Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jim Calhoun on Kevin Ollie

Utter Shame


It was a strange game.  Both teams traded jabs early on, exchanging baskets, but it the defenses were on full display and muddied up the game.  Points were hard to come by as the first half came to a close with UConn holding onto a small three point lead.  Georgetown came out of the gates hot in the second half, knocking down three after three and at one point hit 8 of 9 from deep.  With Napier on the bench, the Hoyas surged to a double digit lead and things looked dire for the Huskies.  But like they have done all year, they dug down deep and fought back, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot and winning the fifty-fifty balls.  Tying the game up with seconds left in regulation on a Calhoun 3-pointer, UConn had Georgetown right where they wanted them, overtime.  They both had a hard time finding points in the first overtime, trading a couple of baskets with neither team able to stretch the lead to two possessions and settled for the tie.  In the second overtime, UConn sprang out to an early lead and rode some deep shots by Daniels and Napier and added in some free throws from Giffey, but couldn’t sustain it, succumbing to the pressure of the moment.  They turned the ball over in key spots which Georgetown took advantage of and knocked down two consecutive 3-pointers to get within one.  Again UConn turned the ball over and allowed Porter to get a great look at the basket, which he knocked down with seconds left.  Boatright dribbled into trouble and put up a desperation shot that ended UConn’s hopes at the upset and possibly any shot at the Big East regular season title.

Napier had a slow start again but picked it up in the second half with an early lay-up, but twisted his ankle on the play.  He came back, hitting 3-pointers and finding ways to get into the lane and dish to others, but he wasn't himself.  He was clutch in overtime with two 3-pointers, one in both overtimes, but his turnovers, 4, came at the wrong time and gave Georgetown easy points. He also settled for the 3-ball too much, 11 of his 16 attempts.  A lot of that had to do with Georgetown's defense, but he never turned the corner and applied pressure.

Boatright had a nice steal and lay-up to begin the game, but again struggled to keep a handle on the basketball.  He dribbled way too much and had a hard time penetrating with the basketball.   He missed a crucial one and one opportunity and his end of game situations were less then desirable. He did have 8 assists to his 4 turnovers, but his 1 free throw attempt in this game isn't enough.  He needs to find ways of dribbling north to south instead of around the hedges and into traps. Calhoun had a masterful game.  He rebounded extremely well, blocked shots, made plays all around the rim, hit three 3-pointers with one tying it up with seconds left in regulation.  His confidence is sky high right now and is only missing a dribble drive to his game which will get him to the line more than his 1 attempt in this game.

Daniels has emerged as an NBA talent.  He does it all.  He is rebounding much better, has an above the rim game, blocks shots, gets to the line, knocks down 3-pointers, floaters, in-bound lay-ups, and plays great defense.  He hasn’t even filled out yet.  He’s the best wing player UConn has had since Rudy Gay and put on a show against Georgetown, dropping a monster double-double with 25 points and 10 rebound.  Giffey was enormous in this game.  He played three positions, had the task of guarding the Big East Player of the Year, and also chipped in offensively.  Like Calhoun, he is playing with a ton of confidence lately.  His numbers don't jump off the page but he did a little of everything from blocks, steals, rebounding, and knocking down clutch free throws.

Olander played well early with a dunk and a lay-up but couldn’t defend without fouling, picking up his fourth foul with fifteen minutes to go in the second half.   He only managed 11 minutes.  Not good.  Nolan came in and did an admirable job, considering the amount of experience he has.  He showed some offensive skills with a nice double-move lay-up and got to the line.  He’s played better in each of his outings. Kevin Ollie moved Daniels to the 5 spot, leaving UConn's bigs on the bench.  They only played a combined 25 minutes. Evans had a nice transition lay-up, a rebound, and an assist but that was about it.

This was a heartbreaker and hopefully it doesn’t carry over into the next game against Cincinnati.  They put so much effort in this game, clawing their way back to tie it up, holding a seven point lead to only see it wither away in the waning seconds.  With Georgetown sitting all alone in first place with only three games left, UConn's chances at a regular season title are gone.  This group of kids deserves better than to see it abruptly come to a halt.  They weren't the ones responsible for the low APR, but they are the ones penalized.  If the NCAA wants to hurt the University then hit them in the wallet or take away the money they would've gotten from the tournament games, but this team deserves to play a postseason and the NCAA with their uneven treatment of the rules are hurting the innocent here.  It's an utter shame.









