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.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Jeff Adrien Highlight Blocks




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


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Triple Threat

UConn and Yale played a rare weekday afternoon game in Hartford and both teams came out of the gate sluggish.  Like the Maryland game, UConn used some great perimeter shooting to create a double digit lead and held onto a pesky Yale squad that made just enough runs to make Ollie feel uncomfortable.  The Huskies didn’t have an answer for Justin Sears, who out-hustled UConn’s big men for 8 offensive rebounds and 13 trips to the line.  For much of the game, both teams were even on the boards, but Yale took control and out rebounded UConn by 12 with the real damage on the offensive boards where Yale grabbed an amazing 22 offensive rebounds.  They scored 16 second chance points in the second half alone.  But UConn had too much offense for Yale to match, especially when they weren’t knocking down 3-pointers, and UConn held onto their double digit lead until the end.

Napier had a fantastic game and had a triple double, the last triple double since the one he had against Coppin State.  His first half started by attacking the offensive glass for a rebound, he had four assists in a row and then added three more on top of that, a lay-up, and a steal.  His well-rounded game kept pace in the second half with a two jumpers, two offensive rebounds, a 3-pointer and two more assists.  He has been rebounding the ball really well and he’s seeing the court and not turning the ball over that had plagued his previous seasons.  This was the Napier everyone was waiting for and hopefully will in the future.

Boatright had a rough first half and had one assist, two turnovers, and a steal.  He had a much better second half with two steals, a lay-up, got to the line and made his free throws, and hit two 3-pointers.  He’s not shooting the ball that well in this early season and but he is getting to the line which means he’s being aggressive.  That’s a good sign.  Calhoun had his best outing of this short season.  He had two lay-ups, three 3-pointers, a block, and the best sign of them all was his seven trips to the line.  He did have some sloppy turnovers late in the game but his game is slowly coming back to form.

The big story of the day was the absence of Daniels.  His no show today on the boards allowed Yale to crawl back into this game.  Hopefully this was an anomaly for him, because this team needs Daniels to compete at a high level.  He ended the game with a rebound, a turnover, and a block.  Not good.  Giffey on the other hand remained red hot from behind the arch.  He has finally found out that he’s a fantastic spot up shooter, knocking down four 3-pointers in a row and added another one late in the first half, but just like the Maryland game, he disappeared in the second half.  He needs to find a way to make an impact in that second period to help stem these offense droughts this team is going through in midway through the second half.

Kromah had two lay-ups, an offensive rebound, a steal, a turnover, and some nice passes.  He adds instant energy off the bench and this team needed it with little coming from Daniels and Boatright early.  Samuel had tough game with a turnover, a couple of nice assists, and a lay-up in his limited minutes.  He seems to have a good demeanor despite his limited role which shows his maturity for a freshman.

Nolan had a good first half on the offensive end, getting two dunks and a jumper, but he needs to do much better on the boards than one rebound in 13 minutes.  This team needs more from him. Once again Brimah’s height caused issues for opponents.  He had two blocks in the first half and five in the second.  He also added three dunks.  Like Nolan, he needs to do better on the rebounding end.  He can’t play 24 minutes and only get one rebound.  That’s not getting it done.  Olander was coming off a terrific game against Maryland but only played 2 minutes with no effect on the game.  Facey finally got into the game and found a way to get to the foul line right away, but then struggled to defend without fouling.  He was called for three quick fouls in the second half and found himself back on the bench.  This group needs to do a much better job on rebounding.  Whoever can come out of this group and get boards will get the minutes no matter what else they bring to the table and none of them did that.

This team looked to have turned the corner on the rebounding department against Maryland, but then they took a step back against a scrappy Yale team.  It is still early and Daniels isn’t going to have many games like this one and the players like Nolan, Brimah and Facey are getting settled. These are the type of games UConn will be playing for the next couple of weeks because the young players tend to be a bit inconsistent and until they begin to figure it out, they’ll get these inconsistent performances.  So it is up to the veteran players like Napier, Boatright, Giffey, and Olander to create that consistency.  If they don’t then it could be a Topsy-Turvy season.

Rudy Gay Hits Clutch Shot But Loses In Double Overtime

Sunday, November 10, 2013

UConn versus Maryland Highlights

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Fingertips

It was supposed to be a neutral site but UConn stepped into enemy territory in Brooklyn.  Red dominated the Barclays Center crowd but the Huskies were able to silence them early with the combination of the deep shot and offensive put-backs. They built up a double digit lead and held back each and every Maryland run.  UConn had a hard time defending without fouling and couldn’t adjust to the new hand check rules.  It put them into early foul trouble while sending Maryland to the line a whopping 28 times.  It wasn’t until Maryland switched to full court pressure that UConn’s 17 point lead begin to dwindle.  It slowed down UConn’s offense, the ball got stuck on one side of the court, and the once sure handed backcourt struggled to hold onto the ball.  UConn held on by their fingertips down the stretch as they missed two opportunities at the line to extend the lead but the defense stepped up and got two crucial stops to end the game.

