Four Thoughts: Connecticut vs. West Virginia Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 7th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. With the Big East Tournament upon us, we figured we would try to offer four thoughts about several of the key games throughout the week.

1. In a season marked by inconsistency, the good Shabazz Napier showed up for UConn down the stretch.

Shabazz Napier Stepped Up When His Team Needed Him Most

With the Huskies trailing West Virginia 55-48 with just under seven minutes left to play, Napier took matters into his own hands and pretty much ensured that his team would be dancing later this month. The streaky sophomore had a hand in all but two of the team’s final 15 points, scoring nine points in a row at one point to go with three assists and two steals as the Huskies fought back to send the game into overtime. If you want to nitpick, his three-pointer at the end of regulation was a questionable decision and he did foul out rather quickly in overtime. But his final line (26 points, six assists, four rebounds, three steals, and three blocks) showed just how large of an impact he made in every facet of the game. Jeremy Lamb carried the team offensively in the first half while Napier struggled to find his groove, but when they needed him the most, Napier put the team on his back and carried them into the quarterfinals.

2. If this was the last game of Kevin Jones’ college career, his teammates owe him a fruit basket.

While Napier used the final seven minutes of the game to show off his wide array of skills, West Virginia used the final seven minutes of the game to basically forget that they had the conference’s best player on their team. Jones’ last points of the game came on two free throws with a little more than six minutes to play. From that point on, including the overtime period, Jones attempted just three field goals — including zero in the last six minutes of regulation — and missed all of them.  For the first 30 minutes of this game, Jones showed off why he probably should have been the conference’s player of the year. He abused whomever the Huskies put on him, scored at will, and despite his disappearing act, finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds. It is an absolute shame that his teammates didn’t make more of a concerted effort to get him the ball down the stretch and if the Mountaineers end up on the outside of the bubble looking in, it will have been a disappointing end to an incredible season and career.

3. They won, but UConn still needs better production from its big men if it wants to beat Syracuse.

There aren’t too many games where you can allow your opponent to get 21 offensive rebounds and still win, so the Huskies should consider themselves lucky today, but they should also be telling Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi to get it together, and quickly. The Mountaineers are a more physical team than DePaul was, but the duo combined to play 70 minutes and account for just 13 points on seven shots, nine rebounds, and six blocks. Their shot-altering ability should always be recognized, but Syracuse is bigger and deeper up front than West Virginia and there is no way Oriakhi and Drummond can play such uninspired basketball and still expect to beat a team as talented as the second-ranked Orange.

4. If you watched him on the sideline, you would never think that Jim Calhoun just had serious spinal surgery.

When Napier fouled out in overtime, the Huskies’ legendary coach sprang into action. He jumped out onto the court in protest and was forced back to the sideline by the referees. His recovery is remarkable and a feel-good story not only because it means that college basketball continues to receive the gift of Jim Calhoun’s personality, but also because the Huskies are clearly a different team with him in charge. No offense to George Blaney, but the longtime assistant just doesn’t command the team’s attention the same way Calhoun does, and it shows in the ways the Huskies have responded in the past three games with Calhoun patrolling the sideline. There are still plenty of holes that UConn may or may not be able to plug in time for a March run, but there is little doubt that the team we are watching now is much different from the team we saw just a week ago in a loss to Providence.

mlemaire (255 Posts)


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