Sunday, February 24, 2013

Refreshing



With some of the title contenders taking losses on Saturday, it was imperative that UConn get a win against DePaul, but the scrappy Blue Demons weren’t going to be a push over.  They took it right to UConn, carving them up in the paint.  UConn didn’t do them any favors, turning the ball over for 17 times, which DePaul used to take control of the first half.  But they didn’t have enough fire power to match UConn’s hot shooting from deep.  The Huskies hit 11 of 22 from deep, which is amazing.  They have put three games in a row of incredible outside shooting performances and if they continue this they will solidify themselves as the best 3-point shooting team in recent UConn history.  It wasn’t just the 3-point shooting that created UConn’s run in the second half that ballooned the lead to 20 points, they did a fantastic job on the boards.  The backcourt made a determined effort to get on attack the glass, snagging 16 boards between Napier, Boatright, and Calhoun.  DePaul did make a run, like in the first game between the two, to an uncomfortable 10 points, but time was on their side and pulled out the much needed victory on the road.

Napier put on a shooting performance, hitting 5 of 7 from deep with 3 of those in the first and 2 in the second half.  He did struggle with ball handling and had a team high 6 turnovers, but his offense carried this team in the second half with a two jumpers, two 3-pointers, a goal tended lay-up, rebounding, knocking down free throws and good defense.  He’s a rhythm shooter and once he finds his groove, it is hard to stop him, because his range is so deep.

Boatright was playing in front of friends and family and he got off to a great start, hitting two 3-pointers, a floater, a lay-up, a runner, and a nice dish.  He wasn’t as loud in the second half only having a back door dunk and a floater, but he didn’t seem to be dribbling  himself into trouble like his previous two games, and bounced back in a big way.  Calhoun shook off the offensive rut he has been in with dealing with his injured wrist.  He had a quiet first half with a couple of steals, an offensive rebound, and a lay-up.  He did most of his damage in the second half with three lay-ups, two 3-pointers, a jumper, and stuck his nose in the paint for tough rebounds.

Unlike the first meeting this season, Daniels had a quiet game.  He had an early transition lay-up and a left handed lay-up and looked primed to have a solid game, but was quiet in the second half other than suffering a hard foul against him.  He did rebound well, but it wasn’t the normal performance UConn fans have been accustomed to from him.  Giffey has quietly put together several solid games in a row and did so again.  He had a line drive 3-pointer, a jumper, another 3-pointer, and an offensive rebound-lay-up.  He did have a 5 second violation but he was efficient and showed some prowess rebounding.  Evans had a quiet game with only a hustle save and a nice pass as his only contributions.

Olander had a good game with 5 rebounds and had his offense going early in the second half with a jumper and one, and a pull-up jumper.  Nolan got in early and had a few bad defensive possessions and had a lane infraction.  He did have a couple of nice blocks and rebounded the ball in traffic, but it was a struggle out there for him.  Tolksdorf tried to recreate that 3-point magic but it wasn’t there.  He at least didn’t shoot the ball in the closing seconds of the game when Ollie put up the stop sign.  Little victories.  Vandal, Watts, and Lammi all got some playing time with Lammi getting on the box score with a rebound.

This team is right there with a shot at their ultimate goal a reality.  They have a tough game against one of the best defensives in the country in Georgetown.  UConn will need to show a little outside shooting magic to pull of this win, but luckily it is a home game.  It will be a battle of two strengths  UConn’s offense versus Georgetown’s defense, but don’t be fooled.  UConn has can lock down an opponent and Georgetown can drop 90 points a team if they let their guard down.  It really is a shame that this team won’t have a post season because they have caught a bit of lightning in a bottle here.  They are all chipping in to overcompensate for their obvious flaws and it is certainly fun to watch and refreshing to see.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Familiar Territory


This was an important game for UConn.  They needed to hold home court, have a strong performance from their backcourt, and battle hard on the boards against a team they will face again in a week.  Both teams started hot, UConn hitting 3-pointers and Cincinnati getting easy looks in the paint.  The Bearcats did a great job of pushing the ball on every make and attacking UConn’s defense before it could settle and getting to the rim numerous times.  It was a game of runs with Cincinnati biting into the Huskies lead to cut it to three as the first half ended . The second half couldn’t have been more different.  They both struggled to get their offenses going.  UConn mixed and matched defenses while Cincinnati played in-your-shirt defense, cutting off any dribble penetration and taking a page out of Villanova's playbook.  While the defenses were locked in during the second half, there were plenty of wide open jumpers that both teams missed.  When the dust settled, UConn found themselves in familiar territory, overtime.  In the extra period, UConn sprinted out to an early lead and rode the hot hand of Shabazz Napier.  Stretching the lead to three possessions, they used solid free throw shooting to keep the Bearcats at bay for the victory.  While the rebounding remains a major concern, the backcourt bounced back to form and the frontcourt made plays down the stretch to pull off this much needed win.

Napier hit three 3-pointers in the first half with one being a spectacular turnaround three.  The second half was a struggle for him, having two travels and a turnover. Other than a lay-up late in the half and two trips to the line, he couldn’t sniff the rim.  But that ended in the overtime session where he nailed a 3-pointer to open the extra session and added two more after that.  There is no question as to whose team this is and Napier has grabbed the leadership reins, carrying this team to several victories in overtime periods alone.  He thrives in these pressure overtime situations and came through again.

