and that pretty much put an end to that experiment because they primarily played man-to-man the entire game.  Despite the sub-par zone defense, Washington’s offense came out on fire, knocking down outside shots and getting most of the 50/50 balls, while UConn’s offense continued to search for a rhythm and knock down jumpers.  They fell behind by double digits and it wasn’t until five minutes to go in the first half that they began turning defense into easy offensive opportunities.  They roared back and took the lead and  never looked back, especially after their jumpers started dropping again in the second half.

Napier had a quiet first half with only one jumper on a deep two and hit 2 of 3 from the line.  He then took over in the second half with two jumpers, a 3-pointer, a block, and a lay-up.  He also had a team high 6 rebounds.  Unlike the Stanford game, he did a great job of eliminating his poor shots but he still had some sloppy turnovers and a five second call on an inbound’s play.  His uncharacteristic 4 turnovers to 1 assist performance is not indicative of what we have seen all year and needs to do a better job of handling the rock.

Boatright finally crawled out of the offensive doldrums and found his offense.  He hit two mid-ranged jumpers and a 3-pointer in the first half.  His defense was much improved and kept getting into passing lanes, turning steals into points.  He also found ways to get to the rim and had a lay-up.  His aggressiveness also created some opportunities at the line.  Like Napier though, he had a hard time controlling the ball and when he turned it over it almost always led to points on the other end. Hopefully he can build on this performance heading forward.

Daniels had a quiet game.  It started ominously with an offensive foul, but then he hit a jumper on an inbounds pass, had a steal, a lay-up, and got to the line.  He only had a dunk, a block, and hit 2 of 2 from the line in the second half.  This team needs more from him, especially if he isn’t knocking down shots. The most disappointing aspect of his performance in this game was his rebounding. 3 rebounds in 30 minutes just isn’t getting it done.

Giffey had a rough game.   He had a hustle save, a 3-pointer, and got to the line hitting 2 of 3, but he had a hard time defending without fouling and setting screens.  He picked up his fourth foul with 9:08 to play and eventually fouled out.  Calhoun’s offensive rut has hit a new low and he missed some wide open shots, only knocking down one jumper.  His confidence is at an all-time low and he needs a great shooting performance in a huge way. There is no underestimating Kromah’s impact on this game.  He came in when UConn’s offense struggled and immediately had a pretty driving lay-up, a put-back, deflection, another lay-up, and a steal & lay-up.  He then started the second half in place of Calhoun and again had a steal, two more lay-ups, a dunk, and a block.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start over Calhoun heading forward.

Brimah got the start over Nolan and had a dunk against Washington’s sub-par zone defense and looked stronger on the boards then in previous games.  He looks incredibly awkward with the ball in his hands though and he continues to get called for touch fouls, but he makes an impact every time he is on the court.  Nolan did play with some urgency when he got on the court.  He attacked the glass and had two offensive rebounds & put-backs and found ways to get to the line.  The most impressive part of his game was his rebounding.  He snagged 5 boards.  Olander only played five brief minutes but found a way to pull down 3 rebounds in that time.  The front line contributed for 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks.  This was the best this group has played in some time and they need to continue to put up these solid numbers.

If one thing we have learned in Ollie’s year and a half as coach for UConn, it is that he has his team ready to go after a disappointing performance.  They came out and battled adversity in their first true road test, showing some resolve that an experienced team should have.  The frontcourt looks much better and the jumpers are starting to drop again.  This team still needs to take better care of the basketball and coral those 50-50 rebounds, but they have proven that they can win in a tough spot on the road and that will pay dividends heading forward.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Zoned Out

This wasn’t the UConn team that we had seen all season long.  This team settled for difficult shots, played selfishly, didn’t probe the defense, or have any energy on the offensive end of the court.  They had one spurt in the first half that allowed them to balloon the lead to ten, but then Stanford went into a press that slowed down UConn’s fast break game and allowed them to settle into their zone defense which stifled the Huskies.  It looked like UConn had never played against the zone before.  They shot only 13% in the second half and scored only 13 points.  There is no way to sugar coat this.  It was ugly and UConn needs to figure it out and quick because from here on out teams are going to zone them.

Napier started shooting the ball well, knocking down a couple of three pointers early and distributing the basketball, but then the freshman Shabazz showed up in the second half.  He took an enormous amount of bad shots, deep threes or contested jumpers, and they almost always led to points on the other end.  He needed to probe the defense, draw, and pass, but he played selfishly at times and with no one else stepping up, the game slowly slipped out of their grasp.

