Friday, January 31, 2014

Payback

It didn’t take long for UConn to put Houston away.  In just about five minutes of basketball, they used their combination of stifling defense, transition offense, and deadly outside shooting to build a double-digit lead and never looked back.  Despite not having Daniels, the offense looked fluid all game, even when Houston tried to use the zone.  The front court was effective, using offensive put-backs and second chance points to build on their lead and the rebounding was terrific, out rebounding Houston by fifteen and it looked even more lopsided than that.  This was probably the best overall game that they have played so far this year.  Even though they were at home, to score so easily and to hold a team to just 43 points is amazing, especially in conference play.

Napier usually takes the first half to get others involved but with Daniels out, he was in attack mode from the get go.  Hitting his first couple of jumpers, his confidence soared and he began playing a more north-south game which allowed him to get to the line.  Only 4 of his 13 shots were from deep which is perfect.  He is still getting a bit fancy with his passing and tends to lay off his man on defense, but his rebounding and transition game was outstanding.

Boatright had a bounce back game.  His jumper was working, hitting 2 of 4 from deep, and he was taking much better care of the basketball.  His only turnover was on a travel.  He gambled a lot on defense and gave up a couple of open looks but also had 2 steals.  Overall it was a solid night for him and one of his better games in awhile.

Giffey had one of his better games in awhile.  Maybe it was because Daniels was out but he didn’t hesitate to shoot the ball and he couldn’t miss.  He had an nice put-back, hit two 3-pointers, played solid defense, and had an amazing dunk on another put-back.  This should’ve been the comeback game for Calhoun but he continues to struggle in mysterious ways.  He missed a wide open lay-up, fouled on defense, and had a sloppy turnover.  He did do a good job rebounding the basketball but it wasn’t the confidence builder he needed.  Kromah had a hot start, knocking down 2 3-pointers and getting a steal, but disappeared down the stretch.  Samuel got some much needed playing time.  While he struggled with his jumper, he got to the line, rebounded, and had a few pretty assists.  He needs to play a bit more controlled though.

UConn looked early to establish a paint presence and it paid off.  While Brimah only made 2 of 7 from the field, he was active in the paint.  He had a nice hook shot drop for him and had an offensive rebound that led to a dunk.  Nolan had great game and had 2 lay-ups, 2 offense rebounds & put-backs, and added a sweet hook shot.  He also rebounded the basketball much better and ended his night with 5 offensive rebounds.  Olander struggled blocking out but had a nice hook shot and an offense rebound.  Facey continues to make plays when given the opportunity.  In just 16 minutes of play, he hit 3 of 6 from the floor and had 7 boards with 3 of those offense rebounds.  While this unit will not become a truly finished project this season, their upside is tremendous.

Tolksdorf continues to play horse when he gets the ball, Watts does show a more controlled game, and Lenehan looks like your shy younger brother thrown a the YMCA.

UConn needed this type of performance because they are heading into a huge match-up against Cincinnati, who are play their best basketball of the season right now.  They’ll need a front court contribution like they had today to even be in that game and a game like this one will give them some confidence heading in.  This team is slowly coming together and with a performance like this one, it gives fans a glimpse at the potential of this team, but they haven’t been able sustain it at a consistent level.  Hopefully they will be able to at just the right time because this team does have the pieces to be truly special.









Thursday, January 30, 2014

UConn Looking For Payback Versus Houston

UConn Bound Daniel Hamilton Highlights

Kevin Ollie On Playing Houston



Sunday, January 26, 2014

Overcoming Adversity

It had to be one of the strangest beginnings to a game ever with Napier taking two technical free throws before they even started the game.  It ended up being a remarkable win for UConn, considering all the adversity they had to overcome.  They were on the road in a very difficult place to play, Rutgers was abnormally proficient from deep, and they had to deal with the loss of one of their primary scorers for much of this game.  With all that, this team played extremely well on the offensive end, getting transition points and attacking the paint.  They also did a fantastic job on the boards, out rebounding Rutgers by 5.  Both defenses were spotty though and they had a hard time keeping their hands off each other.  They both combined for 55 attempts at the line and it slowed this game down to a crawl and took away the flow of the game.

Napier had a slow start but eventually hit a 3-pointer mid-way through the first half.  It wasn’t until the second half that he started taking over.  During one stretch he got to the line (sinking two free throws, hit back to back jumpers, hit a stop-and-go floater, and then a lay-up & 1.  He had a little trouble passing the ball and has started being a bit too fancy with the passes, but his 2 blocks and 3 steals helped overcome his 4 turnovers.

