John F. Silver
It won’t be a fun week for the basketball team after Saturday’s frustrating 68-61 loss to Pittsburgh. UConn is 12-5, 2-3 in the Big East, and has lost two straight after a resounding win over Notre Dame a week ago. In one sense, the Huskies played so poorly in the first half against Pittsburgh shooting 7 of 24 that it was lucky to trail the Panthers by only 13 points.
The Huskies’ second half was the opposite. UConn shot a robust 15 of 26 from the floor – -57.7 percent — and had the game tied at 58-58 with three minutes to go.
The Huskies couldn’t get over the hump.
UConn has some concerns going into the break and the time off should do it well. UConn guard Shabazz Napier was a shell of himself with 8 points and was 2 of 7, and 2 of 6 from 3-point range. Napier, who has a left shoulder contusion, said he couldn’t dribble with his left hand. The Huskies struggled without his playmaking and shot-making ability in the first half.
In an encouraging sign for the Huskies, Ryan Boatright brushed off a nightmarish first half to score 14 points in the second half showcasing his quickness and athleticism in getting to the basket. Boatright stopped forcing shots, and started creating them in the second half. The sophomore guard remains and explosive scorer and in the second half was under control after a frenetic first 20 minutes.
Boatright’s development is key. He’s averaging 16 points on a good 46.6 percent shooting, but still freelances and forces too much. Without Napier 100 percent was 7 of 19 from the floor. He missed his first six shots and played a much better game in the second half as he let the defense dictate what he should do.
“In the first half my shot wouldn’t fall,” Boatright said. “If your shot isn’t falling, you try to get to the basket. In the second half I was just trying to get to the basket. It was wide open so I just continued to do it the rest of the game.”
Inside, it was more of a disappointment for the Huskies. Tyler Olander had four points on two shots and six rebounds in 24 minutes and Enosch Wolf continued to showcase a nice touch with six points on 3 of 3 shooting and four rebounds. The Huskies were out-rebounded 34-25 against Pittsburgh and gave up 16 second chance points. It was better play than against Louisville on Monday, but the production isn’t consistent enough and the defensive rotations remain slow. Wolf continues to show signs of a good offensive game and can be a factor defensively at his size at 7-feet, but his penchant for fouling keeps him glued to the bench. Wolf also has an inopportune foul 35 feet away from the basket late that led to two free throws.