It looked like Boatright had snapped out of his shooting slump against Maine, but he once again struggled to get anything going offensively.   He had a jumper and a dunk in the first half, but when Stanford applied their zone, he disappeared.  He gave the team nothing in the second half other than a missed lay-up and a turnover.  If this team has aspirations for a deep run in the NCAA tournament then they need Boatright to figure out how to manufacture points without his jumper.

Daniels was the only player that had a good night offensively.  He had an early 3-pointer, a lay-up, and a couple of nice moves in the paint in the first half.  The zone frustrated him in the second half though and could only muster a lay-up and a lucky offensive rebound & and put-back.  Like the rest of the team, he forced some things, turned the ball over several times, and also gave up an offensive rebound on a free throw.

Despite the lack of touches, Giffey played well.  He hit 2 of 4 from the floor and grabbed 3 boards.  He also played solid defense and kept his man in front of him.  Omar Calhoun’s game continues to spiral downward.  He had multiple open looks that weren’t even close to going in.   Other then a first half 3-pointer, he bricked everything, including the last shot of the game.  6 of his 8 shots are from deep and he keeps shooting from there.  He needs to attack and get to the line which he didn’t do.  Kromah came in and added a bit of spark in the first half.  He had a jumper, a 3-pointer, a team high 5 boards, and a lay-up.  His energy allowed UConn to build on their lead heading into the half, but he failed to make a similar impact in the second period.

Heading into this game, the question was could UConn’s frontcourt hold up to Stanford’s.  Nolan, Olander, and Brimah combined for 0 for 7, 8 boards, 2 points, and 4 blocks.  Not that good.  Nolan was aggressive though and didn’t hesitate to make some post moves in the paint which did get him to the line, but some of his shots were rushed or out of control.  Olander flat out struggled and only played 8 minutes.  Brimah’s length did make a huge impact in this game and he rebounded much better, but he needs to set better screens and use his length more to allow his guards more room to get into the lanes.  Besides not providing any assistance within the zone, they held up nicely defensively.

Ollie needs to watch this tape and immediately burn it, because this wasn’t the team we have seen all year long.  This team didn’t have a chip on their shoulder or play with any heart.  They looked lethargic and hopefully this loss can put some perspective and sense of urgency back into their game before heading across the country to play in their first true road test of the year.  Especially since every team they face will be zoning them until they do figure it out and cross your fingers, hopefully they will.

Kemba Walker's buzzer beater drops the Raptors

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Across the Board

UConn looked sluggish right out of the gate with sloppy turnovers, missed free throws, and they settled for outside shots against the zone.  They allowed a poor rebounding and defensive Maine team to go toe to toe with them.  It wasn’t until they settled down, started taking care of the ball,  moved the ball around, and had some of their jumpers fall that they were able to soften the zone and allow their more athletic and bigger frontcourt playersin Daniels, Giffey, and Nolan to make plays.  They were able to expand the lead to high double digits which allowed Coach Ollie to sub in some under utilized players in Facey, Samuel, and Tolksdorf to get some valuable minutes.  While it was a major blowout in all fashions of the game, they still allowed Maine to get 7 offensive rebounds and only scored 4 more points than Maine in fast break points.

Napier had a subdued game and did made much of his impact in the first half.  He had an offensive rebound, 3 steals, a 3-pointer, and shot 2 of 2 from the line in the first half.  He played sparingly in the second half, 22 minutes overall, and had a steal and a lay-up as his only offense.  The game was well out of hand and allowed Ollie to rest him.

Boatright struggled early with turnovers, but he sparked UConn’s offense in the first half with a steal, a jumper, a dunk, and was able to get to the line.  Like Napier, he had a short second half but had his jumper working in that brief time, sinking two jumpers and a 3-pointer.  This was a get right game for him and he had his best shooting game in quite some time.

Daniels had a great first half with a floater, two 3-pointers, a sweet spinning lay-up,  and a jumper.  He had a block and a 3-pointer in the second half.  He didn’t miss a single shot and went 6 for 6 from the floor and also had 5 defensive boards.  Not bad for just 20 minutes of play.

Giffey made a major impact in the first half by attacking the glass and was able to do his damage by attacking the rim.  He only had one 3-pointer in the game but had a lay-up, a dunk and a tip-in.  He also did much better on the boards, snapping three offensive boards. The only thing he did bad was shoot 3 of 7 from the charity stripe.  That is an anomaly and you probably won’t see that again.

Calhoun had the green light to shoot anytime he wanted because after that first shot, he kept on jacking up 3-pointers and they weren’t dropping.  He eventually dropped four 3-pointers but took nine of them, way too many.  He did go to the line though he only hit 2 of 4.He also had a lay-up.  Overall it was a great performance for him confidence wise.  He was able to sink some jumpers, rebound, and make plays.

