UConn- Duke Preview

thesportsfanjournal.com

thesportsfanjournal.com

Tonight, UConn battles #2 Duke at the Izod Center in the latest chapter of a storied rivalry. The Devils in Blue hold a slight 5-4 series edge although UConn’s victories have come on a much bigger stage (1999 Championship/ 2004 Final Four). Duke, featuring likely 2015 #1 overall pick Jahlil Okafor, enter tonight’s match-up at 9-0, having won all nine games by double digits. UConn, at 4-3, comes off a blowout win over Coppin State where sophomore center Amida Brimah exploded for 40 points and 12 rebounds. Thoughts on what UConn needs to do to compete:

First, set your timer to 4:54 and hit start…

Build off Coppin State

Coppin State was a step in the right direction for the Huskies. UConn made it a priority to get the ball inside and it paid dividends with Brimah/Facey combining for 65/106 points (who suggested that). Through getting the bigs involved we relied less on the three ball and more on the free throw (18 3PA vs 33 FTA). Duke is known for great team defense and will pack it in when we drive- leaving the three open. WE MUST NOT SETTLE FOR 3’S. We don’t have the shooters to beat Duke on the outside and must continue to move the ball until we find an opening to attack (see pick and roll below).

Another thing to look for is how Boatright reacts to the defense collapsing. Will he force shots like he has done in the past? Or, will he play like a true point guard and move the ball?

Brimah/Boatright

Brimah will certainly have his hands full tonight against freshman big man Jahlil Okafor (18 points/9 rebounds on the year). Depending on the flow of the game, we may need to double Okafor at times to prevent Brimah from getting in foul trouble. Another way we can take heat off Brimah is by limiting entry passes. If our pesky guards can put pressure on Duke up front, that will severely limit their ability to find Okafor down low. The less touches- the better.

Offensively, Brimah does not need to score for us to win. Although I predicted tonight to be his breakout game, realistically we need Brimah to defend, box out and run the floor making Okafor work in transition. However, Brimah scoring is a good sign because much of his offense is created for him (think Hamilton/Boatright lobs). If Brimah/Facey are scoring that means our guards are penetrating and dishing which will free up the outside shot.

The pick and roll will be huge for us tonight as we do not have a big man who can challenge Okafor one-on-one. The bigs need to set solid screens and make Okafor defend the pick and roll. We have the athletic guards to challenge Okafor at the rim and get him in foul trouble (see X-factor). If Okafor picks up a quick 2, tonight becomes a whole different game. Looking back at Duke’s closest game (Wisconsin), Okafor battled foul trouble and put up a human 13/6. We can live with that. The 25/20 he put up in his most recent game against Elon? That will hurt us. Our guards need to attack the rim off the pick and roll and put Okafor in a position where he cannot beat us- the bench.

X-Factor

Rodney Purvis. I am so tired of the “Ferrari out of the garage” reference because you know what- HE IS STILL IN THE GARAGE. I have yet to see Purvis attack the defense – either in transition or half court- the way he did at NC State. Every UConn star has their coming out party on a big stage- what bigger stage than UConn-Duke? If Purvis can get out and make some plays in transition he will ignite the pro-UConn crowd in the building, creating a Garden-esque atmosphere a la last March.


 

Has your timer gone off yet? If it has, that is the amount of time Duke has trailed all season. 4 minutes and 54 seconds. Yes, we started moving in the right direction against Coppin State but if it doesn’t work against Duke, don’t panic, right now they may just be the better team. However, that’s not to say we won’t be the better team when it counts.

For good measure let’s end with One Shining Moment from 1999:

As always,

GO HUSKIES!

PS: Thanks to Pat/Katy Lenehan for the tickets!