Unlike the two preseason games, Shabazz Napier made an major impact in the first half with a 3-pointer, a steal, several nice passes, a jumper, and a trip to the line.  He had a 3-pointer, two jumpers and a steal in the second half, but struggled to defend without fouling, eventually fouling out.  He was masterful on the boards though and corralled a lot of those mid-ranged boards that UConn struggled to get last season.  It was his technical foul for taunting that propelled Maryland on a major run that would almost cost UConn the game.  He needs to play more under control defensively because this team needed him late in the ball game and all he could do was cheer.

At times Boatright looked brilliant.  He had a couple of his trademark steals and dunks, hit shots in rhythm, and found open shooters, but then there were those times when he dribbled into traffic or with no real direction, turned the ball over, and missed critical free throws.  He just doesn’t look like the same player without the safety net of Napier out there with him.  Calhoun had jumper in the first half and a lay-up, an offensive rebound, and two crucial 3-pointers in the second half.  He is still dusting rust off his game right now and is depending on his outside shot for his offense.  Kromah had a great first half with a 3-pointer, a steal & dunk, another dunk, and got to the line.  He disappeared in the second half though.

Daniels had an early foul with less than a minute into the game and didn’t come back into the game until halfway through the first half, but when he did he had two jumpers, a lay-up, a block, a steal, and a couple of nice assists.  He struggled in the second half though and only had a block and a lay-up.  This team struggles when the offense doesn’t flow through him and he needs to demand the basketball more.

Giffey carried UConn in the first half with two 3-pointers, a tip-in, several rebounds, and instant energy, but for some reason Ollie kept him out for much of the second half and he struggled to make a similar impact.  Samuel had a steal, a rebound, and a lay-up in his limited role and will have a hard time finding consistent minutes.  He needs to keep a good attitude and bring energy when he is out there.

The frontcourt struggled to give long stretches of playing time and they all battled with foul trouble throughout the game.  Nolan got the start and did a nice job early on the offensive glass, but had a few fouls and never got back into the flow of the game.  Brimah held his own on the glass and found ways to get two dunks.  He also changed the game with a beautiful series of blocks that ended with a Giffey 3-pointer.  It was great to see Olander dig his way out of Ollie’s doghouse with inspired play.  He was subbed in midway through the second half and instantly had an offensive rebound, an assist, two steals, and a critical 3-pointer (Which were the last points scored byUConn). Hopefully this will give him the confidence heading forward, because this team will need his experience and size down the stretch.

This was a great game and an early test to see where this team is.  They are much better on the boards, are playing better against the pick and roll, and the younger players looked like they belong, but they also struggled on the perimeter defense, defending without fouling, and making critical free throws.  Ollie has plenty to work to do with his team, but he should be happy with how they handled adversity down the stretch and held on for an early out of conference win.

Friday, November 8, 2013

UConn Is Filled With New Faces


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Play Time

UConn’s last exhibition game came against a Concordia team that lacked size, skill, and depth that the Huskies had in full abundance and it was evident early on when UConn pounded the paint and jumped out to an early double digit lead and never looked back.  They dominated in every aspect of the game, out rebounding Concordia by 23 and limited the transition scoring.  Ollie did a great job of playing his younger players and they all contributed.  While there wasn't much to really take from this massive blowout, this still was valuable experience for new players on the team heading forward, especially when their minutes will be in spurts.

Napier had another slow start to the game with only a steal in the first half.  He turned it on in the second half, hitting an early 3-pointer and then had four pretty assists before sinking a layup.  He played sparingly, only 14 minutes, and even though he didn’t score, he was more engaged in this game.  Boatright had a steal & dunk and a lay-up in the first half, but it was his court vision that really impressed.  He had two nice dimes in the first half and three in the second.  On top of that he didn’t have a single turnover and also snagged two steals.  Like Napier, he only played 18 minutes, but had a significant impact on the game.  If he can limit his turnovers this season, watch out.

Daniels only played 11 minutes but remained aggressive, hitting 5 of 6 from the line, grabbed 3 offensive boards, had a lay-up, and a jumper.  That’s not too bad in such a limited time.  Giffey had a great game.  He started off with a lay-up & one, a steal, and a block in the first half, but he turned it up in the second half.  He had a lay-up, three 3-pointers, two steals, two dunks, and two offensive rebounds.  He’s really confident in his game lately and it has shown with his play on the court.  Calhoun played a good chunk of this game, 24 minutes, and played well.  He had two lay-ups, and two steals in the first half, but then knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half.  His jumper is starting to come around on him.

An interesting battle for minutes will be between Kromah and Samuel for that fourth guard off the bench.  Samuels showed a lot of poise out there for a freshman.  He was first off the bench and made spectacular pass after spectacular pass, ending the night with 12 dimes with 4 turnovers.  He also had three lay-ups, and a jumper.  Kromah had his jumper working and drained three 3-pointers but cooled off after that.  Both showed flashes in this game had Samuels edging Kromah out, but only slightly.