Nolan had a good game and snagged several offensive rebounds and two nice dunks in the second half but didn’t have a single defensive board.  Olander struggled and only played 2 minutes.  Brimah had four blocks, a lay-up & 1 which he made, and an offensive rebound.  Facey had a good game and had two offensive rebounds with one leading to a dunk, ending the game with 9 total rebounds.  If he continues to rebound like that then he’ll get more playing time.

Kromah hit three 3-pointers in his 13 minutes.  Samuel had problems taking care of the basketball and had four turnovers in 17 minutes.  He did get to the line though and hit 3 of 4 there.  Tolksdorf continues to shoot threes and hit one in this game.  Lennehan played 4 minutes and Watts played 2.

This was a great opportunity for some of UConn’s freshmen and the seldom used players. UConn demonstrated some offensive versatility with Boatright, Daniels, Giffey, and Kromah, all contributing to the offense.  It still wasn’t pretty.  They allowed Maine to get on the boards and keep them from the fast break.  Be it a let down from the Florida game, the final exams, or lacking that energy because of playing an inferior team, UConn looked flat to start.  In the end it the sheer talent across the board for UConn destroyed Maine, but there was really little to take from it.  Facey looked good on the boards and Calhoun knocked down some jumpers but that’s about it.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stacked Deck

This game was a battle of wills.  UConn’s perimeter and fast break to Florida’s lane busting pick and roll.  Both teams traded blows early on.  Napier, Boatright, Giffey and Daniels had their jumpers working and stymied Florida’s swarming defense while the Gators were able to drive into the lane and decimate Connecticut’s frontcourt.  Florida’s trapping defense caused  problems for UConn and they were able to take control of the game by attacking the paint, scoring 22 points there.  They focused much of their offense into driving into the lane or passing into the post, only taking nine 3-pointers to UConn’s twenty-four.  The constant pressure in the paint had both Olander and Nolan foul out and allowed Florida to out-rebound UConn by eight.  Unfortunately for Florida, their primary ball handler, Wilbekin, twisted his ankle, falling on Boatright’s foot, and had to miss the final two minutes in a tight ball game.  Patric Young stepped up though and made an incredible three point play, but this night belonged to Napier.  He made a four-point play and then in the final seconds split the defense, kept his dribble alive, and barely caught iron.  Daniels put a hand on the rebound and it tipped it back to Napier who made a fifteen-foot jumper to end the game.

Napier played aggressive right from the tip and had two 3-pointers and two jumpers in the first half.  He continued to shoot the ball well in the second half with a 3-pointer, a steal & lay-up, another 3-pointer, before getting a deep-3 plus the foul in which he got injured, and then ended his night with a jumper at the buzzer.  He did a great job on the defensive end also, getting 3 steals and getting into their transition game.  He has a flair for the dramatic and he was in full regalia tonight.

Boatright had a hard time getting anything going off the dribble and had his only offense through either dropping 3-pointers or getting to the line.  He displayed phenomenal defense though and played the pick and roll masterfully.  He needs to drive the lanes more and produce contact though.  With his dribbling and speed, he should easily take his man off the bounce and draw fouls.

Daniels had a well rounded game.  He took some open jumpers, but also played around the paint much more than he has before and it paid off.  He grabbed 7 boards with 3 of those offensive.  He was pretty much the only one able to get to the rim in this game for UConn.  He is the unsung hero of this game, battling hard on the board on that last possession and allowing Napier a second shot at the win.

Giffey was able to knock down some open jumpers but also sank those mid-ranged shots too.  He played good defense and clogged up the lanes without fouling, but he needs to rebound better, only snagging 1 board.  Calhoun’s struggles continued.  He bricked everything and finally made a jumper in the second half for his only points of the game.  His confidence was at an all-time low that he didn’t even take a shot as the shot clock winded down.  His minutes were gobbled up by Lasan Kromah.  The senior guard took some bad shots early, but found himself with the ball in his hands in the second half as he spelled Boatright.  He did a good job on the boards and also got to the line late in the second half.

Nolan got the start and had an early block, missed a dunk, and made a dunk, but found himself in foul trouble again.  He ended up fouling out with a rebound in only 11 minutes.  Olander also struggled to remain on the court and didn’t even get a rebound in his 11 minutes of play.  Brimah had a block and an offensive rebound in his 17 minutes.  Facey had a foul in his 3 minutes.  This group continues to struggle.  They can’t figure out how to defend without fouling or rebound the basketball.  They only managed 2 rebounds in 38 minutes.  That’s not getting it done.