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BC Siauliai eliminated on half court buzzer beater (video)

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BC Siauliai was eliminated from Last 16 consideration in heartbreaking fashion yesterday, losing to Usak (Turkey) 78-75 on a half court buzzer beater at the end of regulation. Siauliai and Usak were competing for the last spot in the Final 16 out of Group H, with the ultimate goal a trip to the championship. The first three quarters were typical for a game with such high stakes, featuring 18 lead changes and 12 ties leading up to the dramatic finish. Siauliai held the lead 75-73 before a VERY questionable foul (see second video) called on Ryan Olander allowed Usak to tie the game on free throws. Following a Siauliai miss in the waning seconds, Courtney Fells (NC State) collected the rebound, took two dribbles and launched the game winner from behind the half court line. See shot below:

Here is the full game, see 1:43:00 for the INCREDIBLY QUESTIONABLE foul call to keep Usak in the game:

It’s hard to tell what’s more heartbreaking, the half court heave or the foul called on a clean block…at home!

Though the EuroChallenge season is over for Siauliai they will still compete in the LKL (Lithuanian National League) through April. The club currently sits at 8-6 (#5) with 25 games remaining.

Giffey’s ALBA Berlin clinches playoff berth

euroleague.net

euroleague.net

#4 ALBA Berlin qualified for the Top 16 with a 71-65 road win over #6 Limoges (France). Niels Giffey had 3 points/3 rebounds in 19 minutes for ALBA, who was led by Jamel McLean’s (Xavier) 18 points. The Top 16 is a 14 game round robin season, culminating in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four on May 15th in Madrid. This could create a potential UConn-UConn matchup as Marcus Williams’ club Crvena Zvezda (Serbia) has also qualified out of Group D. Jerome Dyson is the lone UConn Euroleague representative whose team did not qualify for the Top 16. ALBA returns to action December 19th versus Zagreb (Croatia).

Game Highlights:

Google Hangout with Charlie Villanueva

I did my first Google Hangout yesterday with former UConn National Champion and 9 year NBA vet Charlie Villanueva of the Dallas Mavericks. Villanueva was a McDonald’s All-American out of Blair Academy (NJ), leading Blair to 3 straight Mid-Atlantic Prep League Tournament Championships. As a freshman, Charlie was a key contributor to the 2004 UConn National Championship team averaging 8 points/5 rebounds. That team, arguably the most talented team in UConn history, included future NBA players Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Josh Boone, Marcus Williams and Hilton Armstrong. Following a solid sophomore campaign, Charlie declared for the 2005 NBA Draft where he was taken 7th overall by the Toronto Raptors.

My Questions

4:15- Who had a more impressive championship run, Kemba or Shabazz?

19:25- Imagine a Final Four of all UConn Championship teams- who wins?

Huskies Abroad: Niels Giffey and Deandre Daniels

Niels Giffey

Club: ALBA Berlin

Location: Berlin, Germany

Leagues: Basketball Bundesliga (BBL), EuroLeague

Two-time National Champion Niels Giffey signed with ALBA Berlin in his native Germany for the 2014-15 season. Giffey, who had played with the clubs junior division before UConn, joins a senior team considered to be the most successful German basketball team internationally and domestically. In fact, on October 8th, 2014 ALBA defeated the San Antonio Spurs in a preseason game 94-93. ALBA competes in both the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) as well as the Euroleague (NBA). The BBL, composed of 18 teams, is the highest level of professional club basketball in Germany. The top 8 teams qualify for the playoffs, which are in a best-of-five format.

euroleague.net

euroleague.net

In addition to the BBL title, all BBL teams compete for the German Cup. The German Cup opens the playing field to the top three domestic leagues in Germany in a single elimination tournament. ALBA Berlin has won the past two German Cups and a total of eight since the tournament changed formats in 1997. This season, ALBA sits atop the BBL standings with a perfect record of 12-0.  ALBA also participates in the Euroleague entering Round 9 play at fourth in Group B with a record of 3-5. Remember, only the top four teams from each Group will advance to the round of 16. ALBA can punch their ticket tomorrow with a win over  #6 Limoges (France) and a #5 Zagreb (Croatia) loss. Here are Giffey’s statistics on the year:

BBL G MIN FG-FGA FG% 3PM-A 3P% REB AS PTS EFF
N. Giffey 12 17.7 19-41 46% 13-30 43% 2.3 0.6 7.2 4.5
EURO G MIN FG-FGA FG% 3PM-A 3P% REB AS PTS EFF
N. Giffey 8 16.4 14-24 58% 11-20 55%* 1.6 0.5 7.6 5.3