Boatright forced things early with some bad decisions while attacking the basket but got things going midway through the first half with a lay-up, a jumper, and a 3-pointer.  He struggled to score in the second half and only hit two free throws in overtime for his only points after the first half.  He has begun dribbling into trouble and having a tough time creating his own shot.  He needs to cut harder on the pick and roll and is inviting the double team with some of his decisions. Hopefully he can bounce back from this funk that he has been in and adjust his game to what how defenses are playing him lately.  Calhoun battled a wrist injury and it showed in his inability to get shots, but he attacked the glass, snagging a team high 6 boards.  He also made some crucial free throws in overtime. This team did miss his points, especially in the second half.  Evans played in the first half and had an offensive rebound and banked in a free throw, but had little effect on the game.

Daniels was everywhere but it didn't start out that way, giving up a dunk on poor defensive positioning, turning the ball over, and was promptly benched in the first minute of play, but he certainly bounced back.  He was a menace on defense, blocking 4 shots, draining two 3-pointers, sinking two jumpers with one being a nice turnaround baseline shot, and knocking down clutch free throws in overtime.  Olander got to the line in the first half, dunked the basketball, and had a nice pass.  He still struggled defensively against the pick and roll and only had 2 rebounds in his 32 minutes which isn't even close to what this team needs from him.  Giffey had a good first half with a lay-up and one, and he had an offensive rebound and lay-up, but then disappeared down the stretch.  Nolan got some playing time and was pushed out rebounding the basketball but that was about it.

This team keeps playing with one hand tied behind it's back with their inability to get defensive boards.  It puts so much pressure on their defense to hold serve for two or three possessions in a row and they need to rely on the 3-pointer to make up for the significant difference in possessions.  It worked out in this game, but it isn't a long term solution.  They'll need to be better on the boards to win on the road against a struggling but still scrappy DePaul squad.  Hopefully Boatright can get back on track, Olander can rebound, and Calhoun can heal up for the next game, because it is a tough end of the regular season stretch for this team and they need to finish strong for any chance to win the regular season title.





Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rudy Gay: It's Just Good to be Wanted



Monday, February 18, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Supernova


Whatever the excuse, UConn just didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm that they had against Syracuse and without Napier and Boatright contributing anything in the scoring column  they couldn’t overcome playing with one hand tied behind their back by playing with sloppy  ball handling, 19 turnovers, and a failure to control the glass, giving up 20 offensive rebound.  Villanova came in with a sense of urgency, needing a victory to remain in the conversation of getting into the tournament and UConn couldn’t match the energy down the stretch of this back and forth affair. Credit goes to Villanova which used traps that  stopped any dribble penetration that stiffled UConn’s offense and without the outside shooting to counteract Villanova’s second chance points, the game slipped away.  Eventually it was going to catch up with them and until they fix those two glaring deficiencies, they are going to stumble down the stretch.

Napier got his second foul before he even broke a game sweat on two silly reach ins.  It is okay to be aggressive, but not so early in the game.  When he was on the bench UConn’s offensive wheels turned into squares and Ollie had to roll the dice and bring Napier back in to help jump start the offense. It worked out and though he wasn’t scoring, he was finding the open man for easy looks.  Down the stretch, when the game was still close, Napier had some uncharacteristically bad turnovers that led ballooned Villanova’s lead.

It was as bad of a game as Boatright has had in a UConn uniform.  He had a travel, a couple of bad passes, his shot was way off, and he couldn’t sniff a lane to penetrate.  Hopefully he can put this game behind him, because this team can’t have another performance like this from him. The most unfortunate thing about this game was his body language.  That stuff rubs off on the team and was a major reason why Ollie pulled him from the game.  He needs to remain in control of his emotions, especially when things aren't going their way. Calhoun has put together several solid games in a row.  He started by getting to the line and sinking some free throws which opened up the rest of his game.  He added a floater and one, a 3-pointer, a bank shot and three more trips to the line. He's become that reliable third scorer and more importantly has started out strong for UConn and has been a tone setter for this team.   Evans had a lay-up and a trip to the line, but also played some quality minutes with Boatright sitting on the bench for a big chunk of the second half.  He's taking shots that tailor to his strengths which is what he needs to do.

Olander had a good game offensively, hitting a couple of jumpers, a hook shot, and had a steal, but struggled keeping Villanova off the glass.  His major issue is reestablishing position after he hedges on the pick and roll.  He usually gets pinned out of position and can’t get close to a defensive rebound.  He needs to run back with hands up and seal his man quickly.  Nolan played only five minutes but looked active in his limited time.  Tolksdorf took a majority of the minutes from Nolan and instantly rewarded Ollie with back to back 3-pointers. If he can rebound with more authority, then his outside shooting will be a tremendous asset going forward.