This team sure makes it interesting but this time they were the one down as the seconds ticked away.  They once again found a way to make plays when it counted.  A major hand has to go to the Gampel crowd.  They brought it and had the Pavilion rocking.  This is a fun team to watch but until the frontcourt figures out how to rebound and stay on the court, this team will need to continue to make plays late in games in win, but when you have Napier on your team your playing with a stacked deck.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November

UConn didn’t have a cakewalk in the month of November.  They started the month off with a blowout versus Concordia, but then went into the hostile confines of the Barclays Center and beat a talented Maryland team in which they controlled most of the game but let it nearly slip through their fingers and escaped a last second shot.  It was the theme throughout the month.  They let a Yale team out-rebound them, then destroyed a Detroit team (Their best game of the year), and then played three tight games against Boston University, Boston College, and Indiana before finishing the month against Loyola where they allowed 20 offensive rebounds.  Despite the poor rebounding, they hung their hats on the defensive end and they made plays down the stretch to hold back late rallies which is what you want to see your team do.

In his senior season, Napier is displaying a more point guard oriented game.  He’s looking for others earlier in  games and when he sees that his teammates aren’t making plays, he takes over.  He has hit plenty of big shots in November and none bigger then the ones late in the Indiana game.  The biggest surprise for him in the month of November is his rebounding.  He’s done a great job of helping out on the defensive boards and when he does, it fuels the fast break, which this team thrives on.  He is by far UConn’s MVP for the month of November.

Even though Boatright’s jumper has tailed off in November, he’s still provided a consistent presence.  He’s limited those multiple turnover possessions that had plagued him last year and he is passing the ball really well.  Like Napier, he has done a great job rebounding and running the break.  He did struggle getting to the line throughout the month and needs to use these new rules to get to the line more like he did against Indiana because he game is tailored for getting into the lane and causing havoc.  His defense is underrated and he has shown improvement there.

Daniels had an up and down month.  At times he has shown a passive game and other times he has been an unstoppable beast.  He is UConn’s best offensive player and has a wide variety of moves to get into the paint but he needs to get into attack mode right from the tip-off.  He also struggled to rebound early in the month but has slowly improved there.  He is at his best when he is playing north and south and it is up to the backcourt to get him the ball where he can drive.

Calhoun had everything going in the first two weeks of November but cooled off significantly since then.  He might be hitting a bit of a wall because he didn’t have the training camp or summer workouts that the others have had due to his rehab.  All his shots are hittting the front of the rim which is usually a sign of tired legs.  Hopefully the Thanksgiving break will allow him some time to recover.

The biggest surprise of the season so far is Giffey.  He is finally turning into that spot up shooter everyone knew he could become and he has put together one of the most spectacular outside shooting displays ever seen in a UConn uniform.  He is hitting almost 70 percent from deep in November.  Most of his damage was done in the first half though and he needs to do a better job of making an impact in the second half.  On top of that he needs to rebound much better and take those mid-ranged shots when driven off the line.

Nolan deserved to start and has the best overall game out of all the centers.  His only issue is that he has a hard time sliding over in the help defense and is picking up quick fouls so his minutes are way down and sporadic.  He is the best rebounding center that UConn has but that isn’t saying much since he is only averaging two rebounds a game.  He needs to triple that number.

With the new rules, shot blockers are a necessity and UConn has one in Brimah.  He has great instincts and can change a game defensively but he can’t rebound right now.  He needs to block out and use his height to get boards because he is using one hand, like he does when blocking shots, to knock the ball around.  It is going to take awhile for him to learn some of the fundamentals.

Olander has already played two games in November that are better than any he had played last year even though he is third off the bench and is relegated to low digit minutes.  He’s coming in and playing with energy, getting loose-balls and making impact plays.  He needs to keep this up and play with that energy, rebound, and good things will continue to happen for him.

Another big surprise of November is Kromah.  He has provided instant energy and a defensive tenacity that has allowed Ollie the ability to rest his guards and also mix and match different line-ups.  He has been an unsung hero throughout the month and has quietly done everything Ollie has asked him to do.  He’s one of those glue guys that good teams need.

Samuel has shown flashes of brilliance in early November but with the depth that UConn has in the backcourt if there isn’t foul problems, he isn’t going to see minutes.  The same goes for Facey though he has a better opportunity to see the court because of the inexperience of the frontcourt.  Tolksdorf had a good preseason but this team needs rebounders, not outside shooting big-men, and Tolksdorf hasn’t shown the ability to rebound.  Until he does, he’ll be mired on the bench.