*#7 in Euroleague

Giffey shoots over Tim Duncan of the Spurs

Giffey shoots over Tim Duncan of the Spurs

Deandre Daniels

Club: Perth Wildcats

Location: Perth, Australia

League: National Basketball League (NBL)

wildcats.com.au

wildcats.com.au

The Toronto Raptors selected Deandre Daniels with the 37th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and subsequently shipped him down under to suit up for the Perth Wildcats of the NBL. The NBL features eight teams, seven from Australia and one from New Zealand with Perth as the lone representative from Western Australia.  The Wildcats are the most storied franchise in NBL history with a record six championships and a playoff streak of 28 years dating back to 1987. Initially perceived as a demotion, Daniels is actually following in the exact footsteps of James Ennis, Perth’s All-NBL selection from a year ago. Ennis, drafted 50th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, was sent to Perth by the Miami Heat to further develop. After leading Perth to a championship, he signed with the Heat where he’s averaging 14 minutes a game. Ennis is playing so well, he was recently featured by Bleacher Report.

Here is Perth Managing Director Nick Marvin and Daniels discussing his role in the upcoming season:

This season, Daniels has teamed up with Jermaine Beal (Vanderbilt) and Earnest Ross (Missouri) to lead Perth atop the NBL standings at the halfway point of the season. The top four teams at the end of the season will advance to a best-of-three Final Four which culminates in a best-of-three Championship. Adding to his outstanding end of the year with the Huskies, Daniels is second on the team in scoring and third in the NBL in rebounding at 7.5 per game. Full statistics can be found below:

NBL G MIN FG-FGA FG% 3PM-A 3P% REB BS PTS EFF
D. Daniels 12 28.4 49-109 45% 13-46 28% 7.5 1.6 14.3 10.8

Here are some highlights from Daniels last outing, a 20 point/8 rebound effort in a win over the Wollongong Hawks. The first 1:30 is dominated by Daniels.

Perth plays its home games in the 14,846 seat Perth Arena. To put that in perspective, Gampel seats roughly 10,160, the XL Center 16,290 and Giffey plays in the 17,000 seat 02 Arena in Berlin.

wildcats.com.au

wildcats.com.au

Thoughts from UConn-Yale: Is it time to panic?

uconn.edu

uconn.edu

The 2-5 New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) defeated #17 Michigan Wolverines 72-70 yesterday in the biggest upset -in terms of point spread- since 2007 . A day earlier, Division II University of the Sciences defeated Division I Drexel becoming the first non-D1 school to beat a D1 opponent at home. My point? Don’t panic. Yes, we lost to Yale for the first time in decades, and yes, once again, it was painful. However this was not the typical UConn-Yale match-up. Yale entered Friday’s game at 7-2 having defeated Kent State on the road and losing to 6-2 Providence by just 6. Additionally, Yale coach James Jones is one of the most successful coaches in the Ivy League with his 209 overall wins good for third in league history. This was not a scrub team that came into Gampel and beat us. Yale executed. And when you execute, as evidenced by the last two days, any team can win any game.

Moral of the story, we didn’t play well. More often than not, upsets occur when the underdog out-shoots the favorite. This was not the case Friday night as Yale shot a lowly 33% (18-55) from the field and a dismal 14% (3-21) from behind the arc. Instead, Yale beat us in every other aspect of the game. They out-rebounded us (36-25), out-blocked us (4-2), had more steals (10-5) and forced more turnovers (13-11). You know what this tells me? We didn’t create and exploit favorable match-ups.

The Bad

Ryan Boatright’s missed 1-and-1

I don’t care how poorly we rebounded or how lethargic we played, Boatright’s missed free throw is far and away the most disturbing take away. He needs to make that shot. Kemba Walker makes it. Shabazz Napier makes it. Ryan Boatright missed it- twice. I know he played through pain and I appreciate his toughness, but as any athlete can attest, the adrenaline pumping from a potentially game-winning foul shot eliminates any pain in the body. We need Ryan Boatright to make that shot under any circumstance. He is our leader and he will have the ball late in the game. We don’t need him to make 1, we need him to make 2. Every time. That is what separates a great point guard from a championship winning point guard. At this point in his career there cannot be any doubt when he steps to the line, especially in late game situations.

