John F. Silver
Those simple letters can explain something relatively complex about what’s going on with UConn’s shooting.
B-Ds as they are affectionately called stand for basketball development.
That may sound like some fancy program to improve offense but in reality it’s very simple – get in the gym.
UConn has watched its offense take off the last several weeks as early season shooting woes have given rise to terrific 3-point shooting and efficiency.
The Huskies (9-2) have been on a torrid pace recently shooting 50.8 percent, 66 and 52.2 in wins over Harvard, Maryland-Eastern Shore and most recently Fordham.
The 66 percent from the floor against Maryland Eastern Shore represented the fifth best shooting game in school history and in the three victories have hit 27 3-pointers in 61 attempts, just shy of a 45 percent clip.
The Huskies are shooting 57 percent from the floor over the past three games and have scored 84, 73 and 88 points in that span.
That’s the kind of offensive production that head coach Kevin Ollie has been clamoring for. UConn has flaws going into Saturday night’s game against Washington at the Xl Center. The Huskies aren’t a good rebounding team and haven’t been the stifling defense the staff banked on. But, the shooting is coming around in a big way and the offense is starting to look formidable on the perimeter as the players learn their strengths and weaknesses.
Ollie chalks up the surge to something old-fashioned – getting in the gym. At the end of Friday’s practice a handful of players broke off to work on their individual game.
“We are shooting it great,” Ollie said. “57. 1 percent over last three games and 45 percent from the 3. You see the guys, we had a hard practice, every guy stays out here and shoot and do their BDs. We are giving ourselves an opportunity to be better on the offensive end if we work.”
The key for the Huskies’ offensive renaissance has been the perimeter where freshman Omar Calhoun has meshed with veterans Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier. Boatright is averaging 21 points per game over the last three games and is 24 of 35 shooting (67 percent). Napier is 9 of his last 15 shooting and has orchestrated the offense beautifully with nine, eight and six assists while also coming up with nine steals. Then there is the talented Calhoun, who has 39 points in the last two games including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
It’s not just about a hot streak, it’s about development and comfort.
“We are sharing the ball a lot better and playing better team offense,” Calhoun said. “We are playing better offense.
“Chemistry is starting to get better, and watching film and seeing where people like to get the ball at. We are starting to build a better relationship with each other and it is starting to show on the floor.”
The Huskies’ shooting and offense is going to have to make up for inside struggles that aren’t going away. UConn has masked a subpar rebounding output with steals and transition baskets. The Huskies are forcing roughly 16 turnovers a game and have increased that pace recently. The Huskies came up with 15 steals against Fordham and forced 21 turnovers leading to 35 of their 88 points. That has helped mask getting crushed on the rebounding end even by the likes of Fordham.
Steals and easy transition baskets are no longer a luxury item for the Huskies. Pressure, energy and toughness are the ingredients Ollie is looking for.
“With all our defensive and offensive rebounds we give up, we have to have ball pressure,” Ollie said. “We have to be best attitude team in America. Toughness is a talent and energy is a talent. We have to have toughness and energy. There is no way around it. We don’t have Rudy Gays out here and that’s all right. We have to do it collectively with each other and fight through different things and we will be fine. We can’t lack on energy, effort, ball pressure and can’t lack on the steals. We are going to be playing against better teams, we all know the Big East is going to be tough. The things we haven’t being doing well we have to do better to win games. “
The Huskies will get a glimpse of the next level on Saturday when it hosts Washington. It’s the final tune-up of the season before Big East play begins Jan. 1 in Milwaukee against Marquette.
If the Huskies are going to improve on their 9-2 record, that offensive explosive has to be sustained, and not a flash in the pan.