With the shot clock running down and only 2:24 left in the game, Ryan Boatright went around a screen and threw up a desperation three pointer. In haste, New Mexico's Kendall Williams jumped into Boatright leaving UConn with three free throw attempts. Boatright hit all three giving UConn a 2 point lead. On the ensuing possession, New Mexico's player of the game, Hugh Greenwood, came around a screen at the top of the key and buried a three to give New Mexico the lead for good. This started a 9-0 run for the Lobos and put UConn down 7 with 0:37 left in the game. UConn could not muster any offense during the minute and a half after Boatright's lead-taking free throws. This led to UConn's first loss of the season and the first of Kevin Ollie's career.
What Went Right
We know what makes this team go and it is obviously the backcourt behind Shabazz Napier and Boatright. These two seem to handle the team well and run the offense. Napier seems very comfortable playing the Kemba roll of two years ago, off the ball, and coming around screens in opportunities to score.
Defensively, the huskies are very solid. They stay in front of the ball and the big men do a good job of blocking shots and not allowing easy buckets in the paint. This is incredibly important with UConn's obvious lack of size. The guards are pesky and hustle for steals and deflections. There were a number of bouncing balls that went the right way against Michigan State in the first game of the season, but did in the wee hours of last night.
Lastly, this team does not have the issues of stopping the fight before the game is over that was seen last year. Between MSU, Quinnipiac, and New Mexico, UConn came back from deficits and played tough defense to win or have a great chance. This may be coaching, may be something else, but it is a welcome change from last season.
What Went Wrong
I may just have a cut and paste paragraph to put in this section, but throughout the season rebounding will be an enormous struggle. Not from effort or fundamentals (those have been pretty good), but just a lack of height/strength/athleticism. I admire Tyler Olander and DeAndre Daniels for fighting down low, but they are either too small (Olander) or too skinny (Daniels) to be fighting against certain players for rebounds. Boards will just be given up. This is the team's Achilles heal, but this is not what the major issue was. Last night, New Mexico's guards got too many rebounds. Oriakhi and Drummond are not there anymore, UConn's guards must box out from up top. When Olander, Daniels, and the other UConn "bigs" are going up two on four, UConn cannot compete. It is understandable UConn wants to run off of misses, but if they do not get the rebound, too many second chance points and easy buckets are taken by opponents.
UConn's bench needs to give the Huskies something. Daniels, Omar Calhoun (has he seen a shot he will not take?), and Olander can be those secondary scorers, but with foul trouble and off nights, Boatright and Shabazz are relied upon too heavily. Other than 4 points from Enosch Wolf, the bench did not score and shot 2-11 overall. This will not beat many teams.
Tyler Olander versus anyone he defended. Olander had 0 rebounds. Not one. This cannot happen and see UConn win. Even Ryan Boatright had more and he is, maybe, 6'0' in heels. I understand he was in foul trouble, but zero in 12 minutes is just unacceptable. There were times where he was jumped over, dropped the ball, or had it fall off his hands - anything but securing a board.
Three Stars of the Game
1)Shabazz Napier - There was thought (me included) that Boatright would be the star of the team, but all indications say Napier is the man. He led the team in scoring (23), assists (4), steals (3), and had no turnovers. Napier played incredibly well and was the reason the team was in the game. He shot over 50% and did what was asked of him.
2)DeAndre Daniels - Daniels played solid interior defense, scored nine points, and tied with Niels Giffey for the team lead in rebounds. He had a few three point attempts rim in and out, too. His point total could have been higher. His ability to handle the ball, shoot outside, and athleticism will be an x-factor for UConn success throughout the year.
3)Ryan Boatright - Overall, Boatright struggled in this tournament. In this game, he left some chances out on the court with poor turnovers and failures to start a successful fast break. Boatright is so athletic and important, needing to get into the paint and get fouled. He scored twelve points, but was quiet. Simply because of his scoring and pesky defense, Boatright slides into the third spot.
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