Boatright continues to struggle on the break and gave up the opportunity to score and passed it to Kromah instead.  He needs to explode to the rim in those instances and attack with authority.  He has the athletic prowess to make those fast break points but his confidence is pretty low right now.  Like Napier, Boatright had a slow start and only had a dunk and a trip to the line as his only points.  He started to find clear lanes to the basket and converted there.  The most impressive part of his game was his 6 boards.  He did a great job of securing those weak side rebounds.

All of UConn nation held their breaths as they saw DeAndre Daniels writhing on the ground in pain in what looked like a major knee injury and when he returned in the second half, this team played a much better even though he didn’t provide much offensively.  Despite lack of production, he provided 5 boards and 7 points.  Hopefully he’ll be fully healed when they play Thursday.

Giffey finally took his open shots and hit 3 of 6 from deep.  He did a great job in helping against the press and made the right play on numerous occasions.  He still needs to rebound much better then the 2 boards he provided, but it was good to see him make an impact in both halves of the game.  Kromah had a hard time defending without fouling and eventually fouled out.  He was great at driving the lanes and got to line while also sinking 2 lay-ups.  Omar Calhoun hurt his ankle against Temple.  He never got into the game and all his minutes went to Terrence Samuel.  Hopefully he’ll get some minutes back because he was making plays just not as many as he was at the start of the season.  Samuels played much better and didn’t have those turnovers like he had in his last game.  He had a nice driving lay-up & 1 and also snagged a rebound in his 5 quick minutes.

Brimah had a spectacular game.  He had an early block, a sweet turnaround hook, a dunk, an two offensive rebound put-backs, and also got to the line.  This was the first game that he played with a little swagger.  For some reason Coach Ollie decided to keep him on the bench for much of the second half.  Nolan got much of those minutes in the second half and struggled to get much of anything going.  He had only one rebound, a dunk, and sank two free throws in his 15 minutes of play.  Olander provided that much production in just his 3 minutes of play.  This unit leaned heavily on Brimah, provided 17 points, 10 boards, and 2 blocks.  Not bad for 38 minutes of play.

This team is slowly climbing out of the early hole that they have dug themselves in.  They’ll need to continue to play well on the offensive end, hope their jumpers remain locked in, rebound like they did in this game, and win some of these road games.  If they do, then they’ll put themselves in position for the title, but they’ll need some of the teams ahead of them to slip up a bit and come down to them.  Either way, this team is building for March.  They have the resume building wins to be a lock already and just need to avoid a prolonged losing streak.  They still have plenty of games left against Louisville, Memphis, and Cincinnati to win the conference title, but they’ll need Boatright, Brimah, and Daniels to play a bit more consistent then they have been.  But when you have Napier on your team, their is always a chance.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Total Domination

This was exactly what the doctor ordered for a team needing a confidence boost.  While Temple hung around for the first five minutes, UConn’s jumpers were dropping all game long and Temple’s offense just couldn’t keep up. The defense played extremely well and other then a few lay-ups caused by turnovers, they did a great job of stifling Temple.  The offense had everything working when they weren’t turning the ball over.  They had wide open shooters that took advantage and drained shots and there were wide open lanes for easy looks at the rim.  On top of that UConn out rebounded Temple by 20 boards.  It was total domination and an important conference win.

Napier was unconscious.  He hit five 3-pointers, a jumper, 2 lay-ups, snagged 7 boards and made 4 free throws.  He had everything working tonight and looked aggressive right from the start which is what he needs to do more of.  The only negative aspect to his game was that he was still a little jump shot happy and didn’t play a more north-south game, but when his jumper is red hot like it was that’s like picking flaws on a super model.

This is the DeAndre Daniels that UConn needs every game.  He looked for his shot and banged around in the paint.  The outside shot will always be there for him, but his game is fueled by his ability to rebound and he snagged 12 boards with 5 of those offensive.  Like Napier, his jumper was on fire and he hit 4 of 6 from deep, but it was his driving lay-ups and plays around the rim that was more impressive.  His next step is to play like this against the zone.

Giffey got the start for Boatright and it forced him to take more shots.  He made a couple of 3-pointers, a driving lay-up, 5 boards, and 3 steals.  His defense was a bit spotty and he got an earful of Kevin Ollie a few times on the bench, but his aggressiveness on the offensive end was great to see.  Calhoun had an early turnover but then hit a 3-pointer and added a lay-up.  He is still struggling and only played 14 minutes, one less then Samuel.  Terrence finally got to play some consistent minutes but had several travel calls.  He still continued to attack the rim and got a lay-up to drop.  Maybe he was trying too hard, but this wasn’t his best performance.