The troubles with this team have been well documented.  They need to do a better job on the boards but they are playing solid defense, have an abundant amount of scorers, can stretch the floor, and are scoring on the fast break.  The rebounding will improve with time as the centers develop.  They already have two resume wins in Maryland and Indiana and don’t have a loss yet. Not too shabby. There is still plenty of work to do and it isn’t going to get any easier in December.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Puzzle Pieces

It was another slow start for UConn against a scrappy and undefeated Loyola squad.  They missed easy buckets and their big guns in Napier, Boatright, and Daniels struggled to get things going. It wasn’t until they began getting easy buckets on the fast break that they finally pulled away and they withstood a pretty good run at the end of the first half and beginning of the second from the talented scorer Cormier, but with the combination of the fast break, getting to the line, and offensive rebounds in the second half, UConn pulled off the victory.  It sure wasn’t pretty though and they once again were out-rebounded by a team that was averaging a minus-9 in the rebounding department and UConn gave up 20 offensive rebounds to them.  That gave Loyola 70 shots in the game to UConn’s 55 and Connecticut still won by 10.  It is a testament to how well UConn is playing defense right now but giving up that many offensive rebounds is usually a recipe for a loss.

Napier looked to get others involved early and it wasn’t until mid-way through the first half that he got his first points on a steal and layup.  He followed that with a jumper late in the first half and that was his only field goals of the game.  He displayed an well rounded performance in this game, crashing the boards, blocking 3 shots, and dishing out 7 assists to only two turnovers, but it would’ve been nice to see a bit more aggressiveness on the offensive end from him.

Boatright’s jumper is still off but he did a lot of other things in this game.  He played harassing defense, had 3 layups, and got to the line a season high 11 times.  He did have an awful foul late in the first half, fouling a 3-point attempt, and he also missed some free throws late, but he rebounded much better, 8 boards, and passed the ball really well.  It is a great to see him involved when his jumper isn’t dropping and is a sign of his maturation as a player.

Daniels had an awful first half with only a 3-pointer as his only impact on the game and sat a long time on the bench while getting an earful from Coach Ollie.  He erupted in the second half and played much more aggressive and was rewarded.  He had a dunk, four offensive rebounds put-backs, two blocks, and a 3-pointer.  He also rebounded the ball much better and ended with 8 boards. It is strange how he doesn’t have that killer instinct and sometimes needs some prodding.  If he can have that aggressive mindset all game then he'd be a high lottery pick despite his size right now.

Giffey bounced back from his poor showing in New York with another great first half.  He had a 3-pointer, 2 dunks, a jumper, and an offensive rebound.  He is still struggling to make that second half impact though.  Calhoun looked to be back to form and had a nice first half with a jumper and a 3-pointer, but just couldn’t remain consistent. He’s in a bit of a rut right now. The biggest surprise was from Kromah.  The veteran defensive presence showed some offense in this game and had three lay-ups, two 3-pointers, three assists, and a steal.  He’s quietly putting together a pretty good season.  Samuel made a brief appearance.

The struggles continued for the centers.  Nolan flashed some offense with two dunks and two layups, but could only muster 2 boards in his 18 minutes.  Olander played 10 minutes and had 1 board which is a major step back for him.  Brimah had 3 blocks and 2 boards in his 8 minutes but was plagued with foul problems.  Add that up and that’s 5 boards in 36 minutes.  Not good at all.

This team is a work in progress but what they do have is plenty of options offensively and tonight it was Daniels, Giffey, Kromah, and Boatright.  Eventually the lack of rebounding will catch up with them especially on the offensive end.  They can’t give a team 15 more shots and expect to win games.  But as long as this team can get in transition and continue to play solid defense, they can play with anyone.  They just lack that final piece of the puzzle right now to fill out the entire picture.  Hopefully they can find that.

Giving Back: UConn Helps Out At Mercy House

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dividends

Of course it would come down to the last shot.  Why wouldn’t it?  It’s going to be that type of year for this team.  They just do not have the combination of rebounding and consistent offense to pull away from teams, but they have controlled the momentum in just about every game that they have been in.  The jumpers in this game weren’t falling and with little transition game, both teams struggled in the half court.  Most of the offense were from drives to the basket which led to the trips to the line and disruptive any flow to the game.  It wasn’t until late in the second half that both teams offenses started to come to life and traded baskets.  UConn’s defense prevailed and caused multiple turnovers down the stretch and Napier carried this team to the victory.

Napier once again has shown how special of a player he is.  He started out with some sloppy turnovers on poor dribbling, which has plagued him in the last couple of games, but he turned that around with a nice crossover jumper and three 3-pointers all in the first half.  He began driving to the basket in the second half and mixed in some clutch jumpers.  The only knock on his game was his poor free throw shooting and sloppy ball handling, 7 turnovers, but he was under tremendous pressure to produce points and he did.