Daniels left his mark all over the place in this game.  He had an up and under lay-up, a driving lay-up, a monster dunk, a 3-pointer, a put-back, another lay-up, and a steal.  He didn’t rebound like he should have, only having 4 boards, but he was the primary scorer for this team with the lack of any dribble penetration.  Giffey had a 3-pointer, got to the line, had a lay-up on a curl, a sweet dunk, and a put-back.  The only thing lacking was his rebounding. The wings did a good job of making up for the lack of backcourt scoring, but need to do a better job of helping out on the glass.

This was a tough loss.  These home games are vital to win. It puts a lot of pressure on them to make up for it by winning on the road, but it hasn't dashed their ultimate hopes.  They need to put this game behind them and refocus on getting the defensive rebound and ball control, because they won’t be able to win games down the stretch of the season with the numbers that they are putting up in those two departments. They have a big time game coming up against another desperate team in Cincinnati that are looking to tighten up their resume.  UConn needs to finish these next couple of weeks off strong to remain in striking distance in the conference standings but this loss might ultimately haunt them when all the dust settles on the Big East regular season because this game was theirs for the taking.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Squeezed


UConn did everything they weren’t supposed to do against Syracuse.  They turned the ball over 18 times and gave up 18 offensive rebounds, giving Syracuse a whopping 20 extra looks at the basket.  This should’ve been a blowout of epic proportions but this team counteracted all of that plus a paper thin frontcourt with deadly outside shooting, hitting 8 of 14 from deep, efficient half court offense against the zone that has troubled them all year, and a stifling man-to-man defense.  While Napier and Boatright were the focal points of the offense, this was a total team victory with everyone chipping in, squeezing the Orange in their last meeting between these two rivals for the perceivable future.  This was as great of a regular season win for this team as any in recent memory.  It shows that this team is on the right track and that the demise of this proud franchise was dramatically overestimated.

Napier didn’t take a shot until mid-way through the first half, but still did damage by penetrating the zone and finding open teammates for easy looks at the basket.  He played ball hawking defense, getting numerous steals that allowed him to attack the rim before the zone formed.  It is amazing that he only took 6 field goals with four of them from deep, because he left his mark all over this game.  From steals, to rebounding, to clutch shots, he did everything efficiently and showed true leadership out there.

Boatright was sensational and had everything working.  He was rebounding, penetrating the zone, hitting floaters, dunking, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers, and sealing the game at the line late.  He did a better job of handling the basketball and had a team high 3 steals. This was by far his best performance against the zone. Calhoun had a rough start with a bad turnover and a horrible shot but still played with energy.  With that energy, he got to the line, hit a runner and had two blocks in the first half. Unlike previous games, he came alive in the second half where he hit three 3-pointers, knocked down his free throws late and stepped up as that third scorer that this team desperately needs. Evans played early and had a falling down floater that he was fouled on.  He also came in and settled the team in the press.  If he was a better free throw shooter, he would be in there late in the game and help against the pressure defense that caused them trouble in the waning minutes.

Olander got the game going with four early points on a dunk and an up and under move, but struggled to remain in the game, dealing with foul trouble. With all the knocks against his game, it is his inability to play defense without fouling that is the most troubling and with the absence of Wolf, he will need to play more extended minutes. Nolan came in during the first half and played with energy and effort, ending the game with 5 rebounds which is a great sign. This team only needs two things from Nolan, defense and rebounding and he came through. When Daniels is hovering around 8 rebounds, this is a totally different team.  He did that and it fueled his offensive game, where he had a floater, an up and under lay-up, and sank free throws late in the game.  Giffey had a superb outing.  He had two bank shots, a baseline dunk, a hustle steal, a 3-ball, was active rebounding, and hit free throws late.  He had to be playing with a heavy heart, being close with Wolf.

This is what team is all about.  They are dealing with adversity but instead of it bringing them down, it has brought them together.  The conference is falling apart, there is no post season, their best front court player is probably kicked off the team and possibly deported out of the country and yet they play one of their best games of the year, taking it to one of the best teams in the country.  It has put them in a great position heading into a tough match-up against Villanova.  They must bring this same energy and hold home court to ultimately win the regular season title that had once seemed only a dream but with this win under their belt, is still a possibility.











Monday, February 11, 2013

Digging Out


It was a game of runs and UConn was the first to strike.  They did it on the backs of Calhoun and Daniels again.  Unlike the previous couple of games, the Huskies were able to get their transition game going early and their lay-ups were finally dropping. Seton Hall then turned the tables and momentum switched courts in the blink of an eye as the Pirates turned UConn over and converted on the other end. The Huskies who were in control for much of the first half found themselves in familiar territory lately, down at halftime.  The Pirates continued the attack early in the second half, knocking down jumpers and carving up UConn’s pick and roll defense.  Like everyone else dealing with the blizzard, UConn had to pull out the shovels and dig themselves out and they did it on the defensive end.  They used the sloppy Seton Hall ball handling and which fueled the fast break and UConn soared ahead for good never looking back. This was a total team effort.  Everyone contributed from Giffey, Evans, Wolf, Daniels, and Calhoun.  They each took over in stretches and pulled out a tough win on the road, something this team struggled with last year.

