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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.