Boatright continued to struggle.  Other than a nice up-and-under  and driving layups, he couldn’t find the basket.  His jump shot isn’t even close right now and he had a hard time finding his offense.  He did do a great job on defense and found ways to get to the line, but it wasn’t his best game of the year.

Daniels also had a tough time and missed a ton of shots he would’ve normally made.  He had a clutch 3-pointer late in the game, but this was a step back for him.  It wasn't all bad. He did do a fantastic job on the boards though and had 6 rebounds, but he needs to find ways to get to his spots more and not get the ball twenty feet from the rim.

Giffey made a put-back, a 3-pointer, and had a couple of offensive rebounds.  Teams have scouted him and are driving him off the 3-point line.  The next progression to his game is to take a couple of steps in and take that mid-ranged shot.  He had one of his best rebounding games of the year and needs to keep that up. Calhoun would like to see Madison Square Garden in the rearview mirror.  He hit an early layup, then bricked everything else, had a double dribble, a goal tend, and had a turnover.  He needs a bounce back game in the worst way.  Kromah played well and had two layups, two rebounds, and played solid defense.  He did exactly what Ollie needed from him.

Nolan once again had trouble staying on the court because of foul issues.  He is a little late on the help defense and the guards are letting their man into the lane with little resistance and his late rotation is causing him to pick up quick fouls.  He needs to slide into a guarding position and not move sooner.  He ended up with a steal, an assist, and a rebound in just four minutes of play.  Brimah had a rough start with a push-off foul on a rebound and a turnover, but then had three blocks and a save.  He is still rebounding with just one hand instead of using his boxing out but that will come with time.  He ended up with no rebounds in his nine minutes.  The breakout performance out of this center group was Olander.  He had an offensive rebound put-back, a deflection, a jump hook, a block, and a steal.  He also rebounded much better, 4, and played with energy.  This was the Olander that UConn fans expected to see last year and hopefully he can continue his resurgence.

It was a great test to see where UConn is as a team in this early season.  They still struggle to score without jump shots dropping or fast break baskets.  The center position hasn’t adjusted well to the new rules and are late getting to a defensive help position and aren’t clearing out space for rebounds.  Those are what they really need to work on, but the strengths are in their depth.  They have four possible twenty point scorers on this team with Napier, Boatright, Daniels, and Calhoun.  They have a bench that can come in and effect a game.  Giffey can stretch the court, Brimah adds defense, Kromah adds experience.  The one thing we know about this team is that they can win close games in hostile and tense situations and that will pay dividends down the road.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Living On The Edge

UConn and Boston College finally got to renew their long standing rivalry and it turned out to be a pretty good basketball game even though it started out slow.  UConn forced up way too many bad shots but still found a way to build a double digit lead.  Boston College, who took 25 3-pointers, kept themselves in the ball game with good defense and some timely shooting and like many of UConn’s earlier games, they struggled in putting teams away.  Through some late outside shooting and free throws, B.C. climbed right back into the game and UConn opened the door with some missed free throws, like the Maryland game, and had to hold on to get the victory.

Right from the get-go, Napier was aggressive but took too many off balanced jumpers.  Other than a deep jumper, a nifty up and under lay-up, and a step-back jumper, Napier struggled to get his offense going.  It was a different story in the second half.  He began driving the ball more and got to the line four times, but unfortunately he went 2 for 4 late in the game.  Unlike the other games, Napier was looking for his offense more and only had 2 assists.  While it was great to see him be more aggressive, it wasn’t as effective and he needs to let the game come to him instead of crow-barring his way in.

It is really easy to overlook Boatright at times.  He has really thrived in his role this season and isn’t turning the ball over in chunks, only 1 turnover in this game, and he has done a great job of distributing the ball, 4 assists.  He also was much more aggressive in this game and took it to the rim which rewarded him with going 5 for 6 from the line.  He did struggle playing defense at times and used his hands way too much on the perimeter but he also had two major blocks in this game.  He was superb in this game.

Daniels has officially broken out of his early season slump and has strung together three solid games in a row.  He started with a quick trip to the line, hit a 3-pointer, had a floater, 2 hook shots, another 3-pointer, a driving turnaround shot, a monster dunk, and a lay-up.  On top of that, he had a team high 6 rebounds.  Not bad.  He’s really maturing into his role and is gaining his confidence back.  He has so many moves to go to that the sky is the limit to his game.

Calhoun had trouble with his jumper and only had two floaters as his only field goals, but he did get to the line . Giffey also struggled and passed up some open looks.  He did have a steal and hit a 3-pointer, but he didn’t have his usual impact.  Kromah had a rough night as well and didn’t have much of an impact other then a steal, assist, and a rebound.  It is was just one of  those rare nights when all three of these players struggled this much from the field, going 3 for 12.