Napier had a slow start, hitting just two jumpers in the first half, though he did a good job of vacillating the offense.  He did most of the damage in the second half.  He knocked down a couple of jumpers, some lay-ups, but did his most damage on defense, snagging 6 steals that extended UConn’s runs.  He did a solid job of getting to the line and not being 3-point happy, only taking 4 attempts. Other than the turnovers, he had an excellent game and needs to remain involved like he was here for them to have a shot against Syracuse.

Boatright had a fantastic game, bouncing back from a poor showing in his last couple of games.  He only took 9 shots but made those count.  His day started out slow with making a 3-ball and one in the first half, and then started the second half with three horrible turnovers.   He kept battling hard though and was rewarded with 10 trips to the line and knocked them all down.  He also added another 3-pointer and a highlight slam.  Calhoun came out of the gate strong, knocking down a 3-pointer, played stout defense, and had 2 lay-ups.  His second half wasn’t as pretty, turning the ball over and taking a bad shot early in the shot clock but late in the game.  He's had two great starts in a row but hasn't been able to sustain it throughout the game.

Daniels had a quiet day.  He only made 3 out of 10 shots with those being a lay-up, a slam, and a jumper.  He needs to do a better job on the glass though, only getting 4. This is a totally different team when he is near double digits in rebounding. Giffey had a tough task of guarding Fuquan Edwin who was all over the court.  Niels did hit an early 3-pointer and had an and-one on a lay-up, but turned the ball over 4 times.  He needs to do a better job of handling the basketball because his turnovers seem to always lead to points on the other end.  Evans returned to form with those pesky lay-ups that have been eluding him lately.

Olander had a good start, knocking down a hook shot, but struggled from there on out with only a lay-up as his only other points.  He finished with just 2 rebounds and that is not going to cut it.  Wolf also struggled to rebound, but was hustling out there even getting into defensive position for a charge.  Nolan got some playing time and had a turnover. The front court didn't show up for this game and luckily it didn't cost them.  Ollie doesn't need a dominant performance out of this group.  He just needs them to hover around 7 boards each and they aren't even close to that.

This was an important game for UConn.  They needed to wash the taste of the St. John’s game out and this win did just that.  They’ll need to play a much more controlled game against Syracuse.  If they come out with the sloppy ball handling that they displayed against the Hall then it will be over quickly.  Ollie has them playing hard though and they'll have a great chance at the upset versus the Orange, but they'll need 40 whole minutes of basketball to do that and its been a long time since they did that.






Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lost Swagger


It was another slow start for UConn.  Both Napier and Boatright were frustrated by St. John’s zone and were held in check.  They didn’t contribute a single point in the first half.  Calhoun and Daniels carried UConn as far as they could in that horrific 20 minutes of first half basketball, but the most disappointing aspect of this game was the defense which was severely lacking for much of this game, allowing St. John’s easy looks five feet and in at the basket.  It wasn’t until the second half that UConn finally showed signs of life to made it a game and amazingly it was when Boatright on the bench .  Behind some great outside shooting, UConn took the lead, but they never established a way to get to the line and soon those jumpers began to hit iron again, allowing the Johnnies to have one last run in the game and shut the door on UConn’s comeback hopes.

No matter what the violation was that had Napier sit out the first six minutes of the ballgame, he wasn’t the same player.  He looked lethargic and it was reminiscent of last year when Lamb and Napier were having their issues and Napier disappeared in games.  He wasn't forceful and his defense was uninspired. Plain and simple it was a selfish game for him.  He primarily was standing around the perimeter and shooting threes which isn't what this team needs.  They need him to get to the line and play a downhill type of game.  He didn't and they lost.

Boatright had a horrible game.  His shots around the rim rolled out, he clanked his jumpers, and his defense was uninspired as he watched his defender run right by him.  Ollie had enough and sat him.  That takes a lot of guts but it worked out because the role players came in with energy and made impact plays that brought UConn all the way back.  Ryan needs to get out of this offensive rut that he has been in, especially in first halves of games. His up and under lay-ups aren't dropping and his lay-ups are rolling off the rim. Calhoun did most of his damage in the first half, knocking down jumpers, but he took too many quick shots and needs to settle down with his stroke and get into a flow when shooting like he did in the first half.  He was UConn's leading shot taker with a majority of them from deep.  He's still learning but needs to find ways to get to the line, especially for a shooter, because seeing the ball drop a couple of times will open up that rim.  Overall it was a great game for him and shows that he can take over the offense in stretches.

