Tuesday, January 7, 2014

UConn Working on Getting Niels Giffey More Shots

UConn returns home Wednesday night to try to snap its two-game losing streak, and it won't be easy against a very good Harvard team. The Crimson and Huskies each got the same amount of votes (41 apiece) in this week's AP Top 25 poll.

Been getting a lot of feedback through email and Twitter lately about how Niels Giffey isn't involved enough in the UConn offense, and that the team doesn't run enough plays for him.

Giffey leads the nation in 3-point shooting at a ridiculous 61.8 percent (21-for-34). And yet he's only taking just over four shots per game, and only 2.4 from 3-point land. So, it would make sense for him to get up more shots.

The first thing to understand is this: Giffey isn't strong off the bounce and isn't really able to create his own shot very well. Few would dispute this fact, including Kevin Ollie and Giffey himself.

"Niels is not a big guy to put it on the floor and do two crossovers and get to the lane," said Ollie. "That’s not his game. His game is spotting up."

Added Giffey: "Guys like me, Lasan (Kromah) and Omar (Calhoun), we’re never going to be the guys who just break down a guy from the top of the key."

So there's that. Now, to the point that UConn doesn't run enough plays for Giffey to get off shots, Ollie had this to say: “I’d like him to shoot 10 shots, wide-open. If I can diagram a play to get that, I’d definitely like to do that. You’ve got scouting reports, too. Scouting reports say, 'We’re not leaving Niels. If the penetration comes, we’re not leaving Niels' ... A lot of teams are switching pick-and-rolls on our pick-and-pops. We put in some different sets that can move the basketball, and hopefully that works. Hopefully, we can get more spacing, more penetration, drawing kicks for Niels to get off.”

Said Giffey: “I definitely have to use screens better … That’s also a team effort, I think ... That’s kind of like a team effort to get everybody back involved. We can’t play a slow-paced game where it’s a couple of guys who do one-on-one moves. We’ve got to play as a team, share the ball the same way we did in the beginning of the season where we really attacked the paint.”

He added: 

A couple of other quick tidbits:

*** Ollie on whether Calhoun is still not 100-percent after off-season hip surgeries: “It’s hard for me to say that, you’d have to ask him that question. Whenever I ask him, a teenager will say, ‘I’m good, I’m ready to play.’ Just like my son. Every time I ask him something, ‘I’m good.’ I think he’s fine. I think it’s more mental now. He’s getting some wide-open looks. I don’t think it’s his hips that are making him miss those shots. He’s just got to keep getting in the lab, keep shooting, keep shooting with confidence. They’re going to keep giving him those shots ‘til he starts knocking some down.”

*** Harvard has won nine straight games, since a 70-62 loss to Top 25 Colorado on the road on Nov. 24. The most impressive thing about the Crimson's win streak is that seven of those games were away from home: three in the Great Alaska Shootout (beating Denver, Green Bay and TCU), as well as at Northeastern, BU and Fordham. The Eagles also beat BC at home.

*** UConn has won nine straight over Harvard, dating back to an 80-70 loss on Dec. 22, 1972. There have been some close calls along the way, however, including a narrow, 79-73 win over the Crimson on Dec. 6, 2009 at Gampel in which Jeremy Lin scored 30 points and had this impressive dunk:

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