Brimah had an off game and had a hard time gathering rebounds, only 1 in his 13 minutes.  He did get a hook shot to drop and had a dunk on a nice pass from Napier, but it was step back for him.  Nolan played 17 minutes and had 3 boards, hit a hook shot, and sank a free throw.  Olander had 3 minutes in the first half and made a hustle play but other than that he was a no show.  Facey played 6 minutes and grabbed an offensive rebound but struggled defending.  This group provided UConn with 7 points and 5 boards.  That’s not getting it done, despite Ollie using a smaller line-up, and they need to do a much better job.

This ended up looking more like an exhibition game for UConn and while they should enjoy the win, they need to put this one behind them, because those jumpers won’t continue to drop like they were and they’ll need to continue to be aggressive and attack the rim.  At times this team falls in love with the outside shot and doesn’t utilize their true weapon, the free throw line.  If they begin attacking the rim more, it will sustain those droughts that have caused them so much trouble.  But for now they have evened up their conference standings and now must face a scrappy Rutgers team.  If they have any hopes of climbing out of the middle of this pack then they need to win these games.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

No Show

They could blame it on the short time between games, the inconsistent calls, or the rebounding difference on this butt whipping and all of these did play a factor, but the major reason why UConn lost this game was their heavily reliance on jump shots while Louisville got much of their baskets by attacking the rim.  It gave Louisville higher percentage shots while also getting to the line and UConn settled for shots around the perimeter, 23 of their 54 shots were from deep. They also took a major step back in the rebounding department, giving up 16 offensive rebounds.  The major culprit for this was UConn’s inability to rotate and help the helper.  Whenever UConn’s big men rotate over to protect the rim their man is wide open for the put-back.  They need to clean that up and fast or this could get away from them when facing a larger line-up.

Napier was the only player to truly bring their A-game.  His outside shot was working all game though he leaned too heavily on it, taking 10 of his 15 shots from deep.  In the second half, he started attacking the basket before the zone settled and was able to get to the line 12 times but it wasn’t enough to climb out of the hole that they had dug themselves in.  He struggled to get others involved and only had 1 assist to 4 turnovers and he let the defense dictate what he wanted to do.

Boatright continues his inconsistent play and didn’t even have a field goal in the first half with only 2 points from free throws as his only points.  He did turn it up in the second half and finally had some baskets drop for him around the rim.  In a quick span he had three lay-ups and a jumper, which were his only field goals.  He only got to the line once though and struggled at times to keep his man from the lanes.  Though he played with a heavy heart, this team needs him to play more consistent.

This was by far Daniels worst game of the year.  He hit an early 3-pointer but then missed everything else.  He struggled defensively and was saddled with two fouls early in the first half which put him on the bench but when he was reinserted in the second half, he played passively.  He had 3 points and 4 rebounds.  That is a recipe for disaster and it was.  He needs to play better against the zone, because he is the only threat in the paint area and when he isn’t scoring, the zone stretches out and effects the perimeter.

Giffey had a good first half with a lay-up, an offensive rebound, and a 3-pointer.  He rebounded much better and had 4 boards with two of those offensive, but he tends to dissappear in the second half of games and needs to make it a point to take shots when he is open.  Calhoun didn't make any negative plays but also didn’t make any positive ones either.  He’s been a mystery for the past two months. He only took 2 shots in his ten minutes of play.  Kromah had an early 3-pointer and a steal & dunk, but other then a trip to the line, he didn't have his normal performance.  This unit was a bit of a disappointment.

Brimah had a solid game.  He is playing much better in the paint and had 5 boards.  He also got to the line and showed a pretty nice stroke.  He is playing much better on defense and is avoiding fouls, even getting a charge call.  Nolan struggled mightily and played some sub-par defense.  He only played 4 minutes.  Olander was again pushed around on the boards but did make plays with an offensive rebound put-back and also had a lay-up in the second half.  Facey played two minutes and had a blocked shot.  He seems to always make a positive play whenever he gets into the game. This unit gave UConn 7 points, 8 boards, and 4 blocks in 52 minutes.  That’s not good at all.