Lack of Urgency

Call it a championship hangover but losing two games in a row the same way on the same miscommuncation is troubling. As the defending National Champions we have a target on our back and need to bring the intensity night in and night out, from the beginning. On the year, UConn is -23 in the first half and +43 in the second half. Slow starts hint to a lack of urgency and not taking opponents seriously. Yale/Coppin State deserve the same respect as Texas/Duke. Once you give a team early confidence, it can be hard to overcome. Also, Yale shot more free throws. For a team that is shooting 28% from deep on the season, we need to attack the rim and stop settling for the outside shot. So far on the year we have shot only 5 more free throws than our opponents. With the talent/athleticism we have, this is unacceptable and a clear indicator we are settling for the outside jumper.

Three Guard Line Up

The benefits of a three guard line up are to create an advantage by having more shooters, play makers and ball handlers on the floor, effectively limiting turnovers. It can also be utilized to create a match-up advantage. So far this year, the three guard lineup has done none of the above. Boatright and Daniel Hamilton are playing 36/34 minutes respectively as the two primary guards with SCJ, Purvis and Terrence Samuel each playing between 22-24 mpg as the third guard. Between the three, they have 20 assists and 19 turnovers while shooting a combined 32%. UConn as a team has a dreadful 10:12 assist:turnover ratio. As I mentioned above, we aren’t getting to the line, settling for outside shots we aren’t making. What is the advantage of having a three guard lineup when the third guard isn’t producing?

At least the third guard rebounds, right? Wrong. We were killed on the glass against Yale managing only 1 offensive rebound. On the year, opponents have a +6 offensive rebound margin. Kentan Facey alone has pulled down 39 rebounds in 146 minutes, more than SCJ, Purvis and Samuel combined in over 375 minutes of action. That leads me to believe the rebounding problem is more of a personnel issue than an actual rebounding problem. Also, remember all those years we led the nation in shot blocking? This year we are only at +2. Statistically speaking we need to abandon the three guard lineup and focus on getting the bigs involved. A perfect segue into…

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? 

UConn basketball is defined by toughness and absolute dominance in the paint. Adrien. Boone. Okafor. Thabeet. Armstrong. In speaking with a former player, Calhoun started every game with a play for the bigs- typically a cross screen or back screen on the block. We need to get back to the inside-out game that defines UConn basketball, especially given our early season shooting woes. Once you have established a post presence, or at least show you are willing to look down low, the perimeter will open up for our play-makers. Yes Brimah/Facey/Nolan are young and raw but they have shown signs of progress. We need to get them involved early, even force the issue, to create a more balanced attack. Getting our bigs involved early builds confidence that will translate to the defensive end.

We are a team that is still putting together the pieces. According to ESPN stats and information UConn is the only team in the nation with seven players averaging 23.5 minutes per game (minimum 3 games played). These are not the UConn Huskies who will compete in the NCAA tournament this March, that rotation is still undecided. With early season injuries to Calhoun/Purvis, we are still trying to assemble the pieces to a winning puzzle. In that regard, the Yale loss is not nearly as worrying as it may seem from the headlines, as long as we make the necessary adjustments.

As always,

GO HUSKIES!

UConn – Yale: Anatomy of a Buzzer Beater 2.0

The Situation: UConn 44 – Yale 42, 3.5 seconds left.

