Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday Morning Shootaround

The biggest game of this night saw UConn get knocked off at home by Georgetown 74-63. The Hoyas pounced all over the Huskies from the tip, jumping out to a 15-1 lead. UConn got as close as three in the second half, but the Hoyas responded by pushing the lead back to double digits.

Georgetown, a team known for its defensive prowess, won this game because of their offense. The Huskies, a pretty good defensive team in their own right, just could not get a stop against the Hoyas down the stretch. None of what the Hoyas did offensively was flashy, and it was actually very simple. The Hoyas were patient on the offensive end, running through their offense, taking time off the clock, until the Huskies had a break down on defense. The Hoyas would then attack (be it off the dribble, finding a back-door cutter, taking an open jump shot), and they either scored or drew a foul and hit their free throws (18-19 in the second half).

When it comes down to it, Georgetown forced UConn to play their game. The Huskies are not a great team in the half court, especially on the offensive end. They don't have a lot of perimeter shooting and they don't have all that many guys that can create their own shots. UConn is successful when they get into a helter-skelter, almost play ground type game because their athletes can take over. The key to beating UConn is to control the tempo and the pace of the game, which the Hoyas did successfully by packing in their defense and by playing smart, patient basketball on the offensive end.

I think I have finally accepted the fact that Greg Monroe is not going to be an all-american ... yet. But that doesn't mean he isn't one helluva basketball player. He showed that he can do just about anything on a basketball court. Passing? How about the three gorgeous back doors he threw. Shooting? Yea, he knocked down two three's. Post moves? I can think of at least two times he got the ball on the block and scored over Hasheem Thabeet, with the second one being a sweeping lefty hook off the glass. Defense? He had a couple thunderous blocks (although I don't think either counted due to a foul call) and even ripped AJ Price in the middle of the court, leading to an and-one lay-up. The best part about Monroe is how well he fits in with the Hoya mentality. He doesn't need to get 20 and 10 every night. He is fine playing within the system and piling up wins.

I know that this is just one loss, but there were some serious red flags for UConn. How are they going to beat a zone? Who is going to be a leader? But the most worrisome is not what UConn did last night, it is how they did it. The Huskies never seemed ready to play. They showed no emotion and no toughness throughout the game. This is a not a team that is going to beat people based solely on talent, because they don't have that much of it. Jerome Dyson, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jeff Adrien, the Huskies three leading scorers, are all guys that need to outwork and out hustle people to be effective.

I don't want to make it sound like these guys didn't play hard and didn't want to win, because I genuinely believe they did. But hustle can only get you so far if you don't play tough. Two examples immediately come to mind. The first was Thabeet early in the first half. He held a seal on Monroe, caught a nice lob pass, kept the ball away from the help side defender, then went up and missed an open dunk. The second play was by Dyson, who had a rough night offensively (1-10 from the floor, 4 turnovers) all around. He managed to come up with a loose ball in between two Hoyas, which led to a break out. Dyson is a great athlete and loves to dunk on people, but instead of going up strong over Chris Wright, Dyson tried to get cute and missed a finger roll. Those two plays epitomized how the Huskies played.

I'll put like this: UConn was playing the Big East opener against one of their biggest rivals on national television at home with both teams ranked in the top 10. And they came out flat and played without emotion and excitement for most of the game. How is that possible?

The other game I got a chance to see was Memphis beat Cincinnati 60-45. Just a couple of thoughts from this game, as it was pretty unbearable to watch. This was a nice bounce back win for Memphis. Without a point guard, this is how the Tigers have to play to win. They need to dig in defensively (last night Cincinnati was 12-46 from the floor with 20 turnovers) and get easy baskets in transition and on second chance points.

Memphis really needs to stop shooting so many three's. They take 21 per game and make just under 28%. And that is before last night's 2-18 performance.

I wish Tyreke Evans was playing in a different system. He is being asked to do so much for the Tigers right now, and while he is definitely a talented player, he is being forced to play beyond what he is capable of. Last night is a perfect example - he finished with 14 points, 10 boards, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks, but he also had 7 turnovers and was 6-15 from the floor.

The rest of last night's games:

  • Villanova 62, Temple 45: Temple would go up 32-24 early in the second half, but Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher combined to hit four three's in a 14-0 run that gave the Wildcats the lead for good. Temple wouldn't hit a field goal for over 11 minutes, and have now lost three straight after beating Tennessee. Fisher finished with 23 points, while Temple's Dionte Christmas had just 13 on a 3-18 night shooting.
  • Arizona State 84, Central Ct State 47: The Sun Devils were 32-49 from the floor (66%).
  • Tennessee 89, Louisiana-Lafayette 62: Wayne Chism had 18 and 15, but had to be taken off the court on a stretcher after landing hard on his back with five minutes left. He had movement in his arms, fingers, and toes and never lost consciousness. According to Bruce Pearl, it was a stinger and Chism should be OK.
  • Baylor 79, Portland State 66: LaceDarius Dunn led the Bears with 22 and 6 boards as they held Jeremiah Dominguez (who went for 25 against Gonzaga) to just two points.
  • Michigan 77, North Carolina Central 57: Manny Harris led the Wolverines with 29, 16, and 7 dimes. Michigan, who has beaten both Duke and UCLA, has struggled a bit this year against teams like NCC and Savannah State.
  • Kentucky 82, Central Michigan 54: UK was down 13-4 early, but used a 38-10 run to close the first half. Jodie Meeks led the Wildcats with 23.
  • Davidson 79, College of Charleston 75: The Wildcats were up 77-65 with four minutes left, but had to hold off a late surge by Charleston, who cut the lead to two with under a minute left. Steph Curry had 29, 9 assists, 7 boards, and 3 steals, but had to overcome another sub par shooting night. He was 11-25 from the floor and 2-9 from deep. Davidson has now won 38 straight Southern Conference games.
  • Chicago State 98, Campbell 89: CSU's David Holston finished with 40 points and 10 assists.
  • Boston College 84, San Francisco 62: Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 22 and 11 boards.
  • NC State 62, Loyola MD 60: Ben McCauley had 16 and 11 as the Wolfpack held off Loyola late.
  • Cornell 89, Boston University 59
  • Arizona 71, Weber State 65: The Wildcats won despite not playing with Jordan Hill (lower leg injury from practice this week). Nic Wise had a career high 23 while Chase Budinger added 16, 12 boards, and 6 dimes.

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