January 15, 2013
L'Ville Too Much
HARTFORD, Conn. - UConn's 73-58 loss to Louisville started out promising enough, but ended the way most probably figured the game would. Louisville has more size and depth and at least for now validated the notion that they are the top team in the country. The Huskies have had a good run thus far, but a team like Louisville will be very difficult for this Husky team to knock off.
Certainly, before the season few probably imagined the matchup would be as big as it turned out to be. Louisville came in as the new No. 1 in the polls, while the Huskies, thought to be also-rans in the Big East, came in at 12-3 overall and 2-1 in Big East play, fresh off a win at Notre Dame. All of that made this a bigger game than it looked at one time.
Connecticut gave it a valiant effort for a half, but the second half was another story as the Cardinals were a much better team in the second.
"Most of the time our guards take the challenge," said head coach Kevin Ollie. "In the second half, man to man, we didn't take the challenge."
"I think in the first half we came out with a game plan, and we executed it well," said guard Shabazz Napier. "In the second half, we got away from it."
Early in the second half, down 41-39, Louisville took over. The Cardinals scored the next eight points and kept the Huskies stuck on 41 for well over five minutes. After the Huskies broke that drought, the Cardinals scored the next 13 and it was over from there. Even though there were still over ten minutes left, you never had the sense that the Huskies had that big a run in them.
What Went Right
In the first half, the Huskies really showed up defensively and did what they had to do. They forced a few turnovers and turned them into run-outs. They also didn't let anyone besides Russ Smith get going, although Wayne Blackshear had a quiet seven points in the opening frame.
The Huskies also did well to not be a one-man team themselves, something they must do. While Smith was Louisville's leader, Napier and Omar Calhoun each scored 10 points, while DeAndre Daniels had seven and Ryan Boatright scored five. Most importantly, they all established themselves as offensive threats. Calhoun finished with a team-high 20 points.
What Went Wrong
When it rained, it poured. Once the Huskies were slowed at the offensive end, they seemed to forget how to attack the zone after they had some success with it in the first half. The Huskies shot just under 26 percent in the second half and committed 10 turnovers after giving it away just seven times in the opening frame.
After a nice start in the first few minutes, Napier was ice cold and overall not the factor the Huskies need him to be. It didn't help that he was playing with a banged-up left shoulder that he said he was afraid might pop out. He wasn't feeling happy with his effort after the game.
"This game showed me where I'm at," said the junior guard. "I didn't provide for my teammates the right way."
With Louisville playing a zone and the Huskies playing zone at times, it's tough to come up with just one. But let's look inside for a head-to-head that stood out: Louisville's Gorgui Dieng and the Huskies' Tyler Olander. Fresh off his best game of the season at Notre Dame, Olander looked tentative and was a non-factor with two points on 1-3 shooting and one rebound in 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Dieng did little offensively but had another big game on the glass with 16 rebounds to lead Louisville's 36-28 edge on the backboards.
3 Stars of the Game
Omar Calhoun: The most consistent scorer on the night had 10 points in each half and was 6-9 from the field. Even he had warts in the form of six turnovers on the night.
Shabazz Napier: Here's where this exercise gets difficult. Napier was the best player on the floor for the first eight minutes, so he gets a nod. After that, however, he was almost invisible, although he had six assists with just one turnover and did all he could to stay calm as the team leader.
DeAndre Daniels: He had nine points and five boards, getting a slight nod over Boatright, who was basically a non-factor much of the night. Daniels had a couple of baskets early that got this team going, but like Napier did little after that.
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