UConn needs to put this game behind them and focus back on the help defense, shot selection against the zone, and transition defense.  When this team is getting stops, the offense gets to attack while the defense isn't settled and they couldn't in this game.  They’ll have to bounce back against Temple on Tuesday.  They can’t let the conference standings get away from them, especially with Cincinnati’s great start.  While the conference title is not out of their grasp, their room for error is very slim and it starts with a bounce back performance against Temple.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Getting Even

This was a good old fashioned slug fest.  Memphis came out and wanted to knock around UConn.  Both teams wouldn’t back down and the whistles were blowing all over the place.  The Tigers, a usually poor 3-point shooting team, came out on fire from deep and with trips to the free throw line, they carried the lead into the first half.  It didn’t last long as UConn came out on fire and quickly built up a seven point lead before Memphis once again began hitting the outside shot, but it was fool's gold as the perimeter shots dried up for them.  Connecticut took advantage and went on an incredible run late in the ball game to take a six point lead, but like in previous games they made some bad turnovers late in the game and were very lucky that Memphis missed some shots so that they could escape with a much needed conference road win.

Napier came out of the gates aggressive and was looking for his shot though they weren’t dropping early on.  He continued to probe the defense and made some brilliant passes to his big men for easy buckets.  He took over late in the game when it counted most and knocked down two jumpers, a lay-up, and sank two important free throws.  If there was any downside to his game it was that he still took too many 3-pointers (8 of his 13 shots) and needs to take a couple of more mid-ranged shots, but he was masterful in this game.

Boatright continues to have his up and down performances.  He has been having trouble controlling his dribble, falling behind on defense, missing fast break lay-ups, making poor passes, and turning the ball over late in the ball game but then he sinks a jumper, a 3-pointer, and two crucial free throws late.  He needs to step up more when Napier is on the bench and the offense tends to get stagnant when he is the primary scorer.

This was the DeAndre Daniels that everyone has been waiting for.  He hit four 3-pointers, had a couple of offensive rebound put-backs, driving lay-ups, a hook shot, and made plays on the post.  On top of all that, he had his best rebounding performance of the year-snagging 11 with 4 of those offensive.  This team is totally different when his mid-ranged shot is dropping.  It opens the driving lanes for the backcourt and allows them to collapse the defense.  He is finally play and making plays off the ball in the painted area and it has sparked his offense.

Giffey had a lay-up early and one late but couldn’t find a way to knock down his jumper.  He did a good job on the boards and had 4 rebounds with 2 of those offensive.  He still seems shy to take a shot.  Calhoun had a good first half with a lay-up and a 3-pointer on back-to-back plays.  It was good to see him have a positive impact on the game.  Hopefully this will raise his confidence a little.  Kromah bounced back from his quiet performance in his last game.  He had two lay-ups, two jumpers, and a 3-pointer.  He did have three turnovers but he was able to sustain a few of UConn’s runs.  This group continues to find their game with Kromah leading the way.

Brimah was coming off his best performance of his short career and while it wasn’t on the same level, he still had a good game.  He was active around the basket and had 5 rebounds with 2 of those offensive.  He did foul out of the game, but with the way this game was being played and called, it wasn’t really his fault.  Nolan also played well and had a lay-up and a dunk though he only grabbed one rebound in his 13 minutes.  Olander was pushed around in this game but did have a lay-up in the second half and grabbed two rebounds in his ten minutes.  The center position gave UConn 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 block.

This was the biggest game of the year for UConn.  Not only did they get a must win on the road against one of the conference elites, they didn’t back down, had their offense play consistently, and most importantly, they out-rebounded another team.  Credit goes to Kevin Ollie for the improved play of Nolan and Brimah.  They had struggled to not only score points, but get a couple of rebounds as well.  Now they are nearly combining for double-doubles.  UConn now has a very tough test against the National Champions in Louisville.  Hopefully they will rise to the challenge at Gampel and dig themselves out of an early hole.  They’ll need a performance like they put together in this game and with Napier on their side, they always have a chance.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Breaking Out

Where did this come from?  UConn, last in the AAC in rebounding, beating the best rebounding team in the conference by 26 boards.  The sudden outburst of paint production also came against the vaunted zone defense that had thus far confused the Huskies this year.  This is UConn basketball that most fans are used to seeing.  The inside-outside game opened up everything on the court and when teams have to honor their big men, UConn made them pay with easy lanes to the basket.  They decimated the zone and finished plays at the rim.  Despite a pedestrian night from deep, they built a double digit lead and answered every UCF run with one of their own, coasting to the much needed conference victory.

Napier started the game aggressive on both ends of the court.  He had several steals and a block while getting much of his points from the line.  Even though he didn’t shoot the ball that much in the first half, he was more involved in the game and found his big men on numerous occasions for easy buckets.  He continued to probe the lanes and dish the basketball, racking up 11 assists.  His overall game was on display from rebounding, playing in your face defense, and knocking down the occasional jumper.