The Players: Javier Duren (15 PTS, 1-8 3PT) inbounding for Yale guarded by Samuel. Boatright on Jack Montague (3 PTS, 1-4 3PT). SCJ on Makai Mason  (2 PTS, 0-2 3PT). Hamilton on Justin Sears (12 PTS, 4-11 FG), Nolan on Matt Townsend (8 PTS, 0-1 3PT). See below:

UConn Yale 1

The Play: Option #1 on the play was a lob for athletic forward Justin Sears who had outworked the Huskies all night. Presumably, off a back screen from #42 Townsend. However, with Nolan positioned as he was under the basket, that option was taken away. Option #2* ran #4 Montague and #11 Mason on a misdirection past #42 Townsend, undoubtedly aiming to exploit a weakness exposed in the Texas game (Figure A).  Boatright calls for the switch as Montague and Mason cut across the middle. SCJ, as you can see in Figure B, is clearly fixated on his man and late to respond to the switch leaving Montague wide open in the corner. Daniel Hamilton picks up on the misdirection but is screened by Mason and cannot recover in time.

UConn Yale 2

Figure A

Figure B

Figure B

*Option #2 also could have been #42 Townsend rolling to the rim off the back screen. On the switch he would have his defender behind him and a clear path to the rim.

The Result: With SCJ late to respond and Hamilton caught in a screen, Montague knocks down a three in the corner for the win. That floor panel needs to be removed.

UConn Yale 4

The Verdict: 

Kevin Ollie on the last play: “Boatright had Montague. He was pointing for the switch and Sam took a couple of steps in. Montague just came off and got open, then Sam was late to retreat. It was just a communication (breakdown) again, things that we went over in practice to stop. We’ve just got to do a better job reacting to late game situations, and switching. Boat called the switch, but we just didn’t react fast enough — kind of like in the Texas game.”

SCJ on the last play: “(Boatright) called a switch. I thought I saw a guy come through the middle. The guy went to the corner. It was my fault.”

The final play was a result of terrible execution. Maybe Kevin Ollie was outcoached this game but to say he was outcoached on the final play is ridiculous. There is no doubt in my mind defense -especially communication on switches- was a focal point at practice this past week. I would estimate each player received hundreds of reps in similar situations, primarily guards. Ryan Boatright read the play as it was unfolding and clearly indicated for the switch. Daniel Hamilton also recognized the play, but was caught by Yale’s timing. SCJ needs to pick up on the call and react. It is that simple. He is a 22 year old RS sophomore who grew up surrounded by basketball, he’s not inexperienced. He needs to react. If he can’t, he can’t be trusted to play late in the game. Terrible execution- no excuse.

Last thought:

Why not have Brimah guard the inbound? His 7’6 wingspan (reported) could have greatly disrupted the vision of the 6’4 Duren either creating a turnover or errant pass. If Duren were to receive an immediate pass back I am confident Brimah could still take away the three. Or, if Duren were to drive and score on Brimah I still like us at home in OT…

Learning from Champions: A Comparison of Boatright, Napier and Walker through 5 games

Jessica Hill, AP

Jessica Hill, AP

Shabazz Napier was entrusted with the same responsibility Kemba Walker had before him- lead the UConn Huskies to a National Championship while doing, well, basically everything. By now, we know what it will take emotionally for Ryan Boatright to return us to the promised land, we witnessed it with Walker and Napier. Instead, let’s examine what it takes statistically.

Taking into consideration unpredictable variables such as team chemistry, opponent and injury/suspension, the three situations are eerily similar. Don’t believe me? Below are game logs from Kemba’s 2011, Napier’s 2014 and Boatright’s 2015. Try to guess which season belongs to which player (answer at bottom of page):

MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
34 6 17 35% 1 4 25% 5 6 83% 6 3 1 2 18
37 15 24 63% 4 9 44% 8 10 80% 8 3 3 1 42
23 8 16 50% 1 4 25% 14 15 93% 2 2 0 3 31
38 10 19 53% 4 11 36% 6 7 86% 3 4 4 3 30
38 10 17 59% 3 4 75% 6 6 100% 2 6 2 2 29
MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
33 5 12 42% 2 3 67% 6 6 100% 7 7 3 2 18
37 5 7 71% 1 1 100% 3 5 60% 11 10 1 1 14
22 3 4 75% 1 1 100% 3 4 75% 8 8 3 1 10
38 3 9 33% 2 2 100% 4 4 100% 12 6 3 2 12
38 6 17 35% 0 3 0% 8 10 80% 4 2 0 1 20
MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
37 7 15 47% 3 6 50% 7 7 100% 8 5 3 4 24
37 6 14 43% 1 4 25% 6 6 100% 6 5 3 0 19
36 6 12 50% 0 2 0% 8 9 89% 5 4 3 3 20
35 6 14 43% 0 4 0% 5 9 56% 5 4 3 0 17
37 8 21 38% 1 5 20% 7 8 88% 7 2 2 1 24

