I liked that game. Last night's solid, though unspectacular, performance from the Huskies left us with a lot to feel positive about. Kevin Ollie really does look at his roster and see 10 guys who can play, especially with the emergence of Lasan Kromah who, along with Niels Giffey, provided great energy off the bench last night.
There were too many turnovers and plenty of mistakes, but this game had a lot of trap potential with Thanksgiving coming up and a game against #15 Florida on the horizon. It was only our seventh game and as the season advances I'm getting the sense that the Huskies are starting to figure things out. Offensively, there was a lot of really good ball movement and everyone seemed much more willing to attack the basket. I thought the defense played great and my absolute favorite part was that at no point in this game did it seem like Loyola would win. UConn had to build up a lead a few times because a scrappy Loyola team wasn't giving up but the Huskies always kept their opponent at arm's length.
One of the most encouraging things for me to see was Shabazz Napier's stat line. Before this game I was interested to see how our star Point Guard would follow up his Indiana performance. Well Aman, he followed it up by playing facilitator and, most importantly, without being the primary scorer. This game proved that Shabazz doesn't have to shoulder the scoring load every night for us to win. Awesome. Awesome to the max.
Speaking of awesome, Holy DeAndre Daniels. The Junior Forward had 3 points at the end of the first half but came out of the break on a tear, ending the game with 21 points and 8 rebounds in his most complete performance to date. In the first half where he would settle for jumpers, Daniels was taking the ball to the hole and asserting his will at the basket. If Daniels can play with that kind of energy every night, this becomes a very dangerous UConn team. I think he's just getting started.
Phil Nolan displayed some really good post moves and was downright competent at times, even though he still couldn't muster much on the rebounding front. He had some mistakes, and lost the ball a few times, but overall I liked what I saw from Nolan. Slowly but surely the members of Kevin Ollie's team are all starting to find their place.
One person that I think is still having trouble finding offensive rhythm with the team is Omar Calhoun. The talented sophomore never really felt like part of the offensive rotation and was a virtual lock to shoot whenever he had the ball in his hands. I doubt we'll see it against Florida, but it might not be the craziest thing to have him come off the bench to bring an offensive spark. Giffey and Kromah both are better team players and with Shabazz, Boatright and Daniels all needing their looks, it just doesn't seem like there are enough shots to go around. Calhoun is obviously one of our most talented players, but we have seen really good teams do this, most notably the Spurs with Manu Ginobili. Yes, I just compared Kevin Ollie's UConn team to the NBA's most consistently excellent team from the past 10+ years.
Monday is going to be our biggest test of this young season, luckily Ollie has done an extraordinary job of preparing his team thus far. The second half that he was able to coax out of DeAndre Daniels and the gradual improvement of the rest of the team across the season are all very encouraging. I haven't said it in a while, so why not remind you- we have the next great college basketball coach on our sidelines. I can't wait to see this team in mid-season form.
Happy Thanksgiving Husky fans!