Coming off of an 18 point, seven rebound and seven assist performance in the one-point win against Maryland Terrapins on Friday, senior point guard Shabazz Napier led the Connecticut Huskies on Monday afternoon, recording 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists versus the Yale Bulldogs.
The most successful UConn teams in recent memory have featured impressive backcourt combinations. Napier was mentored by current Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker on the 2011 National Championship squad that also featured current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb. Along with Napier, this year’s team includes junior Ryan Boatright and sophomore Omar Calhoun. Combined, these three should be expected to put up about 60 percent of the team’s points. Today, they combined for 46 of the team’s 80 points.
Calhoun led the team with 18 points on 5-8 shooting. He was able to knock down shots from the perimeter, and was often times the recipient of kick-out passes from Napier. A member of the Freshman All-Big East Team last season, Calhoun is going to be a huge part of the Huskies offense this season.
Sophomore Phillip Nolan has started the first couple games, but freshman center Amida Brimah is the x-factor for this team. Carrying a 7-foot frame, Brimah played 15 minutes against Maryland in their season opener, but was able to still record five points, three rebounds and three blocks. I think he has the potential to be the next Hasheem Thabeet for the Huskies program. Today, he played 24 minutes and recorded seven points and seven blocks. Look for him to take over the starting center role, due to his productivity and Nolan’s ineffectiveness.
Senior Neils Giffey has gotten off to a scalding hot start, building off his perfect shooting performance against Maryland. He missed his first shot of the season in the second half of today’s game, going 9-9 from three-point range to start the season before his first miss. His 15 points today tied his career-high.
Junior DeAndre Daniels did not score today. He needs to become a bigger part of this offense in order for the Huskies to continue to improve. With Napier seemingly more willing to spread the ball around to his teammates this season, Daniels needs to step up and get to the rim.
The major concern with this Huskies team is the lack of rebounding. Yale, not known to be a physical team, managed to snatch 22 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded UConn 43-31. This is an embarrassing statistic. Brimah, Nolan, Daniels, and Giffey need to step up and improve this number very quickly. After the game, Connecticut Head Coach Kevin Ollie noted that he wasn’t happy and was going to stress rebounding in practice tomorrow and attempt fix the problem.
Last season, the Huskies only averaged 33.0 rebounds a game, with Daniels leading the way, pulling down 5.5 boards per game. Ollie has made rebounding an emphasis in the offseason, leaving the possibility of playing time open to any player who can get physical and record some productive rebounding minutes.
We will see if the problem is alleviated against Detroit on Thursday night.