It was a rough start for Boatright.  He had a turnover on the baseline and had three passes that also led to turnovers.  He did get things going in the second half with a lay-up, a jumper, and found ways to get to the line and knocked them down, but he needs to do a much better job of taking care of the basketball.  On the bright side, this was one of his best rebounding performances of his career, grabbing seven.

Daniels finally broke out of his offensive funk.  He hit back-to-back 3-pointers, jammed in a monster dunk, and hit his patented turnaround floater which hadn’t been dropping for him lately.  He did a fantastic job on the boards as well and grabbed seven of them.  Hopefully this is the Daniels we will see heading forward because when he is playing well, the offense begins to show some flow.

Giffey also got back on track and was able to get a sweet driving lay-up, hit a 3-pointer, and added another lay-up, but it was his 5 rebounds that was the most impressive. Sometimes it feels like he doesn’t want to shoot the ball because he doesn’t want his 3-point percentage to go down.  Unlike the rest of the team, Calhoun just couldn’t get back on track.  He struggled to find his shot and also had a horrible inbound pass.  Other than his two rebounds, it was a big no show for him.  Kromah had an uncharacteristic quiet game, but provided solid defense.

This game belonged to Brimah.  He finally broke out of his funk and exploded for an amazing 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks.  He scored on a three offensive put-backs, four dunks, and went a perfect 4 for 4 from the line.  While this might be the high point for him this season, it is a great confidence builder for him heading forward.  He now knows that he can make a major impact on the game and just needs to focus on rebounding the ball on its highest point, don’t bring it down, and put it up as soon as possible.  Nolan also joined in on the fun and had 2 dunks, a lay-up, took a charge, and hit 2 of 2 from the line.  Olander did start both halves but with the superior play of both Brimah and Nolan, he only played 4 minutes.  This group that had struggled to combine for a double-double provided UConn with 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 blocks.  Now that’s getting it done in a big way.

Samuel, Facey, Watts and Tolksdorf also got into the game with a couple of minutes to play.  Both Samuel and Facey both showed Ollie that they can make impacts even in their limited play.  They just need to practice hard and they’ll get their shot eventually, because the talent is evident every time they are on the court.

This was exactly what UConn needed.   Not only did they get their first conference win of the season, they also had their young front court play their best basketball of the year and at the right time.  The question now is if they can come close to what they did in this game.  They just need to provide a little impact on the game so that they respect the screener and not hedge the ball handler out of the play.  If they can do that then the offense will continue to roll, zone defense or not.  They’ll need all the offense that they can handle for a tough road game in Memphis against a very talented squad.  Who said that this conference was easy?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Desperate Times

After returning home from a disappointing road trip where UConn lost back to back games in Texas, they hosted a much improved Harvared team that was missing their primary scorer.  It was about as sloppy of a first half of basketball that there could be.  Both teams turned the ball over, missed easy shots, and had to play through bad calls.  Both teams traded runs but Harvard finished the half with a flurry of outside shots and midrange jumpers to balloon a lead while UConn still tried to get some traction on an inconsistent offensive.  UConn came out in the second half with an attacking mind-set and quickly got into the bonus with 12:45 left to play.  They ended up taking eleven trips to the line in the second half which helped eradicate the Harvard lead and build their own.  Napier and Daniels added some deep shots and UConn held a comfortable seven point lead heading into the closing minutes when they began to make losing plays.  Napier fouled on a made 3-point attempt, Daniels fouled on a made lay-up, Giffey traveled and Boatright missed free throws.  UConn held on to the lead by the thinest of margins and pulled off a victory against a solid Harvard team.

For the fourth game in a row, Napier had a slow start with only a spinning jumper and a 3-pointer as his only field goals.  Teams are not fearing the screener and are hedging the ball handler out of the play.  Napier did not adjust.  After the slow start, he began to attack more and got to the line four times in the second half and had two back-to-back 3-pointers that helped UConn build a lead.  He did a great job on the boards, snagging 7, but struggled passing and handling the ball, turning it over four times with only four assists.  He needs to simplify the game and not try to make the more difficult play.

UConn leaned heavily on Boatright’s offense in the first half.  His dunk and lay-up seemed to be the only field goals this team could produce for a good chunk of time.  His good offense carried over into the second half where he knocked down a floater, a 3-pointer, and got to the line four times, though he struggled to knock them down late free throws, going 3 of 6 down the stretch.  He’s finally found his jumper and he’s playing with more confidence, though he still dribbles into trouble at times.

