You know, I think I would have preferred to have played UConn in about 2 weeks. After they’ve been playing with a 7-8 man team for a while. They actually have their starters playing more minutes than Pitt in the last 3 games. There are 200 minutes available in any game, UConn has played their starters for 169, 169 and 173 minutes since the suspension of Dyson. Wiggins won’t be that big of an impact on the minutes of the starters. Calhoun is either going to have to give other guys more minutes, or this team will be burned out by the Big East Tournament.
I didn’t have a big problem with the officiating. Maybe 2 or 3 calls went UConn’s way more than Pitt had go theirs. Big deal. It’s a road game. That’s not atypical in my view for the home court to sway a couple extra. Did they piss me off when they happened? You bet. That wasn’t the reason for the loss, though. Have to give credit to UConn for beating Pitt. They played great defense.
This game convinced me, though, that Hasheem Thabeet is off to the NBA after this season. He nearly left last year when he didn’t know how to do much more than stand with his arms straight up. He’s got a ways to go, but he is far better than he was last year. He’s even learned to make free throws.
Thabeet became a complete intimidator to Young and Blair. They really were bothered and frustrated. Thabeet only had 5 blocks, but his presence altered so many others. There’s a reason that UConn is the #1 team in 2-pt FG defense. Like Louisville, Pitt had poor 3-point shooting and lost. Providence won, and they shot ridiculously high on 3-point shots. UConn may be one of the most susceptible teams to being bombed on a random night.
I’m trying to figure out if Keith Benjamin is really bothered by the stitches on his hand or if it is simply that he was hot for a while on his 3-point shooting and is now going back to equilibrium. 2-3, 3-6, 1-4 and 1-6. That is what he has shot from the perimeter in the each of the past 4 games. I’m leaning towards streaky, not injured hand.
Sadly, Sam Young’s 0-5 on 3s is also not particularly atypical lately. Since his 4-4 on 3s against Seton Hall, he’s shot 5-25 (with 3 coming versus St. John’s) in the next six games
I was shocked that UConn actually made a brief attempt early in the game to go to a 2-3 zone. Gilbert Brown dropped a short jumper right in the middle of it, and they never tried that again. The Huskies are less comfortable in the zone than Pitt.
Heck, this was a game that cried out for the lost art of the mid-range jumper to beat UConn. The Huskies played the perimeter and packed it inside. Young and Brown, noticeably, had success with the short and mid-range shots. Oddly, the only guy UConn seemed prepared to defend that way was Tyrell Biggs. Guess they watched a fair amount of tape in the game plan.
I have to say that Bradley Wanamaker played pretty well. I think he was under orders not to shoot, and that helped a bit. He really got after it on defense — and only whistled for one foul. Yes he had that painful turnover near the end of the half, but at least he shut down UConn before they could get a shot off the other way.
On Pitt’s first 8 baskets, there were 7 assists. Pitt had 3 more assists the rest of the game.
Defensively, Blair did more than hold his own inside against Thabeet, Adrien and Robinson. Blair had another double-double but with 9 offensive rebounds he really struggled. 5-14 shooting. It also means that he wasn’t getting that many touches in this game except from rebounds. That was a shame because while he was 1-6 in the first half, but did improve to 4-9 in the second half (when he had 6 offensive boards). He was figuring it out inside offensively, which is good for the future.
Hard to believe that when Stanley Robinson came into UConn last year, some thought he might only last a year. At this rate, he’s going to be there for the full four years. Just a completely inconsistent player.