While all three guards undoubtedly possess their own unique strengths, they are one of the same mold- inspiring defensively, unrelenting offensively with a knack for hitting the big shot. What separated both Napier and Walker was their ability to balance top play-maker with primary scoring option. Boatright will need to strike a similar balance for his name to be hoisted at Gampel following the season. Throughout the year I will compare Boatright’s numbers, to those of Napier and Walker at similar points in their championship winning season, in hopes the statistics give an early indication on what Boatright needs to do in order to bring another National Championship to Storrs, Connecticut. Eventually, once more data is collected, we can learn from the adjustments of past champions to fill the spot next to Napier’s banner.

Averages through 5 games:

Player MP FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS WINS
Walker 34 52% 41% 88% 4.2 3.6 2.0 2.2 30.0 5
Boatright 36.4 44% 19% 86% 6.2 4.0 2.8 1.6 20.8 3
Napier 33.6 51% 73% 83% 8.4 6.6 2.0 1.4 14.8 5

Here is how Boatright, Napier and Walker shape up head-to-head-to-head on a number of different statistics:

MP FG% 3P% FTA FT% TRB AST TOV STL PTS
Boatright  36.4 Walker 52% Napier    73% Walker         8.8 Walker  88% Napier       8.4 Napier 6.6 Boatright 2.8 Walker   2.2 Walker     30
Walker      34 Napier   51% Walker    41% Boatright     7.8 Boatright 86% Boatright 6.2 Boatright 4 Napier        2 Boatright-1.6 Boatright 20.8
Napier    33.6 Boatright 44% Boatright 19% Napier          5.8 Napier     83% Walker     4.2 Walker 3.6 Walker        2 Napier    1.4 Napier   14.8

Breakdown of categories led:

  • Boatright: Minutes, Turnovers
  • Napier: 3P%, Rebounds, Assists
  • Walker: FG%, FTA, FT%, Steals, Points

Notes:

  • Kemba’s numbers are more impressive (if possible) when you consider they came against #2 Michigan State (Kalin Lucas/Korie Lucious) and #7 Kentucky (Brandon Knight).
  • To no surprise Shabazz is by far the best three point shooter
  • Though it felt Napier and Walker never rested, Boatright leads in minutes
  • All three are shooting over 80% from the foul line
  • Napier easily led in rebounds and assists

1). Walker

2). Napier

3). Boatright

Thoughts from UConn-Texas

David Butler, USA Today

David Butler, USA Today

Yes, we lost. And yes, it was heartbreaking. But no matter how bad it hurts it’s always better to get these games out of the way in November than March, just ask Pittsburgh. There is really only one way to look at this game: we shot 30% and lost to the #7 team in the nation on a buzzer beater. As always, there is room for improvement though the loss itself is more shocking than troubling. In my opinion, the only true cause for concern stemming from Sunday? Ryan Boatright’s ankle.

 The Bad

Points in Transition

Although we made a remarkable improvement in the second half, Texas scored far too many points in transition. Many of these points came from long rebounds off missed threes which again, leads back to the 30% from the field (3-16 3PT). SCJ (Sam Cassell Jr) was a main culprit. I’m not worried about the missed shots, this was his first big game at Gampel, that is to be expected. He needs to keep shooting and without hesitation. However, there were a few instances where he leisurely skipped backwards observing his shot as opposed to crashing for the long rebound or rotating back to prevent the fast break. If A). crash for a long rebound, B). rotate back to prevent the break, and C). DO EITHER JUST DON’T STAND THERE, the answer is C everytime.

