Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Know Your Enemy: Houston Cougars

Monday, December 30, 2013

Jeremy Lamb with Career High versus Rockets

Kevin Ollie on Webster Bank Arena

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Unfinished Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dog Eat Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Zoned Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kemba Walker's buzzer beater drops the Raptors

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Across the Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stacked Deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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