The other battle to watch for is at the wide open center position.  Nolan got the start and played a solid 18 minutes.  He attacked the boards and helped UConn jump out to an early lead by snagging offensive rebounds.  He also showed the ability to knock down the jumper which he worked hard on during the summer.  So far he has the edge on the starting position. Brimah was first off the bench and played 15 minutes.  He immediately grabbed a rebound, which is a great sign.  He also had a block and a lay-up in the first half and followed that by a dunk and a block in the second half.  Olander has taken a dramatic fall down the roster.  He came in midway through the first half played five and a half minutes without a rebound.  He then came in late in the second half and only lasted two and a half minutes and still didn’t get a board.  Now take Facey.  He had 11 minutes and had four rebounds, one offensive and got to the line.  He did have two offensive fouls on moving screens, but he  thoroughly outplayed Olander.

Tolksdorf remains a mystery.  He took seven shots, all 3-pointers, and made 3 of them.  He did have four rebounds with one offensively, but this team doesn’t need another 3-point shooter.  They need rebounders.  Lenehan had a fantastic 5 minutes, hitting a 3-pointer, got to the line, had a steal and a lay-up.  Watts also got into the party and hit a free throw.

With a game like this there is little you can really take away from it.  It’s like playing your little brother.  Sure the rebounding was fantastic, but it really can’t translate over to the level of competition UConn will eventually play.  What they can take away is the outside shooting 14 of 28 and the play of Calhoun, Nolan, Kromah, Samuel, and Brimah.  They all looked great in their extended minutes and hopefully it can carry over against more elite teams, because play time is officially over.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

October 2013

With First Night behind them, their first exibition game, and well into their third week of practice, UConn’s season is right around the corner.  This team is loaded with experienced talent throughout the line-up and are already ranked second in the brand new American Athletic Conference and nineteenth in the USA today poll.  This is a hungry team.  They weren’t allowed to play in their conference or the National Tournament last season and have a distinctive goal to make deep runs in both.  They have the players and coaches to do so, but for a championship in both, they will need to show drastic improvement in key areas.

The backcourt will be the catalyst for this team.  Napier is one of the top point guards in the country and has done a better job each and every season of improving his passing, turnovers, and when and where to shoot the ball.  Boatright is a streaky player and needs to find ways to score when his jumper isn’t dropping.  It is important for him to help relieve some of the pressure off of Napier.  Calhoun looks to be getting back into form and has one of the better outside shots on the team, even if it isn’t going to make it into a shooter’s manual.  These three guards compliment each other very well.  One is a decision maker, one is a slasher, and the other is a sharpshooter.  Then they add Kromah, who brings in experience and a player that can add a spark in offensive slumps, foul trouble, or to spell a player.  Samuels is a raw combo guard but he will have to fight hard for those elusive minutes in this crowded backcourt.

The forward position has a lot of versatility.  It starts with DeAndre Daniels, who can play the three, four, and even five position, but he is ideally a three.  He has a nice outside shot but can also attack the rim with both hands.  This team will need him to play closer to the basket and help on the rebounding. He will also need to develop a consistent post game.  Giffey is one of those utility players that can do all the little things.  Like Daniels, his natural position is at the three, but he can slide into the two or four spots.  His ball handling is his weak spot, so he should be either a spot up shooter, which he is very good at, or two or three dribbles into his move.  Tolksdorf adds some experience but still hasn’t figured out how to play around the paint.

The power forward and center position is still influx.  Brimah,  Nolan, Facey and Olander will all be in rotation.  Brimah is the only true five, while Nolan, Facey and Olander can slide into the four or five position.  The one true question is who is going to rebound the basketball.  Who ever can do that will get the start.  Olander is more suited for the four position but UConn’s best line consists of playing three guards, a small forward, and a center/power forward.  So that leaves Olander to play out of position which he struggled with last season.  Nolan came off the bench and showed improvement but now he has to build off of that and develop more.  Brimah has the one thing the others don’t size.  He looks like a five and his long arms make him the best suited for rebounding, but looking the part doesn’t always mean playing the part.  Facey is the mystery of the bunch. He could either battle for the starting spot or be mired down at the end of the bench.

Kevin Ollie has a lot to prove this season.  He impressed everyone last year with how his team played and he also needs to keep that momentum going forward.  With the shape of this conference heading forward, it is dependent on a strong UConn team to shoulder the conference.  No disrespect to Cincinnati or Memphis, but when Louisville leaves, the conference will be lacking the pedigree of Championships.  So a strong UConn will also mean home and home match-ups against elite out of conference opponents, top recruits, and high seeds come tournament time.

This is going to be a really exciting year for UConn.  They’ll get more exposure because of the ESPN television rights, instead of being mired on the SNY network that some cable systems didn’t provide.  The new conference will have a strong presence this year, because they are borrowing Louisville, which will give them some relevance nationally, and UConn will be back to where it should always be, in the NCAA tournament.  And everyone knows that when UConn gets its foot in that door than anything can happen.