Jump Passes

Please stop. Daniel Hamilton stop. Ryan Boatright stop. Everyone stop. I realize Boat has a 35″ vertical which allows him more time than most to bail himself out, but still stop. Not only do jump passes hurt the spirits of your fans and your assist/TO ratio, they also hurt your teammates. With 14:18 to go in the second half Boatright’s jump pass was intercepted by Javan Felix who drew Kentan Facey’s second foul on the ensuing fast break. Granted, it didn’t have much impact on the outcome of this game but on a team short big men (ha), it could in the future. We can’t afford to get our bigs in foul trouble, especially when it’s bailing out a guard on a jump pass.

Terrence Samuel

Terrence Samuel as a player is NOT in the “bad” section. The reoccurring Terrence Samuel “drive-with-my-head-down-into-7-footers-with-no-idea-of-what-I’m-going-to-do-with-the-ball” IS in the bad section. I love that he can beat guards up front and penetrate the defense but his NYC instinct takes him all the way to the rim. Pull up Terrence. Develop a mid-range game. Take the mid-range jumper so Myles Turner doesn’t get 5 blocks and Brimah can lead the country.

The Good

Defense

The defensive intensity in the second half was classic UConn, that is the only way to describe it. Daniel Hamilton disrupted Texas from the start and finished with two steals and multiple disruptions*. At one point in the second half he implemented his own personal press and only relented when KO furiously motioned to retreat. Nolan, Brimah and Facey played outstanding post defense on imposing big men Myles Turner and Cameron Ridley. A few of my favorite defensive plays:

  • 2nd Half, 14:37: Nolan takes charge on Myles Turner resulting in his 3rd foul and removal from the game.
  • 2nd Half, 10:34: Off a switch on an inbound play (too soon, I know), Samuel anticipates Ridley’s shoulder drop and takes the charge. A very smart play on a clear mismatch.
  • 2nd Half, 10:07: One way to stop the ball from getting to the paint- deny the entry pass. Here, Samuel’s anticipation of Jonathan Holmes’ pass leads to a Hamilton steal and Boatright jumper. The less the ball is in the paint, the more fouls we preserve.
  • 2nd Half, 3:57: Brimah shows his length on a ridiculous block of Ridley’s hook.

*Disruptions are not a recognized statistic but should be.

Kentan Facey

Kentan Facey is quickly becoming my favorite player on this UConn team- turning in another solid effort with 4 points/8 rebounds. Facey crashes the boards with reckless abandon and unlike other UConn bigs- he finishes! You can’t underestimate the value of a player who can get himself involved in the game without having his number called- ever. With 7:30 to go in the second half, Facey collected a SCJ miss and dished to Boatright for a reverse layup that would be our last field goal of the game. With a struggling offense, those are the types of plays you need to get momentum swinging. Not to mention, Facey, at a mere 206 pounds out-rebounded both Turner (6-11, 240) and Ridley (6-9, 285), COMBINED!!! Obviously Facey is still a project and has a long way to go but I am impressed with his production thus far.

Hamilton/Boatright

Daniel Hamilton is the real deal. I have been impressed with his offense since the beginning but thought his feet were slow on defense. That changed yesterday. Hamilton is clearly more suited to guard the SG/SF position and proved that with his relentless hounding of Holland and Holmes. He is also tough, UConn tough. After taking an elbow to the nose midway through the 2nd half Hamilton returned with less blood but the exact same defensive intensity. He can finish too- Hamilton scored 9 of UConn’s first 11 points in a game where points were hard to come by.

Ryan Boatright turned in another emotional performance leading the team with 24 points. Yes, it took him 21 shots but aside from a lone high-arcing three with a hand in his face, none felt forced. Boatright is doing a little bit of everything for the Huskies -averaging 20 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.6 steals- just as Kemba in 2011 and Shabazz last year. In addition to bringing the ball up the floor against an athletic press- that’s a lot to put on one man’s shoulders, especially when they are supported by only one good ankle. Speaking of the ankle, no news as to whether Boatright will suit up Friday vs Yale but keep that chicken leg in your prayers. We need Boatright and we need him healthy.

As always,

GO HUSKIES!