Nolan had a tough start and got his second foul only three minutes into the ball game and finished with only playing 11 minutes.  He did have a nice offensive rebound and put-back, but ended the game with only 2 rebounds.  Brimah had a scary fall, smacking his head hard on the floor but was able to bounce back.  He had a nice dunk and a couple of blocks, but needs to do a much better on the boards, only snagging 1 rebound.  Olander game in for only 3 minutes and didn’t get anything going.  It was a pretty disappointing showing from the center position.  They couldn’t find ways to influence the game against a team that struggles mightily rebounding the basketball.

Facey came in and had a great offensive rebound and put-back in his four minutes.  Samuel also made a brief appearance.  These two need to keep working hard and the minutes will eventually come.

Make no mistake.  This renewal of the UConn and Boston College rivalry is to mend the fences to allow UConn into the ACC.  Despite all the politics, it turned out to be a pretty good basketball game.  UConn still has problems on the boards and the perimeter defense is still suspect and left way too many open shooters.  Despite all these deficiencies, this team is already gelling into something pretty special.  They have plenty of growth to go, but they have an experience back court, talented and young front court, and a coach that is squeezing out every ounce of effort from this team.  That’s not a bad combination to have even though they’re living on the edge of some of these games.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Haunting

It looked like another blowout for UConn as they jumped out to an early ten to nothing lead and even grew it to nineteen at one point, but they couldn’t finish out the half.  Boston University cashed in on almost every 50/50 ball, long rebound, and UConn’s one handed attempts at corralling rebounds.  The upstart BU squad ended the half with a 15 to 2 run and got within arms length of what seemed like an insurmountable UConn lead.  The Terriers carried the momentum into the second half and took an early lead, but credit UConn; They handled the adversity and immediately took control of the game and the boards, and it also helped that BU became ice cold down the stretch.  The Huskies rebuilt the lead and cruised home for the victory.

Napier had another slow start.  Other than a steal, an offensive & several defensive rebounds, and a nice assist, he was quiet.  He came to life in the second half with an early trip to the foul line off a steal, had two 3-pointers, two offensive rebounds with one leading to a tip in, and found ways to get to the line.  He did have a few sloppy turnovers late in the ball game and needs to stop with the nifty behind the back passes.  Once again he lead the team in rebounds, 12, which is a good and bad sign.  It’s great that he’s sticking his nose in there, but others need to step up and help out more.

Boatright had his game working right away with a a lay-up on a fast break, a jumper, got to the line where he sank 2 free throws, hit two 3-pointers, and played solid defense.  His second half was highlighted by a sweet baseline dunk, but he also had a nice jumper, skied for a rebound, and went 1 for 2 from the line.  Like Napier, he was a bit sloppy on defense and had a bad turnover late in the second half.  Overall, it was a good game for him and he has been pretty consistent for this team, although he needs to get to the line more than four times.

This is the DeAndre Daniels UConn fans expected to see.  His entire arsenal was working.  He started by getting to the line and sinking some free throws.  That gave him the confidence because after that it was the Daniels show.  He hit a turnaround, had a nice cut to the rim for a lay-up, a deep jumper that beat the shot clock, an elbow jumper, and a sweet push shot and that was just the first half.  He started the second half with an elbow jumper, a 3-pointer, a highlight of the game sky-high dunk, a turnaround floater & 1, and an 18-foot jumper.  The only thing lacking from him in this game was his rebounding.  He only grabbed three boards and had trouble snagging the ball with both hands.

Giffey did hit his first shot of the game but was quiet after that.   He played some bad defense, missed on an one-and-one opportunity, and had a turnover.  Calhoun also had an off night.  He had a hustle board and a 3-pointer but also had a bad pass.  It isn’t going to be too often that these two players will be this quiet, though with Daniels on fire and taking 18 attempts, Calhoun and Giffey only took seven shots total.  Kromah had a bad pass, a nice deflection, a 3-pointer, and a floater.  He adds that energy off the bench which will pay dividends down the stretch of the season. Facey got in and had two fouls in two minutes.

Nolan did a good job on the boards, getting 5, but he left a ton of boards on the floor because he had trouble getting two hands on those long rebounds.  He also struggled getting anything going offensively, getting a travel call because of poor foot work, and missed an easy opportunity on an offensive put-back.  Brimah had two early blocks, but picked up his second foul pretty early.  He made a nice impact in the second half with two offensive rebound put-backs with one leading to an & 1 which he calmly sank. Unfortunately those were his only two rebounds of the game.  Olander came in and made an instant impact with an offensive rebound put-back & 1 which he made, had two more offensive rebounds where he was fouled on one and had a tip-in on the other.  Like Brimah, those were his only rebounds. It isn’t good that your three centers combined for nine rebounds while your point guard grabbed 12.