Daniels played extremely well in the first half, but disappeared in the second half.  It feels like when the outside jumpers are working for this team, he stops making plays.  He did have some hustle plays but needs to get more second chance points. He needs to be a more consistent defensive rebounder for this team.  Giffey had an excellent game.  He rebounded, played solid defense, got to the line, and was aggressive in the paint.  This was his best game of the year by far and it was all done from inside the perimeter.  Hopefully this will give him the confidence to battle more on the boards because it opened up his game.

Wolf had a bit of nastiness to him in this game which is what this team needed.  He helped contain St. John’s in the second half and put the Johnnies into foul trouble with his effort on the boards. He wasn't making plays offensively but this team needed someone to clog up the paint and he did that. Olander struggled again and most of his minutes were given to Wolf,  because he was unable to stay in front of his man on defense. Evans had a good game and helped fill in for Boatright who was riding the pine for most of the second half.  He even had a dunk in this game, the first of the year for him.

This team is not going to win with Boatright and Napier not scoring a point in more than 26 minutes of game time.  It was amazing that they were in this game and it is a testament to Coach Ollie.  The advantage of the 3-ball and some role players stepping up made it a ball game, but the defense had gaping holes and that was the real reason for this loss.  Even though they have been winning games, they haven’t been playing well in the last three games.  They’ll need to refocus on rebounding and help defense.  There were too many direct lanes to the basket for this team.  The offense has been having slow starts and will continue to if they remain a jump shooting team.  Until then, the zone is going to cause them issues and they'll see it for the rest of year since teams can rebound against this team while playing zone defense.  They've lost their swagger a bit now and it is going to be vital that this doesn't lead to another loss.  They'll need to bounce back or they could fall down this tight Big East standings.





Tuesday, February 5, 2013

January



UConn is now in the heart of Big East play and it shows with many of the games in January becoming very close down the stretch.  The month started out with an instant classic, a tightly fought battle against Marquette that went into double overtime.  It was a back and forth game that UConn ultimately lost as Marquette found some last second magic to tie it up and run away with it in overtime.  They followed that up with a dominating performance against DePaul and then got a signature win against Notre Dame in South Bend, ending another home winning streak for the Irish.  The Huskies then came crashing down to earth as Louisville laid a whooping on them in Hartford, handing UConn their worst lost of the year.  They then traveled to Pittsburgh to play a must win for the Panthers and Jamie Dixon had his team playing well.  UConn hung with them and made it close, but couldn’t make the plays down the stretch to pull off the upset.  With back-to-back losses their next game against Rutgers was pivotal for UConn and would determine where this team was heading.  Ollie had them playing hard and though Rutgers made it a game early, UConn wouldn’t be denied and pulled ahead for good.  They then had the craziest game of the year, stat wise, against Providence.  The Friars had their way on the glass, but UConn counteracted that with a deadly outside game.  They pulled off an improbable victory in Providence when all the chips were stacked against them. It was a good January for this team and they looked improved and heading in the right direction for not only next month but for the next season.

Napier had a fantastic game versus Marquette, hitting the outside shot and getting to the line.  He continued his aggressive style against DePaul, only taking three attempts from deep and snagged 8 rebounds.  His torrid pace continued versus Notre Dame where his jumper was deadly and his defensive intensity caused a normally sure handed Notre Dame squad to cough up the ball.  His incredible play soon came to an abrupt halt against Louisville.  Siva outplayed him and Napier had some costly turnovers that fed Louisville’s deadly break.  After suffering a shoulder injury in the Louisville game, he had a rough game against Pittsburgh, not getting involved in the offense and had way too many turnovers.  He bounced back with a great performance against Rutgers, playing an excellent game and was assertive.  He finished up the month with a stellar overtime performance against Providence where he sank three 3-pointers.

Boatright had a slow start in the Marquette game but picked it up in the second half.  He then scorched DePaul, carving up their defense and knocking down jumpers.  Under the eyes of most of his family, Boatright came alive in the second half of the Notre Dame game and sealed it at the line. Like Napier, he also had problems against Louisville and his offense shriveled up.  Boatright carried UConn against Pittsburgh, probing the Panthers defense and was able to get the ball to drop in on some wild lay-up attempts.  He had a slow start to the Rutgers game, not getting his first field goal until 11 minutes in to the ballgame and picked up a early 2nd foul.  Boatright was aggressive against Providence and was knocking down 3-pointers.  He needs to get off to better starts and take better care of the basketball.

Calhoun struggled shooting the ball throughout the Marquette, DePaul, Notre Dame games.  His poor shooting soon came to an end in the most unlikely of games, against Louisville.  Calhoun hit 3 of 4 from deep and 5 for 5 from the line.  He did have 6 turnovers, but his jumpers were finally dropping.  He put together another solid game with a nice outing against the Panthers, hitting three 3-pointers.  His jumper remained true, hitting a corner three and a baseline jumper.  He came up clutch against Providence and knocked down some open jumpers, ending his month on a three consecutive games of good shooting.  Hopefully he can keep this momentum going through February.