It looked like Daniels would have another clunker of a game.  He had two bad turnovers before knocking down a 3-pointer, but found himself on the bench for much of the first half with his lackadaisical play.  He bounced back in the second half and hit two big 3-pointers, hit the boards hard with 8 big time rebounds, and played great defense around the rim.  Hopefully this can knock him out of the funk that he has been in for the past couple of games because he is UConn’s only post threat and the team desperately needs him to produce points in the paint.

Giffey had a pretty jumper but only took a couple of shots.  He passed up some open looks for passes that led to worse shots and he had a couple of bad passes.  He did improve his rebounding though and pulled down 4 boards but this wasn’t a great game for him.  Calhoun’s minutes were almost non-existent.  He only played five minutes and had two turnovers.  He only had a rebound for his brief stint.  Kromah had another fantastic performance.  He had three lay-ups, a 3-pointer, and played solid defense.  On top of all that, he pulled down 5 boards. Where would this team be without him?  Samuel got some action, playing 3 minutes without much impact.  So far the minutes out of this group are going to Kromah and deservedly so.  Until Calhoun and Giffey rebound and knock down shots, their minutes will continue to drop.

Nolan only played seven minutes and is still suffering from the flu, but he needs to do a better job rebounding the basketball.  Olander played much better on the offensive end, knocking down two lay-ups and had opportunities at the line, but he only had 2 boards in 17 minutes.  Brimah played much better and even though he fouled out, he rebounded much better, 4 boards with 2 of those offensive, and played great defense around the rim.  This group provided 5 points, 6 boards, and 4 blocks.  That’s not that good, but there were signs of improvement out of Olander and Brimah.

This team will take the win.  They were desperate for one, but it wasn’t encouraging.  There were still troubling signs from Napier’s late arrival in games, Giffey’s hesitation to take shots, Calhoun’s total demise, Brimah’s inability to catch the ball, Daniel’s lack of post production, Boatright’s dribbling into double teams, Olander’s inability to rebound, and Nolan’s ineffectiveness.  This team needs improvement from just about every player except Kromah at this point and they can’t let these conference games slip away from them.  They need to string together a couple of wins to regain some much needed confidence and they need to start against a good UCF team or this season could turn ugly for them.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

The No Star State

This offense has been in a rut ever since the second half of the Stanford game.  All the shots in the paint are rushed and are rolling off the rim, the long shots that had once swished through are now clanking off the rim, and the ball movement has become stagnant and stuck on one side of the court.  It all adds up to poor shot selections that is carrying over to the defense where they aren’t getting back on defense, giving up defensive rebounds, and not winning those 50/50 balls. Offensively, Napier, Boatright, and Daniels went 10 for 29 and if it wasn’t for free throws, this game could have been much uglier.  Kevin Ollie is like one of those old operators and trying to plug different holes to see what combinations will work on the court.  It ends up becoming a shuffling of lineups with none of the bench players getting consistent playing time and they have all struggled, leaving the scoring pressure on the Napier, Boatright, and Daniels.  They all had a couple bad games in a row, leaving UConn with a two game losing streak and scratching their heads for answers.

Napier once again had a slow start, passing up looks in order to get other involved.  This team needs him to score at this point and be in attack mode right from the tip off.  He also has to adjust to how teams are hedging him and not respecting the rolling screener.  To combat this, he or Coach Ollie, needs to give him plays off the ball where he can catch and shoot.

Boatright had solid performance.  He found his shot, knocking down three 3-pointers, a floater, and a jumper.  On top of that he rebounded much better and was a menace on defense, though he did get caught not getting back.  He also is having problems around the rim and throwing up shots that aren’t even close to dropping.  He tends to rush shots and needs to slow down a bit.  He is doing a much better job in the half court sets and isn't dribbling the clock out.

Daniels needs to get back on track.  His mid-ranged shots are rimming out, he is getting called for travels and offensive fouls, and he is rushing shots around the rim.  He needs to square up, pump fake, and drive, but instead he is backing his man up and taking off balance shots.  Another troubling sign is his rebounding.  He only grabbed five boards in his 31 minutes.  He needs to double that out put.  If this team expects to go places, he needs to find his game.

Giffey only took two shots and he had plenty of opportunities to take more but passed them up.  He played 15 minutes but only grabbed one rebound.  That can’t happen.  He needs to find a way to do more than just be a decoy.  Calhoun did outplay Giffey and made a lay-up & one, grabbed two boards and also got to the line, but his once deadly jumper is now a whimper.  At this point in the season it is all confidence and right now he is at an all-time low.  Kromah continues to impress and even outplayed Napier.  He had a steal & lay-up, a jumper, block, two other lay-ups, hit the offensive glass for a team high 3 boards and another team high with 6 rebounds, and got to the line.  He’s earned his starting spot.