It wasn’t a perfect forty minutes of basketball, but this team showed that they could handle the adversity of losing a comfortable lead and seize back the momentum to win a game.  The consistency in rebounding continues to haunt this team, but also the perimeter defense took a step back. There were too many open shooters and if BU remained hot down the stretch, this game could’ve turned out different.  There needs to be more of a conscious effort to put a hand up on a jump shooter.  This team still has tremendous opportunity for growth and it is going through some growing pains with some of their frontcourt players.  In time the rebounding should solidify more, but there is no excuse for this experienced backcourt to not play perimeter defense better.  They have been lucky so far that teams have been cold down the stretch of ballgames.  It could haunt them heading forward.

UConn Versus BU Highlights

Friday, November 15, 2013

Titanic Blowout

UConn hosted Detroit at the comfy confines of Gampel Pavilion and the upstart Titans came ready to play.  Behind Juwan Howard Jr., Detroit grabbed an early lead, but UConn’s incredible outside shooting, 11 of 19 from deep, blew the doors off of the Titans and they never looked back.  This soon became an old fashioned beat down and everything seemed to work. They out-rebounded Detroit by 15, held them to just 30.4% shooting, shot 28 free throws to Detroit’s 15, and lived in the paint, scoring 30 points.  This was a total team win and everyone contributed from Napier’s rebounding, Boatright’s fastbreaks, to Giffey & Calhoun’s incredible shooting, Detroit had no answer.

Napier had another masterful performance and did a little of everything in the first half with two offensive rebounds, getting steals, and got to the line.  It wasn’t until the second half that his jumper started to fall, hitting a 3-pointer.  He has also led by example in regards to rebounding, and had a game high 8 boards.  He’s really maturing into an all-around point guard.

Boatright had a slow offensive game with only two lay-ups, a steal, two free throws, and two 3-pointers, with one of those at the first half buzzer.  With his dribbling skills and the new rules, he should be living at the line and he only took two free throws the entire game. He needs to attack the rim more and draw contact. Calhoun carried UConn in the first half.  He had three 3-pointers, with one of them very deep as the shot clock wound down, a jumper, a lay-up, and found ways to get to the line.  He’s returned to form faster than anticipated and is beginning to play more north and south and is hovering around the paint more which is a great sign.

Daniels’ poor performance against Yale carried over into this one and he gave a foul in the first couple of seconds which set the tone for the rest of the first half.  He missed easy lay-ups and he visibly looked frustrated.  He finally came around in the second half with a block, a 3-pointer, a dunk, a lay-up, got to the line, and had an offensive rebound & tip in.  He only played 15 minutes in this game and had 4 rebounds.  Hopefully his second half burst will break him out of his slump.

Giffey remained red hot offensively.  He ran the floor well for a lay-up, hit three 3-pointers, a block, and got to the line.  Like his other two games this season, he couldn’t muster up the same success in the second half.  He ended up with a couple of offensive rebounds but no points, but it is hard to remember another UConn player having a start to the season like he has.  Kromah had two lay-ups, missed an one and one opportunity, but still provided plenty of energy off the bench.  Samuel had two lay-ups and a turnover.  He needs to do a much better job at the free throw line, hitting just 2 of 5.

Nolan had two lay-ups and just two rebounds in his 16 minutes.  He needs to produce more than that.  Brimah also struggled on the boards with just 2 in his 14 minutes, but contributed with a baby hook, back to back blocks, and a dunk.  While his shot-blocking is making a difference, this team needs him to rebound better.  Olander came into the game with 10-minutes left to play.  He found ways to get to the line where he is a great free throw shooter, hitting 5 of 5.  He is still too 3-point happy and needs to play in that 10 to 15 foot range, but he is making an impact whenever he gets on the floor which is a drastic improvement.

Facey did a masterful job on the boards, getting 7 rebounds in 12 minutes.  He didn’t shoot the ball that much, but he didn’t need to.   Tolksdorf had a great game too with two lay-ups, a steal, and had two rebounds in his 10 minutes of play.  Watts came in during garbage time and did have a lay-up and a steal.

This was a great bounce back game from Yale. The rebounding looked much better, even though the big men still struggled to rebound.  The guards are packing in the paint and helping out on th boards instead of leaking out, which is helping them tremendously.   The outside shooting is just unconscious right now and if they keep this up, they will break some major UConn records.  It was on the defensive side of the ball that they needed to improve the most.  They were sending opponents to the line way too much and they did a great job of curbing their fouls.  This was a great growth game for UConn and hopefully this team continues to improve on their weaker areas.

UConn Destroys Detroit