Daniels had some defensive lapses and disappeared through much of the game against Marquette, but he bounced back in a huge way against DePaul, getting to the line, dunking, knocking down jumpers, and dominating his match-up against Melvin.  He had a slow start in South Bend but picked it up in the second half, flirting with a double-double.  He played well against Louisville, doing all the little things but took a step back against Pittsburgh, only mustering 1 rebound. He made some noise late in the Rutgers game and had a rim rattling dunk and had a sub-par game against Providence.  Right now Daniels is searching for consistency.  At times he looks like a big time forward and looks lost other times.

Giffey continued to search for his offense throughout the month but rebounded much better.  He had a nice dunk against Rutgers though he nearly broke his neck on the landing, but his offense sputtered throughout the month.  He did the little things like hustling for loose balls and defending four positions, but his spot up shooting has nearly disappeared.

Olander's defense continues to be an issue, fouling too much and getting out of position on the pick in roll.  He had a good game against DePaul, getting some offensive rebounds and hitting a rare jumper.  Then came the Notre Dame game where he had a career day.  He lived in the paint and even hit a step-back jumper.  Olander played well against Pittsburgh, but still was having problems in the pick and roll.  He had a rollercoaster of a month.  His rebounding was much better, but he continued to search for points in the pain.  Coaches say that if you can do it once then you can do it again. We need to see that Olander we saw in the Notre Dame game.

Wolf started the month out strong against Marquette, blocking shots and getting lay-ups.  He carried that play over into the DePaul game.but struggled in the next two games against Louisville and Pittsburgh.  He has shown spurts of really solid play, but has problems of defending without fouling or boxing out.  He has outplayed Olander for much of the month but yet remains inconsistent with minutes played.

Evans had a tough month.  His lay-ups dried up and his playing time was erratic.  He needs to help out on the boards more and can’t turn the ball over.  He's mostly filling in to spell Napier or Boatright.

Nolan had problems defending without fouling and if he wants more minutes in February, he will need to rebound better.  He's a work in progress.

Tolksdorf got some playing time against DePaul but shot the ball when Ollie wanted him to run out the clock.

UConn won the games that they were supposed to and their loses weren't unexpected.  They'll need to continue to play inspired basketball, rebound better, and not get so jump shot happy against the zone.  If they can do all those things then they'll be right around the top five teams heading into the last week of Big East play, but February is going to be a tough month.  They still have some tough games to play but this team visibly matured in January and looks poised to make a statement in February.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Sword


UConn was in familiar territory.  They muddled through the first half, struggling to get anything resembling an offense against USF’s zone defense.  The Bulls took advantage of that stagnant offense and jumped out early and coasted to a comfortable 12 point lead by the end of the first half, but it didn’t last long.  UConn exploded out of the gates in the second half and eradicated that deficit by getting into transition through turnovers and finally having some jumpers start to drop.  Once it was all knotted up, it became a back and forth affair with both teams trading baskets.  UConn was finally able to put pressure on USF’s zone defense and get to the line, which was the difference in this game.  Both teams made plays down the stretch to swing the lead in their own direction and they found themselves knotted up as regulation ended. UConn is no stranger to these overtime games and looked the more comfortable team in the extra period, because Napier took over, put this team on his back and carried them to the finish line with some deadly outside shooting.

It didn’t start out well for Shabazz though.  Other than a 3-pointer, he struggled to get his offense on track in the first half.  It wasn’t until the second half that he was able to get into transition by turning USF over and do some damage.  It was in overtime where he became All-World, knocking down three 3-pointers that put UConn comfortably ahead and they nursed the lead until the buzzer.

Boatright also struggled early with only a 3-pointer and hitting only one free throw out of his three attempts.  He was much more aggressive in the second half, getting to the line but unfortunately missed some clutch free throws down the stretch to extend the lead. He's struggled in these past couple of games to make plays around the rim and he is settling for the jumper more. Calhoun couldn’t ride the momentum that he accrued with his clutch shooting against Providence.  His jumpers were all over the map, but finally got a baseline jumper to drop in the second half.  This team is drastically searching for a consistent third scorer, but it wasn't Calhoun in this game.

Daniels also had a sub-par game, coming off a strong performance against Providence.  He made some defensive lapses, having his coach hopping on the sidelines.   He hit a baseline jumper in the second half, but was in foul trouble throughout the game and finally fouled out in overtime. He did do a good job on the boards, but struggled defensively. Giffey also had trouble knocking down shots, but helped seal the game late at the line. The box score won't show the real impact that he had on the game. Evans played much more aggressively though his shots weren’t dropping.  He did have a nice offensive rebound and put-back and had a much better impact on this game then in his prior two.

It was night and day for Olander.  He was fighting hard all game in the paint. He had an early lay-up, had an offensive rebound on a free throw, and was fouled on a rebound.  It was nice to see him bounce back even though USF is about as efficient as UConn is on the glass.   Wolf was the one to take a step back in this game.  He only had two rebounds, but played just 10 minutes because Ollie tinkered with a smaller lineup.  Tolksdorf took the minutes Nolan was getting and made the most of them, hitting a 3-pointer.  It was good to see him get some productive court time.