The front court continues to struggle with Olander getting the start in this game.  He immediately gave up an offensive rebound by not blocking out and letting balls slip through his hands.  He can’t play 25 minutes and only get one rebound.  Nolan is officially in Ollie’s doghouse right next to Brimah.  He only played 2 minutes and didn’t show the energy he needed to out there.  He might still be suffering from the flu but his effort was non-existent.  Brimah rebounded much better, 4, and had 5 blocks, but he let too many balls fly through his hands for turnovers.  He needs to show better and never take the ball lower then his waist.  While it wasn’t a great outing for him, it was an improvement.  Facey found some minutes but couldn't record a rebound. The front court provided only 8 points, 5 boards, and 5 blocks in 40 minutes.  That’s not good.

UConn must now pick up the pieces of their season and put them back together again.  Coach Ollie  must find the right combination to be able to stretch the court but also provide a threat in the paint.  The defense must create turnovers to fuel the fast break and also attack off of made baskets before the half court settles.  The guards need to hurry back and protect the rim off of misses.  These things are what an inexperienced team needs to learn but this team is full of experienced players and they aren’t getting it done.  They don’t have much time to turn it around and face a tough Harvard team in a few days.  With the direction of their season in the balance, they need to figure it out and fast.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

December 2013

UConn opened the month of December against a powerhouse in Florida.  They pulled off the one point victory in the closing seconds of the game in what was one of the most exciting endings to any college basketball game this year.  They followed that game up with a victory against Maine and then took off a long break for finals.  After the twelve day lay-off, they came out sluggish against Stanford, whose zone confused UConn and placed their high octane offense into utter ineptitude. Their defense held them in the game but they suffered their first loss of the season.  They then traveled across the country for their first true road game against Washington and put together a solid performance, winning by twelve.  They arrived back in Connecticut and played at a brand new arena in Bridgeport.  It took a good fifteen minutes, but UConn took care of business against Eastern Washington, defeating them by seventeen.   They ended their month in disappointing fashion against Houston for their first conference game.  They found themselves down by twenty-one on the road, but clawed themselves back into the game only to lose down the stretch for their second loss of the season.

On a team laden with talent, Napier has done it all: rebounding, scoring, and assists.  Not to mention his play calling and ability to knock down clutch shot after clutch shot.  If their is one thing that he needs to improve on is that he is taking too many jumpers early in the game instead of getting to the line but without him this team would have five losses already.

Boatright has done a much better job offensively this month but still dribbles too much and leaves his feet with no real plan.  His turnovers usually lead directly to points on the other end.  Despite his dribbling skills, he has a hard time getting into lanes when the defense is settled and he doesn’t apply contact.  His defense has been tremendous though and he is doing a much better job of defending without fouling.

Daniels has had a rough month and struggled around the paint.  He has yet to reach that elusive double-digit rebounding game and his shots near the rim that had been falling are rimming out.  He isn’t taking those mid-ranged jumpers any more and is using those push shots that he loves.  He gets lost in the offense sometimes and doesn’t demand the basketball or carve out space, especially on the post.

No one has had a rougher month than Omar Calhoun.  His confidence in his jumper is near to non-existent.  His shots are not even close at this moment and he has yet to adjust and attack the rim to get to the line to at least see the ball drop through a time or two.  By the end of the month, he had lost his starting position to Giffey and his minutes are drastically dropping.

Teams have started adjusting to Giffey’s amazing 3-point shooting and are driving him off the line and not leaving him.  He has yet to adjust and pump fake or take the mid-ranged shot.  This team also needs him to rebound better then he has so far.  He should be getting five to six boards a game but is hovering around two or three.

Nolan has also lost his starting job in the month of December because he hasn’t been able to rebound the basketball consistently.  He’s done a much better job of defending without fouling but hasn’t shown improvement in his post play or ability to knock down that fifteen footer.  This team desperately needs him to step up.

Brimah took Nolan’s starting job but it didn’t mean more minutes.  In fact, Ollie has shortened his minutes if he doesn’t come out and rebound or play defense without fouling which he has failed to do in the month of December.  His length has proven effective but he is still learning on the job and hopefully Ollie’s tough love will pay dividends down the stretch.

