Is Kemba Burned Out?
And frustrated. And upset that he's not getting a consistent whistle. And perhaps simply not as great a shooter as he appeared in the first 15 or so games this season.
But as much as anything, he's tired -- physically and mentally. He's played too many minutes, too often with two or three defenders swarmed over him, preventing him from getting much of anything uncontested. Combine that with the mental fatigue of feeling he has to be "The Man" every night (which is ironic, since Jeremy Lamb has been "The Man" at least the last three games and others have stepped up in recent games, as well), and there's a legit reason why Walker is shooting 31 percent (27-for-88) from the floor in his last five games and 19 percent (4-for-26) from 3-point range in his last four.
In UConn's last five contests, Walker has played 39, 40, 39, 47 and 38 minutes. That's about a combined seven minutes of rest in five games. Couldn't Shabazz Napier be seeing a few more of those minutes? We'd say Donnell Beverly, too, but tonight's performance was about as bad as it gets for that usually steady senior.
In a way, it's hard to say this wasn't expected. Did anyone really think that Walker, all 6-foot-1 (yeah, right), 172 pounds of him, was going to continue to put up 30-point games through the rigors of the Big East schedule? I certainly didn't.
Will Walker -- who scored a season-low eight points on 3-for-14 shooting Wednesday night -- get his groove back? Most likely. But he needs to take some pressure off himself, and Jim Calhoun should try to find a few more minutes here and there for Walker to rest.
*** There was one positive from tonight's 66-58 loss to Syracuse: UConn freshman Niels Giffey saw his most playing time (seven minutes) in the last five games and made the most of it, hitting Charles Okwandu for the assist on a game-tying hoop in the latter half and draining a 3-pointer with 8:35 left to get UConn to within three (48-45). He soon followed with a bad turnover, however, and found himself on the bench the rest of the way.
Okwandu had a trick-or-treat game with eight points and also eight rebounds, but also three turnovers and some misses on easy inside baskets.