You live by the sword and you die by the sword, and UConn was able to sink some late 3-pointers to escape a tough USF squad, though 27 attempts are far too many.  They were able to compensate a 29 percent shooting game with 26 points at the line, which is stellar.  They’ll need to remain aggressive against a St. John’s team looking to get themselves righted.  UConn has put themselves a game back in the standings but there is a pack of teams around them so this next game is vital. They need to win these middle of the pack games to put themselves into contention, but it won't be easy. Not in this league and especially not on the road.

Friday, February 1, 2013

War of Attrition



UConn had no right to win this game.  With a hapless frontcourt, a hobbled Boatright, an anemic half court offense and a underperforming Napier, UConn leaned heavily on a defense that kept Providence to only 33 percent shooting.   Kevin Ollie primarily used the man-to-man defense, sprinkling in some pressure and zone which got gashed, but the backcourt did a good job off driving off perimeter shooters and despite the Friars’ 11 extra attempts, they made 5 less field goals.  This game was a war of attrition, and it was UConn’s ability to remain aggressive, get points at the line, and shoot 50 percent from the perimeter that kept them in the game and from there it was the backcourt’s ability to make clutch plays as the frontcourt began to foul out. This was no easy feat.  Not at this arena and especially not with this roster.  This was all heart and grit out there on court and Ollie has these kids playing extremely hard despite their talent.

Napier looked like he was going to have a stellar game, hitting an early elbow jumper and 3-pointer, but other than two free throws and another 3-pointer, he didn’t contribute much offensively throughout the two halves, but he came up clutch down the stretch in overtime.  He hit 5 of 6 at the line and a big time 3-pointer that counterbalanced Providence's inside game.  While it doesn't physically look like the shoulder is giving him problems, he hasn't been producing like his normal self since the injury and it has put a lot of pressure on Boatright to make up for it.

Boatright had a crazy game.  He dropped in a spinning floater, a pretty lay-up, a 3-pointer, and had some nice passes in the first half.  He picked the pace up in the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers, a lay-up, a floater and hit 2 free throws.  He did have some issues turning the ball over, 5 total, and also took several bad shots that instantly led to easy buckets on the other end, but he was aggressive and was playing north and south which is what Ollie wants from him.  This was a great showing for Calhoun, who made plays in key stretches of this ballgame.  He had an elbow jumper and a 3-pointer in the first half.  In the second half he got to the line, played solid defense, getting deflections and blocks, and hit a jumper.  It was in a crucial stretch in overtime that he made a gigantic 3-pointer that might be the confidence builder he needs going forward.  This team desperately needs him to contribute like he did that tonight to take the pressure off of Napier and Boatright.

Daniels was UConn’s only effective frontcourt player.  He started out red hot, hitting an early 3-pointer, had a nice lay-up, hit a 15-footer, and was able to get to the line.  He carried over his play into the second half, creating a charge, blocking shots, hitting a jumper, having a shot goal tended, and rebounding the ball in traffic in crucial stretches.  Without his effort, this game would’ve been a blowout. He needs to be a little more assertive with the basketball in the middle of the zone though. Giffey had a nice jumper that he created off the dribble which is rare for him, and he hit a nice jumper.  He also gave UConn some solid defense even though he was playing out of position when Olander and Wolf fouled out.  It is a luxury to have a player that can slide into four different positions.  Nolan also came in and gave solid minutes though his box score won't impress you. He played good enough defense without fouling which is more than you can say for the other two front line players.  Evans had a lay-up and a steal which is an improvement, but he also made some bad decisions with the basketball.

Olander was a no show.  He is lowering his arms on defense and getting fouls called on him.  He isn’t battling for boards, and didn’t have a single rebound.  Not good.  At one point he had his armed pinned on a rebound, but instead of jumping for the ball and making it obvious, he let his man pin him down and get another offensive rebound.  He needs to be stronger than that.  Wolf wasn’t much better, though he did have some nice blocks in the first half that led to easy points and had a dunk in the second, but he was inconsistent and let his opponent get around him for rebounds.  Ollie struggled to find ways to rebound the ball and what these two showed in this game was embarrassing.

This was a great win.  It proves that this team can win games on the road even if they aren’t playing perfect basketball and this game was far from flawless but they keep surprising us with inspired play and winning these games on shear heart and hustle.  This was a physical game and they didn't back down from it.  They responded and that's refreshing.  In the long run they'll need to shore up the rebounding which had been much better in the previous three games, but took a major step backwards.  They need to keep this rolling, because if they want to put themselves into position for a Big East title, they'll need to rattle off a few wins in a row here to put pressure off the tail end of the schedule, but for now they can enjoy what very few UConn teams have done, win in Providence.