Olander has taken his role in stride and is coming in with energy in each and every game despite his inconsistent minutes.  He isn’t going to give this team major rebounding or offensive numbers, but he will be in position defensively and make those hidden plays that don’t show up in the stats.

Kromah has provided this team a major lift in the month of December and has even surpassed Calhoun in effectiveness.  He can get to the rim, plays solid defense, and can knock down an open jumper when needed.  He's been the spark on numerous occasions that had restarted a stalled offense.

Facey, Tolksdorf, and Samuel barely found some court time and need to remain patient and buy their time.  When Facey has gotten into the game, he was able to get a rebound immediately.  If the frontcourt continues to struggle, he might even get himself into the rotation.  Samuel on the other hand will be mired behind four guards and won’t get much playing time.  Tolksdorf needs to rebound if he wants playing time and he has yet to do so.

UConn had some high moments and some low ones.  The win against Florida will be a notch in their NCAA ballot but the loss to Houston will not be a positive.  With a weakened conference, the ability to get profile building wins will be elusive and those bad losses like the one against Houston will be more prevalent.  So the pressure will be squarely on them when battling these schools on the road.   They'll need to come out with effort and cross their fingers that the frontcourt will eventually come around or it might be an early exit in these tournaments despite the backcourt's talent.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

On the Canvas

It was bound to happen with the way UConn flirted with every team.  Eventually one of them would come out of the gates scorching and Houston was unstoppable.  Everything that they jacked up went through and UConn tried to answer jumper for jumper.  They found themselves down ten, fifteen, nineteen, and then twenty-one points.  They gave up lay-ups on made field-goals, let shooters get their own misses, and they were sloppy in their halfcourt sets.  After a first half thrashing, UConn came out with the energy and defensive intensity that they should’ve started the game with.  With a flurry of UConn jumpers and transition points, the large Houston lead quickly erased in the first five minutes, but the Cougars responded and both teams traded buckets down the stretch. UConn couldn’t maintain consistent energy to pull away and began settling again for bad shots and Houston took advantage.  Give them credit, they answered each blow in the closing minutes and won this game.

Napier was no where to be seen in the first half of this game and like the rest of the team, he settled for jumpers instead of attacking.  He came out aggressive in the second half and his jumpers began to fall.  He knocked down three 3-pointers, three jumpers, a tip-in, and got fouled twice on pump fakes.  Unfortunately it was too little too late and his inability to make an impact in the first half created too big of a hole to climb out of.

Boatright carried the team throughout that dismal first half and had a steal & dunk, two lay-ups, and a jumper.  His second half wasn’t as impressive and had a banked in 3-pointer, a dunk, and a lay-up.  He did play solid defense in the second half, but this team needed him to get to the line more, especially since they were in the bonus for much of both halves.  He ended up with only one free throw.

There is no other way to describe Daniels performance other then disappointing.  He had two early travel calls and struggled in the post.  He did get to the line on two drives to the basket and hit a 3-pointer, but his lackluster defensive effort in the first half cost his team dearly.  His energy in the second half wasn’t much better and other than a 3-pointer and getting to the line, he was a no show.  This team needs more from him in the paint and he couldn’t provide that.

Giffey once again got the start and showed some hustle, blocking shots, getting deflections, and diving out of bounds for loose balls, but he is struggling to find his shot now that defenders are riding his shooting hand.  He needs to curl off screens more and use his quick release for mid-ranged shots.  Just when you think that it can’t get any worse for Calhoun, he comes out with this performance.  He played only seven minutes and missed a wide open jumper, had an air-ball, and traveled.  Kromah had a poor defensive first half and struggled securing the ball.  He missed two free throws in the second half but provided a lay-up & one.  Samuel got to see some action and was fouled on a drive but only saw 3 minutes of action.  The back-up guards struggled and didn’t even record an assist in this game.

Brimah got the start but like in every game he has played so far the referees are calling him for touch fouls.  He ended up only playing 4 minutes.  Nolan missed shoot around with flu-like symptoms and also only played 4 minutes.  Olander showed the best effort out of this group and had a lay-up, played solid defense,  and hustled.  Overall this unit took a major step back and couldn’t control the paint and were pushed around for much of the night.  They ended up with 2 points and 5 boards in  24 minutes.  Not good.

It felt like UConn was going through the motions in this game and expected to just let their talent win out against a depleted Houston squad in a sparse home crowd.  They then took a haymaker to the jaw and found themselves on the canvas.  They did pick themselves up, but that mistake cost them the game and hopefully this is a learning experience for them because they need to bounce back and play again in a few days.