Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Perfect Timing?

Is UConn jelling at just the right time? It certainly appears that way.

Maybe it's too much to say coming off wins over awful DePaul and a slumping Georgetown team that's now lost four straight without its second-best player. But there were some very positive signs for the Huskies in today's win over the Hoyas.

What stuck out the most to me was their ball movement and general cohesiveness on offense, particularly in the first half. Even when Georgetown went zone -- a frequent bane to the Huskies' existence -- UConn didn't resort to "windshield wiping" (passing the ball from one side to the other on the perimeter). Rather, they swung it to the open man, hit players at the high and low post and really looked like a solid unit offensively.

Kemba Walker was absolutely brilliant with 28 points on an array of drives to the hoops, scoop shots, even an acrobatic, windmill reverse layup. But there was more to the story. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel hit a couple of 3-pointers and followed Walker in the scoring column with 12, and Jeremy Lamb added 11.

Freshman guard Shabazz Napier had his usual array of nifty passes and layups, including a terrific 3-point play on a transition drive with 11:34 remaining. And 7-foot center Charles Okwandu chipped in with six points and a nifty, one-touch pass to Coombs-McDaniel for a layup late in the opening half.

"We just want to be a great team, that's it," said Walker. "Whoever scores, scores, it doesn't matter. We just want to play basketball and stay together."

Niels Giffey (five points) and Roscoe Smith (three) didn't do much offensively, but helped hold Georgetown star Austin Freeman (20 points on 7-for-20 shooting) relatively in check.

A few other tidbits:

*** UConn has won back-to-back games in the Big East tourney for the first time since 2004, when they won the championship.

*** The last three times the Huskies have faced Pitt in the Big East tourney have come in the finals in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

*** UConn is the first No. 9 seed to win its first two games of the tourney sinice it went to a 16-team format two years ago.

*** Seen in the MSG crowd during the game: Jeff Adrien, Craig Austrie, Miami Heat GM (future coach?) Pat Riley, John Thompson II and Lou Carnesecca (the latter two sat several rows apart, and didn't appear to exchange any ugly sweaters).

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