Connecticut Huskies senior point guard Shabazz Napier did his best Carmelo Anthony impersonation, shooting 6-for-18 on his way to an ugly 20 points, leading the Huskies to a gut-wrenching 72-70 win over the Boston College Eagles on Thursday night. Perhaps captivated by the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, Napier clearly played out of his game by forcing shots, and his mere two assists are an indication of that.
Building off of a 24 point performance against Boston University on Sunday, junior forward DeAndre Daniels was impressive once again, scoring 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
On the game, the Huskies only shot 38.6 percent from the field, including 21.4 percent from three-point range. While they only turned the ball over three times, the fact that they had five assists as a team is quite shocking, considering their backcourt of Napier and junior Ryan Boatright.
While great ball movement was a staple of UConn’s 4-0 start, tonight they seemed to step in a time machine to last season, in which Napier ran isolation after isolation and chucked up a contested fade away from the top of the key. That type of play, especially in key moments, can be the Achilles heel of Kevin Ollie’s squad.
Defensively, rebounding by the big men is still a major issues for the Huskies. Out of the 25 team rebounds, Boatright had seven, Napier had four, and sophomore guard Omar Calhoun had three.
Whoever the combination or answer may be, Ollie needs to find someone with the tenacity and desire to get rebounds on the defensive low-block. Whether it is a combination of freshman center Amida Brimah and freshman forward Kentan Facey, senior Tyler Olander and sophomore Phillip Nolan, or any combination in between, Ollie needs to figure out the proper rotation to ensure that his team has the best shot of hitting the boards effectively.
If the Huskies can figure out their rebounding issues and get back into their offensive system that features a lot of ball movement, the ceiling for this team ends with them holding an NCAA Championship. I firmly believe that.
Since legendary UConn coach Jim Calhoun was in attendance at tonight’s game, as he usually is, maybe the former Husky Ollie will consult his former coach and mentor for some tips. You never know, he might have some pointers worth listening to.